Needs: PG, SG/SF, C
Picks: 26, 57
The first thought that probably just crossed your mind was, “Wow, the Mavs have a lot of needs for a team that just won the NBA title.” This is where the Mavs combination of age and financial commitments come into play. The Mavs have gotten great play from their point guards this year, but Jason Kidd is probably entering his final season, and J.J. Barea’s contract is up. Both Caron Butler and Peja Stojakovic are set to become free agents, and savior center Tyson Chandler’s contract also has concluded.
At least half those guys will be back, but if for some reason they’re not, the Mavs could be in trouble. Even with Chandler ($12.7 million), Butler ($10.6 million) and Stevenson ($4.5 million) coming off the books, the Mavs will still be way over the cap next year. Their offseason objective is clear: re-sign, at the very least, Chandler and Barea, and they should be fine. The only way for them to add younger talent, besides with their first round pick, would be to work out a sign-and-trade for Butler, or to perhaps find a team desperate for a center that they could unload Brendan Haywood on.
With the 26th pick the Mavs should be targeting shooting guards. Deshawn Stevenson, could be gone, and Terry will need some help. Marshon Brooks and the versatile Tyler Honeycutt are solid bets, and the team could also explore taking a sharpshooter like Davis Bertans or Nicola Mirotic and stash him overseas and off their books for a few seasons.
Needs: PG, C
Picks: 14, 23, 38
In terms of direction, the Rockets are the hardest franchise to figure out. They have a solid core in Lowry, Martin and Scola, and the largest group of promising prospects than any team in the league, with Hasheem Thabeet, Jordan Hill, Patrick Patterson, Terrence Williams and Chase Budinger all in the fold. They could all be good pros, but just what the Rockets choose to do with them will likely determine their future.
Though he’s had the most disappointing career of all their young prospects, Hasheem Thabeet could have the greatest responsibility of any young Rocket. Yao Ming finally comes off the books this year, leaving many to wonder if the Rockets dealt for Thabeet with the expectation that he would become their next franchise center. He certainly has it in him, but he’s still getting comfortable in the league. Each of the surrounding prospects are safe bets to succeed: Patterson was extremely efficient as a rookie and could start for a number of teams right now, Hill is an excellent post defender with a still-improving offensive game, Terrence Williams was a triple-double threat in New Jersey, and Chase Budinger is a natural scorer with considerable upside.
For the first time in years, the Rockets have money to blow in free agency, as much as $13 million, a miracle considering they have nine rotation players locked in next year. Seeing as they’re still figuring out where they’re headed, and are still gauging who from their bushel of young talents could be a long-term fit, they might want to save the money.
Darryl Morey is a stats guy and will likely look for the best possible player at this pick regardless of position. Also take into consideration they have an additional pick at 23, which they can use to target a position of need.
One has to wonder if the Rockets are planning on keeping all three draft picks considering the amount of prospects they have vying for playing time already. They are rumored to want to move up by packaging a couple picks, which would make sense, but if they keep them, expect for them to simply go for the best player available. Chris Singleton would be a great fit as a newer version of Shane Battier, while local talents Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton could get hard looks as well. One of the only clear needs that can be pointed to is a backup for Kyle Lowry, and Jimmer might be the perfect option if he falls to them. The team could also look at Lithuanian 7-foot forward Donatas Motiejunas with their 14th pick as he would potentially work well with Hasheem Thabeet.
Needs: SF, C
The most inspiring overachievers since the 2006-07 "We Believe" Golden State Warriors, Lionel Hollins’ Grizzlies were one game short of reaching the Western Conference finals despite being the lowest-seeded playoff team and despite the absence of star Rudy Gay. Memphis entered the season as a team that very few considered a playoff contender, and left Oklahoma City feeling that it could now contend in the West for years to come.
Though the Grizzlies managed to win seven playoff games without Gay and are not the type of franchise that is comfortable accommodating multiple $15-17 million players, he should still be held as the face of the franchise. He might not be as great a scorer as Randolph, but he’s a considerably better defender and the type of guy you can depend on down the stretch. He’s just 24 and can become a perennial All-Star if he exercises his full potential.
Signing Randolph to a massive but shockingly deserved four-year deal will make it much harder to shell out more than $10 million to Marc Gasol, who played like a top-three center in the playoffs. They probably will regardless. Gasol will likely begin negotiating with his team as soon as possible, as they’re aware of how many teams will take a shot at him if those other teams feel that Gasol might be welcome a change of scenery.
Losing Shane Battier could be rough for the Grizzlies, who immediately welcomed him as a leader and fed off his tenacity on defense. They should target longer, more athletic wings with the small cap space they have, or a project to develop overseas.
New Orleans Hornets
Needs: SG, PF
Unless they can magically move the $40 million left on Emeka Okafor’s contract, Chris Paul is likely as good as gone. Davis West might opt in for the last year of his contract (even though he’ll earn less than he did in 2009-10) to play with Paul, but he’ll most likely seek an extension or a new setting despite his ACL tear. And it will be well-deserved; West has been one of the most underrated players in the league over the last five years, a good bet for 20 and 9 night in and night out.
Even with West at full strength, this isn’t a team that can expect to get beyond the first round of the playoffs. They currently don’t have a SG, and Trevor Ariza has been a major disappointment, averaging 11 points on 39.8% shooting. He’s still a good defender, but right now West is the only Hornet that Paul can rely on to get buckets. Losing the very efficient Carl Landry to free agency won’t help, either.
On yet another bleak note, their only draft pick this year probably won’t do much good. Though the Hornets scored in the second round two years ago with Marcus Thornton, this is a much weaker draft and there are no lights-out scorers to be found in the middle of the second round. E’Twaun Moore, is polished but may not have any one skill to hang his hat on, and they could hope to hit a home run with another UCLA prospect in Malcolm Lee.
San Antonio Spurs
Needs: SG, PF/C
Picks: 29, 59
The Spurs have been one of the best drafting teams in the league since they won the Duncan lottery, and they’ll need to hit another home run this year to keep up appearances. Even after they were knocked out by the Grizzlies in the first round, this is still a team coming off a 61-win season hungry for another title. Due to their outstanding depth and Popovich’s outstanding coaching, no Spurs played more than 32.4 minutes, meaning Duncan and his gang were effectively preserved and should have enough juice left for at another 60-win season.
The Spurs’ drafting genius earned them their terrific 2010-11 regular season, with rookies and unheralded sophomore contributing heavily. DeJuan Blair, a second round pick in 2010, started 65 games at PF and averaged 8.3 points and 7 boards in just 21 minutes. James Anderson shot the ball very well before he got injured, and Tiago Splitter provided a nice change of pace at center, and should be a much bigger factor next year. The real surprise, however, was 26-year old rookie Gary Neal, who provided the Spurs with the three-point shooting they so desperately needed. Undrafted out of Towson in 2007, Neal made the All-Rookie First Team.
This team is full of soon-to-expire contracts; Duncan has one year left, Parker is coming off soon after, while Blair, Hill and Neal are all free agents at the end of the year. They will have to take the best player available, and knowing the Spurs, if it isn’t a foreigner, it will be someone who’s ready to contribute right away. Kyle Singler, Marshon Brooks and Tyler Honeycutt would all be solid options.