New Orleans Pelicans
Needs: SF, C, PG
The Pelicans, you know, that team that was the Hornets, but traded it in for the prehistoric, fear-inducing bird of prey. The name seems fitting for a team from the movie Semi pro or D League team, but an NBA franchise? The Pelicans have the sixth pick in this year’s draft. They were able to add Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers last season and will look to build the team through the draft further this year. They have some obvious needs. I like Al-Farouq Aminu (albeit more for what he did in college and even in international competition than his NBA work) but they could really use a small forward to galvanize their lineup. Aminu did a good job on the boards, averaging 7.7 boards per contest last year, but he didn’t provide any sort of offensive threat. Another need they have, and I feel this is their most pressing need, is the need for a bulky, muscular center down low to complement the rail-thin Davis and outside shooting Ryan Anderson. Alex Len would appear to be the guy they could use most, but whether he’s still on the board at 6 is another story. Eventually they’ll have to find a replacement if they’re going to take the next step because even in a league that has reduced the importance of the center position, Robin Lopez is not going to start for a true contender.
One more position they should look at is point guard. I like the way Greivis Vasquez has progressed, but either Trey Burke or Michael Carter-Williams appear to be options for them as a potential upgrade. Even though Burke is the 2nd point guard on my board, I think he fits the Pelicans’ needs better than the alternatives, as he would give them a scoring punch which would allow them to potentially move Eric Gordon. Among the players they could target would be Burke, Alex Len, Anthony Bennett or even Cody Zeller.
Needs: Just about everything
Picks: 13, 44
The Mavericks, as part of their strategy to go after big time free agents, have left their cupboard pretty bare moving forward. They have Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion at forward and Vince Carter at guard under contract next year, all of whom will be 35 or older next season. O.J. Mayo has a player option and it is likely that Darren Collison and Roddy Beaubois will be back. So really, there isn’t a position that Dallas couldn’t use at least some help at, even if it’s just planning for the future to combat the fact that their best players are aging. The Mavericks have the 13th pick and could go in a lot of different directions with that pick depending on what players are still on the board. Centers Kelly Olynyk or Steven Adams could be good fits in that they may help reduce the wear and tear on Nowitzki by taking some of the rebounding burden off of him. Instead they could look at somebody who could take on more of a scoring load, such as Shabazz Muhammad or CJ McCollum. With Collison on the roster I doubt they go the point guard route, but two guards that have a ton of promise and could be available around pick 13 are Michael Carter-Williams (who figures to go in the 6-13 range) and Dennis Schroeder. Dirk could help be a mentor to countryman Schroeder who certainly has some maturing to so. The Mavericks are counting on being able to create a championship contender through free agency but the draft gives them an opportunity to add a quality player to the mix this year as well.
San Antonio Spurs
Needs: PF/C, SG
Picks: 28, 58
The Spurs don’t have a lot of needs. They have Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Gregg Popovich, and a system with a proven track record. One of my favorite Popovich quotes is "I like role players who aren’t very good, but have a skill. I know who’s going to have the ball on our team, and need players who understand this." This is why the Spurs system works. They find players with a skill they need and put them in a position to use that skill to the benefit of the team. Danny Green starts and plays a lot of meaningful minutes for a Spurs team that is in the Finals, but couldn’t find his way on the court with a GPS device while in Cleveland on a team that gave Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson, and Jamario Moon substantial minutes. The moral of the story is this: it doesn’t matter that the Spurs have the 28th pick, they will get a player that will help them. They find value late and seem to love the 28th pick. Parker came to them via the 28th pick in 2001, Tiago Splitter with the same pick in 2007, and Ginobili was the 28th pick (of the second round) in 1999.
They have documented success picking late, but that doesn’t tell us who they’ll pick this year. They could certainly use a young forward or center as Duncan isn’t getting any younger despite what his stat line says, and Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner will be free agents after next season. They could also look to find a young guard as Ginobili is getting older and his body takes a heavy toll from the style of game he plays. Rudy Gobert could be an absolute steal for the Spurs on draft night if they can land him. His height and length would add a component that the Spurs don’t have and could help add some quickness to their front line. Another Euro stash pick such as Livio Jean-Charles or a shooting speicalist like Glen Rice Jr. or Reggie Bullock are possibilities. There is no telling what direction the Spurs will go in on draft night, but I’m willing to bet that it works out for them.
Before I even begin, yes, I understand that Jeremy Lin is on the roster. I also know that Patrick Beverley played lights out down the stretch for them last season. However, Lin will be a 15 million dollar expiring contract in 2014/2015 and could net them a nice piece but they can’t really move him unless they have an established floor general to take over for him. Even if that is Beverley, it’d be nice to have somebody to back him up and with only a second round pick this season (and an unwillingness to add guaranteed money because of their pursuit of Dwight Howard this offseason) they will need time to develop the player they draft. Do they have to go point guard? Of course not, they will likely look to take the best available player. They could be looking at Nate Wolters or Isaiah Canaan if they go point. They could have a tough decision to make, as Glen Rice Jr. looks like he may also fall to that area of the draft. Yes, he would be playing behind James Harden, but if he’s the best available then they may opt to take him anyway. The only position I don’t expect Houston to look at is center. With Omer Asik on the books and the Rockets seemingly all-in on Howard, they won’t want to clog the frontcourt any more. Asik is also on a deal similar to Lin’s but he’s less likely to be moved because while he’ll have an enticing expiring deal, he’s not nearly the commodity Lin is, especially from a marketability stand point.
Needs: Athletic PF/C, Shooters
Picks: 41, 55, 60
The Grizzlies made a splash last season, trading away Rudy Gay and filling his spot with Tayshaun Prince. It obviously worked out well, as the Grizzlies advanced all the way to the Western Conference finals. However, once there they got somewhat exposed. There is absolutely no question that Marc Gasol is a skilled center who is a fantastic fit in Memphis. Zach Randolph is also a top-tier power forward who punishes opposing front lines. However, the one thing they have in common is that they both play below the rim, and their lack of athleticism leaves them vulnerable. The Spurs made sure to be extra physical with both of them, and when unable to exploit strength advantages the Grizzlies found themselves in trouble. If they can find a way to add an athletic front court player to give them a change of pace behind their starters it would go a long way towards making them a more dynamic team. A more reasonable expectation in this particular draft, however, would be to find a knock down shooter. The Grizzlies at times struggle to score and go ice cold from outside. In the second round they will have opportunities to find players that can stretch the court. DeShaun Thomas of Ohio State seems like a natural fit for them, or they could look at players such as Ryan Kelly of Duke or Erik Murphy of Florida. Whatever they do, they need to understand that their defense is stout, now they need to find more dynamic offensive talents to fill out and balance their roster.