New Orleans Pelicans
Needs: SG, C, PG
Picks: 6, 39, 40
New Orleans suffered more injuries last season than any other team in the association. As a result, they fell far short of expectations in Alvin Gentry’s first year coaching the team. They have one of the premier players in the league in Anthony Davis, who’s biggest obstacle has been avioding injury. Tyreke Evans also showed some of the promise we haven’t seen from him since his rookie year. However, the rest of the roster leaves a lot to be desired. Eric Gordon, who they expected to be a huge contributor, struggled through injuries during his tenure with the team and will likely leave through free agency. Also expected to leave is Ryan Anderson, whose shooting acumen will likely lead to a big pay day this offseason. The only other notable player likely returning will be Jrue Holiday who has moments where he flashes the ability that led him to be a highly ranked prospect and first round pick. However, in a league full of dominant point guards he falls short of what teams currently want in a starting floor general. Another big need for them is a center that can take pressure off of Davis inside.
With plenty of cap space and the 6th overall pick in this year’s draft, the Pelicans will have a chance to improve the team a great deal. Point guard isn’t a pressing need for the teams ahead of them on draft night (Philly needs one badly, but is highly unlikely to draft one ahead of Ingram or Simmons) and thus there’s a chance that Kris Dunn will be there when the Pels make their selection. If they are able to get their hands on Dunn they will have a player capable of starting from day one. If either Buddy Hield or Jamal Murray are available, they make a lot of sense as players that shouldn’t take long to contribute, and fill a starting role at the 2. And Jaylen Brown is a prospect who would offer more upside, but more risk as well. In free agency they will likely look to add a center. Some of the top tier options would be Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard, or Al Jefferson, but they could go for the next tier down and try to grab somebody like Joakim Noah or Festus Ezeli. Ultimately the Pelicans will be looking to add as much talent as possible this offseason in hopes of living up to the expectations they fell short of this year.
Picks: 17, 57
It’s just about impossible to know what Memphis will be looking to do this offseason without knowing what Mike Conley does. If Conley opts to sign elsewhere, the Grizzlies may look to completely remake the team. Marc Gasol is in it for the long haul, signed through the 2018-2019 season with a player option for the 19-20 season. Outside of Gasol, Zach Randolph is a free agent after next season and with Conley possibly leaving, the core this team is built around could be disbanded quickly. Thus, the Grizzlies could look to see what they can get for Randolph on the trade market and do a complete rehaul. Now, all of that would be dependent on Conley bolting. If he stays, the Grizzlies will likely look to augment their roster with additional talent to make another run deep into the playoffs. Regardless of Conley’s situation, Memphis will have cap space and look to spend it in order to add pieces to the roster that fit what David Fizdale wants to do as they move on from David Joerger.
It will be difficult to get a player that can make a difference from day one on draft night this year, as the Grizzlies sit at pick number 17. Some of the most notable players expected to go around that time in the draft include Henry Ellenson, Denzel Valentine, Cheick Diallo, and Furkan Korkmaz. Each of those players look like they could become solid players in the league, but aren’t expected to be big contributors in year one.
San Antonio Spurs
Needs: Shooting guard
The Spurs may lose Tim Duncan and/or Manu Ginobili to retirement, but even if they do, they should have more than enough talent to compete next season and beyond. Kawhi Leonard took the step up to superstar status last season, LaMarcus Aldridge has as much skill as any big man and Tony Parker is still a premier point guard in the league. After going 67-15 last season, the Spurs showed that they have plenty left in the tank. They accomplished the best home record in the league despite Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker all having their worst statistical years in a decade. They were able to do this because of the incredible depth they’ve established.
The Spurs are likely to just look to add smaller pieces to their puzzle as opposed to adding big time players. Gregg Popovich has said that he prefers players with a skill that understand how to work within a team concept. The only real hole they have in their lineup is at the shooting guard spot, and that’s really only if Ginobili retires. Some of the players the Spurs may look at in free agency include guards Deron Williams, Jared Dudley, or Joakim Noah. They won’t likely be looking to fill holes in their roster as much as add talent. In the draft, the Spurs draft 29th and that could net them a player such as Thon Maker, Diamond Stone, Guerschon Yabusele, Ben Bentil, or Caris LeVert. Whoever they take will likely work out because the Spurs have a very good track record of finding good players late in drafts.
Needs: Center, Point guard
Picks: 37, 43
Houston was one of the biggest underachievers in the league last season despite a really strong season from James Harden. Dwight Howard is almost assuredly gone as a free agent, and the team will be coached by Mike D’Antoni next season. D’Antoni is known for his uptempo style and his penchant for making the most out of point guards. For that reason, Houston may have to look at if Patrick Beverley is the ideal lead guard for them. His defense is stellar, and if Harden is to handle the primary ball handling duties, Beverley could still work. Houston’s primary need this offseason, however, will be replacing Howard in the middle. There is no reason to believe that Howard would stick around on a team that he didn’t fit with to play for a coach that he struggled to coexist with in LA. The Rockets will have to rely on free agency to improve their team as they don’t have a first round pick in this year’s draft. It will be interesting to see how the Rockets spend their money this offseason, as it will give us an idea of if they really want to run the 7 seconds or less style attack or if D’Antoni has other ideas. Some of the most interesting prospective signing for Houston could be Hassan Whiteside, Nic Batum, or Ryan Anderson. In the draft they could look at guys like Cat Barber, Tyler Ulis, Isaiah Cousins, Zhou Qi, Juan Hernangomez, or AJ Hammons with their two picks.
Needs: Point guard, Center,
The Mavericks struck out last season in an odd free agency scenario in which DeAndre Jordan spurned them to return to the Clippers. Mark Cuban and company are never shy when it comes to spending money to put a winner on the court, but it’s been tough for them to reel in the big fish. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the star the team is built around, Dirk Nowitzki, is nearing retirement (even if his numbers have remained very good). It’s tough for a free agent to commit to a team when there is such uncertainty surrounding how long the team will be able to stick together.
As presently constructed, the team is built around Nowitzki, Chandler Parsons, and Wes Matthews. They would love to land another top player to build around in hopes of pushing themselves from one of the last teams in the playoffs to having home court advantage in the first round. They really need a point guard to run the team and while Conley doesn’t seem to be likely, and Rajon Rondo won’t be a target of the team for obvious reasons, there aren’t a lot of options on the point guard market for the Mavs.
When it comes to centers to pair with Nowitzki in the front court, there are a lot of good options, however. Whiteside or Howard would be good, but Al Jefferson might offer more bang for the buck for them. They could also look at Bismack Biyombo or Festus Ezeli to fill the hole as well. They only have the 46th pick, and so they will have to settle for best available player on draft night and likely won’t get an impact player at that spot. Ultimately, the Mavs’ offseason will likely be judged by who they sign, not who they draft.