San Antonio Spurs
Needs: Center, point guard,Wemby to be great
Picks: 1, 33, 44
The Spurs offseason is really about one thing and one thing only: Wembanyama. By being awarded the number one overall pick, the Spurs have their new future star to follow in the footsteps of Tim Duncan and David Robinson. The Spurs aren’t likely to be contenders next season despite the good fortune, so this year will be about surrounding their new star with the correct pieces, getting him adapted to the NBA style of play, and then looking to jump into contention starting the year or two after this one. Keldon Johnson is the type of flexible piece that will fit well with Wemby, but I really wish they had Jakob Poeltl beside him. Despite his height, Wemby will be best served playing the four (maybe long term, but at least to start his career) because of his slender frame and ability to play on the perimeter. He is a mismatch nightmare, but you do worry about him being muscled by bigger, stronger players. So the Spurs need to find an enforcer type to play alongside him to protect their valuable youngster as he develops his body. Portland would likely be willing to move Jusef Nurkic to play that role, and with the Grizzlies likely looking to move up (more on that momentarily) could they be persuaded to move Steven Adams in a multi team deal that would send Adams to San Antonio?
Although they can’t officially come out and say it themselves, there is zero intrigue with the first pick, as the Spurs knew on the night of the lottery who they would be picking. The intrigue surrounds if Victor Wembanyama can live up to the otherworldly expectations of him and his game and how San Antonio will build the team around him. He’s a one of a kind player, and it will be interesting to see how the Spurs use him within their system. They also have an early second round pick and a mid second round pick on draft night, and could target Duke’s Dariq Whitehead, UConn’s Andre Jackson and Adama Sanogo, or Penn State’s Seth Lundy to fill in some spots around Wemby. I anticipate they will look for a veteran point guard in free agency or via trade to help put their young roster in the right places to succeed, but they could opt to just look to retain restricted free agent Tre Jones.
Needs: Point guard, A good free agent class
Picks: 4, 20
Houston has the 4th pick, the 20th pick, and a boatload of salary cap space to fill in the roster around some intriguing young pieces, and this offseason could totally change the direction of this franchise. There is no secret the Rockets are flirting with James Harden and hoping to bring him back to Houston. However, as good as Harden is, he may not be what the team actually needs. They need a point guard in the worst way (Kevin Porter Jr. is much better playing off the ball long-term) and while Harden is capable of being a point guard, how well does he really fit with Jalen Green? We could see them just take turns ignoring each other so they can go iso and settle for a step back three for no other reason than because it’s “their turn” and that’s not what Houston needs. Harden is the shiny object, but Houston needs pieces that will bring their young players together. Green is a skilled, if inefficient, scorer while Jabari Smith is a combo forward with a good shooting stroke, and Alperen Sengun is a ball moving big man that can create unique opportunities for his teammates with the ball in his hands. Fred VanVleet could be a better option if he’s interested, as he’s better at playing off the ball, so he could get them into their sets and then play off of Sengun as well. With the #4 pick, they are likely looking at Amen Thompson of OTE, who is a below average shooter, but has great size and if all goes well could potentially develop into their point guard of the future. Villanova’s Cam Whitmore could give them a nice scoring option on the wing if they opted to go that direction. Orlando could be a team they could target in talks, to get one of their young point guards and still net a lottery pick to bolster their team. Whatever they do, they need to make it count, because with their young roster needing extensions over the next few years, they likely won’t have this opportunity to add a major player in free agency again for a while.
Needs: A Kyrie Irving decision, depth
Dallas is in a weird spot. They mortgaged a lot of their assets to bring in Kyrie Irving, purposely missed the playoffs, told Christian Wood “thanks, but no thanks” and now have a roster that has no depth and very little skill outside of Luka Doncic. Because of this, Kyrie has them hanging over a volcano essentially. He’s a free agent, and even though he has significantly damaged his reputation and value around the league over the last few seasons, he knows Dallas cannot afford to let him leave for nothing, so it becomes a situation where they are going to have to pay up to keep him or explore sign and trade possibilities. Letting him depart for nothing could be catastrophic. Because they have the large contracts of Tim Hardaway Jr., Davis Bertans, and Maxi Kleber, even renouncing the rights to their free agents such as Wood and Irving, they wouldn’t have a ton of cap space, and it’s a weak free agency class anyway. So Dallas needs to find a way to keep enough talent in town to keep Doncic happy. Irving and Doncic are a weird fit, but it’s their best bet at contending for a playoff spot next season without running Doncic into the ground. By missing the playoffs last season they were able to hold onto the 10th pick in the draft, and it could net them a player such as Kansas’ Gradey Dick, UCF’s Taylor Hendricks, Duke’s Derick Lively, or France’s Bilal Coulibaly, but none of those are pieces guaranteed to play a major role for a team like Dallas next season. Dallas has been far too reactionary than having a plan and sticking to it, and now they are paying the price for it. They walked themselves into a hostage situation, and now have to pay the ransom to a player who seemingly goes to teams and sees them crumble around him. That’s not generally a recipe for success, and yet their only other option right now is to let him leave, and likely alienate their franchise player. Dallas is in one of the worst positions a team with a top 5 player can be in.
New Orleans Pelicans
When they are healthy, I really like this Pelicans team. Like, really, really like it. However, they are never healthy. Zion Williamson has played in 114 out of a possible 334 games (36%) for the Pelicans since getting drafted. Meanwhile, Brandon Ingram has missed a minimum of 20 games in every season except his rookie year with the Lakers. When your two best players are so rarely on the court, it becomes extremely difficult to win. Because of this, the team has had to publically come out and say they have no interest in trading Zion for the second pick (and when a franchise has to publically say there is no interest in trading you, it speaks volumes, and very well could be them trying to salvage trade value). Zion is great when he plays, but it may be time for the Pelicans to make some tough, but needed roster moves. It’s difficult to keep two injury prone players together on the roster. That’s not saying they are going to trade Zion or Ingram this offseason, but it can’t be something that’s off the table entirely if they are serious about taking the next step as a franchise. They’ve done a good job in finding valuable role players to put around them in Jose Alverado, Herbert Jones, and Trey Murphy, so they may look to make a big move this offseason. Despite his injury woes, Zion could net a pretty good piece or pieces probably. Would the Blazers, desperate to appease Dame Lillard move the #3 pick (likely Scoot Henderson) to take a gamble with a dominant forward and hope they can keep him healthy? Would Orlando send 6, 11, and a player to grab him? Or do they look to move Ingram and keep Williamson in hopes that the injury woes are behind him? Those decisions will likely inform what the team does with the number 14 pick. Baylor’s Keyonte George, Kentucky’s Cason Wallace, Indiana’s Jalen Hood-Schifino, Arkansas’ Nick Smith, and Michigan’s Kobe Bufkin all seem like they could be in play with the pick as it currently stands. Also, I anticipate them to bring back their lone restricted free agent, Jaxson Hayes, as he provides needed depth behind Jonas Valanciunas. The best case scenario if the Pelicans just stay healthy, but that’s a big ask at this point, and it may be time for the Pels to take matters into their own hands before their assets depreciate any further.
Needs: Point guard, wing player that can score
Picks: 25, 45, 56
The Grizzlies looked the other way with Ja Morant’s off court troubles and are paying for the unacceptable and immature behavior of their players in a big way. Last season Ja had to go away to pretend to grow up, only to come back for the playoffs and Dillon Brooks to make dumb decisions on the court and in the media. Then Ja went on Instagram again. Now, the Grizzlies are paying the price, as they will be without Morant for 25 games and will need to find a replacement for Brooks, who they reportedly have no interest in retaining for next season. While Morant is out, Tyus Jones will most likely man the point, but Memphis needs another guard that can back him up. The more pressing and long-term need however is to grab a wing player that can score the basketball. The team makes its name on defense, but they need another threat on the wing. Desmond Bane has shown you can do both, and the more shooting they have, the more space Morant will have to work with when he returns. It’s been rumored that the Grizzlies would like to move way up in the draft. It won’t be easy for them, but they do have some avenues to at least explore. They could look to get involved in a deal with multiple other teams and target Portland’s 3rd pick. The biggest issue for them is that they don’t have a lot of pieces that they seem eager to move. The odds of Morant or Bane being moved are very low, and Jaren Jackson Jr. is likely not going anywhere, so they will most likely have to settle for a smaller jump up the draft board or for a trade that doesn’t involve a pick. For example, would they go to San Antonio and offer Adams for Devonte Graham and Devin Vassell?
One of the biggest problems the Grizzlies have faced in the draft is that they have reached for players who have not produced the way you would hope. They landed 10th pick Ziaire Williams in a trade in 2021, Santi Aldama later in that first round (30th), Jake LaRavia (19th) and David Roddy (23rd) in the first round in 2022, and Kennedy Chandler in the early part of round 2 in 2022 as well. None of those players were major producers for them this past season. At some point, Memphis is going to have to hit on a draft pick or change their strategy, because while they are a very good team, they still have holes to fill. If they stay at 25 this year, Brice Sensabaugh of Ohio State seems like a very Grizzlies pick thanks to his build, but he plays zero defense and there are questions about how well his scoring will translate, so it would be another risky pick. UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez, Gonzaga’s Julian Strawther, Marquette’s Olivier-Maxence Prosper and Tennessee’s Julian Phillips all seem like they could be targets for Memphis on draft night if they can’t move up.