We take a dive into each team’s thought process to see what voids must be filled, and who may be ideal to fill them through free agency and the draft.
- Defensive-Minded Center
- Shooting Guard
- Point Guard
The Atlanta Hawks are in rebuild mode, and have John Collins and Taurean Prince as their building blocks for the future. However, neither forward possesses the star potential needed to turn a franchise around. Fortunately, the Hawks own the 3rd pick in the 2018 NBA Draft that can be used on a rim-protecting center. This past season, Collins led Atlanta with 1.1 blocks per game, while the Hawks ranked 23rd or worse in blocks per game (4.2), points allowed per game (108.6), and field-goal percentage defense (46.9%). A player such as Mohamed Bamba or Jaren Jackson could fix the defensive woes that the Hawks suffered while playing John Collins at the five spot.
Atlanta also has a hole at the shooting guard position, and depending on their course of action with the disgruntled Dennis Schroder, they may require a point guard, too. Luckily, the franchise has two more first-round picks that they could use accordingly.
In addition, the Hawks will have $19 million to spend during free agency. If C Dewayne Dedmon and/or PF/C Mike Muscala decline their player options, the Hawks would have roughly $30 million to shell out. This money would more than likely be spent on younger players with potential rather than a star due to Atlanta being far from a contending position.
Potential FA: Clint Capela
Potential Draft Picks: Mohamed Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr., Anfernee Simons, Aaron Holiday, Donte DiVincenzo
- Rim Protection
- Marcus Smart
Over the past few years, the Celtics have used the undersized Al Horford and Aron Baynes as their primary interior defenders, and although the team plays excellent overall defense, it lacks shot blocking. Horford led the roster with 1.2 blocks per game this past season. In the past, players such as Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond have been mentioned in trade rumors as the ideal fit for the Celtics at center.
The Celtics’ sole draft pick is the 27th overall selection in the first round. Unfortunately, there is a very limited amount of big men after the lottery picks. It seems unlikely that the Celtics will trade up, but there are rumors tieing Mohamed Bamba and the Celtics. Although the rumors cannot be proven true, a trade for Bamba would make sense to fill their need in the paint. The franchise would have to give up the likes of Jaylen Brown and/or the Kings’ 2019 first-round pick. Such a trade would open up space for Horford to play the four, with Bamba at the five.
The Celtics will be limited in free agency due to the expiring contracts of Marcus Smart and Baynes. With that said, the organization will have to opt for a budget paint protector. Due to the familiarity and team chemistry, Baynes should be the organization’s first option. Despite being the victim of multiple posters over his career, Baynes possessed one of the best plus-minus on the team: +6.9 with him on the floor, while only +1.8 without him. His presence defensively is overlooked at times, but his impact is substantial.
Potential FA: Aron Baynes, Ed Davis
Potential Draft Picks: Omari Spellman, Khyri Thomas, Mohamed Bamba (via trade)
The 2018 NBA Draft is the final draft that the Nets will be not have their top pick due to the infamous Garnett-Pierce-Terry trade. The Nets were an abysmal defensive team last season, allowing 110.3 points per game, which ranked 28th in the league. With the 29th pick, the Nets should look to patch up those defensive holes.
Another possibility for Brooklyn would be to trade up in the draft. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the Nuggets have made the 14th pick available in hopes to dump Kenneth Faried’s salary. What the Nets would give up is unclear; however, they would be receiving a 6’9” rebounder and defender, along with the rights to the 14th pick. If the Nets made the move, they would be looking at defensive prospects such as Lonnie Walker IV or Zhaire Smith. If the Nets do not trade up, they would be looking for players such as Jacob Evans or Melvin Frazier, who also excel on defense, or they might aim for a shooting big man, such as Omari Spellman, Moritz Wagner, or Dzanan Musa.
If the Nets opt to take on Faried’s contract, they would be limited in free agency. However, Nerlens Noel is an intriguing option due to his age and defensive skill set, and he would likely not require a significant contract.
Potential FA: Nerlens Noel, Jerami Grant
Potential Draft Picks: Omari Spellman, Melvin Frazier, Jacob Evans, Moritz Wagner, Dzanan Musa, Lonnie Walker IV (via trade), Zhaire Smith (via trade)
- Scoring Forward
- Backup Point Guard
Entering the offseason, the Hornets have a difficult task in free agency due to their lack of cap space. They are guaranteeing Nicolas Batum and Dwight Howard nearly $24 million each. In addition, they must pay Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist roughly $14 million each. Due to these hefty contracts, Kemba Walker has seen his name flying around the rumor mill. A potential trade partner for the 28-year-old point guard could be Cleveland. The deal would involve the 8th pick in the draft; however, Cleveland is hesitant and unlikely to trade the pick due to the uncertainty surrounding LeBron James’ future. If no cap space is cleared, the Hornets will be looking at Rodney Hood. The scorer could play both the SG and SF positions, which allows the Hornets some flexibility with their lineups. He has mostly struggled in Cleveland, so a small contract would be warranted.
Without a trade to open up some cap space, the Hornets and Michael Jordan will turn to the draft in hopes of selecting a scoring forward. Of Frank Kaminsky, Williams, and Kidd-Gilchrist, none provide effective scoring at the forward position. At the 11th pick, it seems unlikely that Michael Porter, Jr. or Mikal Bridges will be available, but Kevin Knox, Lonnie Walker IV, and Miles Bridges should be left on the board.
Potential FA: Rodney Hood
Potential Draft Picks: Miles Bridges, Mikal Bridges, Kevin Knox, Michael Porter Jr., Lonnie Walker IV
The Chicago Bulls will have a plethora of options when making the 7th pick in the draft. Vincent Goodwill of NBC Sports Chicago stated that the Bulls are “enamored” with Trae Young, but they also have interest in Collin Sexton. Young would provide a different element of play alongside the more defensive-oriented Kris Dunn. The Bulls also worked out Mikal Bridges, Wendell Carter, and Mohamed Bamba. Come June 21, the Bulls will be selecting the best prospect available, regardless of the fit to their current roster.
In addition, the Bulls acquired a second first-round pick from the Pelicans. Due to the abundance of shooting guards who will be available mid-to-late first round and beyond, the Bulls will likely look to for a potential replacement for one of their lackluster wings.
The rebuilding Bulls have the money to sign a premier talent alongside their youth; only the Lakers possess more cap space. With that said, the top free agents will be dissuaded by the rebuilding process. According to Spencer Davies who opined for Basketball Insiders, the Bulls will focus on developing and improving their young core. He also stated that the team would focus on “getting guys who are just getting on the upswing in the pros. There are talents out there who fit the bill. It just depends on what comes from the draft.” Youthful wings such as Mario Hezonja and Glenn Robinson III are cheap and young pieces that could help elevate the level of talent on the Bulls’ roster.
Potential FA: Mario Hezonja, Glenn Robinson III, Jerami Grant, Nerlens Noel, Alex Len
Potential Draft Picks: Trae Young, Collin Sexton, Mikal Bridges, Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter, Chandler Hutchison, Khyri Thomas, Troy Brown
- Successor to LeBron (if he leaves)
- Point Guard
It is extremely unclear whether LeBron will stay with the organization past this season; therefore, the team will have a difficult decision come draft night: to trade or not to trade the pick. As mentioned previously, a Kemba Walker trade could be a possibility; however, it serves no purpose if LeBron signs elsewhere. Using the draft selection on a player such as Michael Porter or Collin Sexton would not only sure up the future of the Cavaliers, but also could be potential help to LeBron in his quest for another championship.
Fortunately, free agency is slightly easier for the Cavs. Whether LeBron remains in Cleveland or not, the team will not be spending much money. Their focus is to tear down what is remaining of this years’ core. If, however, James elects to stay in The Land, they should target Luc Mbah a Moute, who would provide the Cavaliers with a versatile and lockdown defender for multiple positions. The current Rocket placed in the 99th percentile for isolation defenders this season, and allowed opposing players to score on him only 23.3% of the time.
Potential FA: Luc Mbah a Moute
Potential Draft Picks: Michael Porter Jr., Trae Young, Collin Sexton
- Big man
- Backup PG
The Mavericks select 5th in the draft and will be looking to add a big man to complement Dennis Smith. The organization will draft the likes of Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter, or Jaren Jackson to fill the need at the five spot. Each center would provide the team with much needed shot blocking. The Mavericks ranked 29th last year in blocked shots with 3.8 per game.
Mark Cuban may opt to find their center through free agency, instead. Clint Capela, DeAndre Jordan, and Demarcus Cousins are the top three centers available this summer. With Capela most likely staying with the Rockets, and Jordan not wanting to deal with Dallas again, the organization will look towards signing Cousins. If signing Cousins is their goal for the summer, Cuban may draft Michael Porter Jr. with the 5th overall pick. Porter would slot in at the wing position alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Cousins to create a very tall lineup.
In the event that Porter is not selected 5th, the organization should look for players such as Avery Bradley or Wayne Ellington to fill the wing position. The team is also in need of a backup point guard, so expect the Mavericks to chase players such as Fred VanVleet or Shabazz Napier to aid the bench unit in hopes to compete in the 2018-2019 season.
A lineup of Smith, Bradley, Harrison Barnes, Nowitzki, and Cousins just might be competitive in a deep Western Conference.
Potential FA: Demarcus Cousins, Clint Capela, DeAndre Jordan, Avery Bradley, Wayne Ellington, Fred VanVleet, Shabazz Napier
Potential Draft Picks: Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter, Jaren Jackson, Michael Porter Jr.
- Defensive Wing
- Backcourt Depth
The Nuggets have two glaring needs: improving their overall defense and finding a small forward. Luckily, a single draft pick can fill that need. With the 14th pick, the Nuggets will likely select either Zhaire Smith or Lonnie Walker IV. Both are defensive oriented players that will immediately provide elite athleticism to a young roster. Although the 6-foot-5 Walker is seen as a shooting guard, his 6’10” wingspan gives him versatility as a defender.
When Nikola Jokic’s contract expires, he will get paid. With that said, the Nuggets will resist from splurging in free agency to leave room to resign Jokic. Resigning Will Barton should also be a priority, but that could become an issue if he demands a load of money — free agent Tyreke Evans may be a cheaper option due to his history of injuries. If all else fails, the organization should resign restricted free agent SF Torrey Craig. He was arguably Denver’s top defensive player, at least on the perimeter. He provides much-needed defense on a low-budget contract due to his inability to knock down the three.
Potential FA: Will Barton, Tyreke Evans, Torrey Craig
Potential Draft Picks: Zhaire Smith, Lonnie Walker IV
The Pistons arguably have the worst three-point shooting starting lineup in the NBA. With Reggie Jackson (30.8%), Stanley Johnson (28.6%), Blake Griffin (34.5%), and Andre Drummond (N/A), the team is forced to rely on their inside presence to provide points on the offense end of the floor. The team should be looking for shooters to surround their star frontcourt pieces, but due to Griffin’s overly expensive contract, the team must look at budget options, such as Marco Belinelli or Anthony Tolliver.
Due to the Griffin trade, the Pistons no longer have a first-round pick. Their only pick in the draft is No. 42, which they should use to select either Tony Carr or Landry Shamet. Both provide effective scoring as combo guards. Anyone selected this deep in the draft will not immediately help a franchise win, but both Carr and Shamet have the potential to be a versatile scorers to aid a weak bench in Detroit.
Potential FA: Marco Belinelli, Anthony Tolliver
Potential Draft Picks: Tony Carr, Landry Shamet
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have maximized their star talents, so in the offseason, they should look to sure up their bench with shooters and offensive talent. Players such as Nick Young, Kevon Looney, and Patrick McCaw will become free agents. Ideally, the organization will resign all three to keep their chemistry intact, but winning one championship ring might be enough for Young to opt for a more lucrative offer. Marco Belinelli is a potential replacement for a discounted price if he wants to chase a ring.
The Warriors have built their current roster through the draft, so finding a diamond in the rough is no challenge to the reigning champs. Players such as Jalen Brunson or Gary Trent Jr. should be available at the 28th pick. Their combination of shooting and playmaking is exactly what the Warriors would want from their rotation players.
Potential FA: Nick Young, Marco Belinelli, Kevon Looney, Patrick McCaw
Potential Draft Picks: Gary Trent Jr., Jalen Brunson
- Chris Paul and Clint Capela
- 3-and-D Player
Chris Paul’s injury in the Western Conference Finals made it abundantly clear that the Rockets lack depth. It’s rare to find a highly productive player in the middle of the second round. Therefore, the Rockets, who have the 46th pick, will be looking for not only 3-and-D players who fit their system but also proven collegiate athletes who will be able to fit in immediately, ideally. Players such as Jevon Carter and Devonte Graham have potential to become good rotation pieces that could aid a Houston team chasing for the title, and would provide depth behind the oft-injured Paul, who also happens to be a free agent.
The Rockets will be busy during free agency, trying to resign Paul and Clint Capela, or potentially signing LeBron James, who could be the needed piece for the franchise to return to the Promised Land for the first time since ’95. According to Stefano Fusaro of ESPN, the Rockets seem confident that they will land a top free agent this summer. With that said, owner Tilman Fertitta has expressed his willingness to pay the luxury tax in order to compete for a title. Expect the Rockets to have a monumental summer.
Potential FA: Chris Paul, Clint Capela, LeBron James, Paul George
Potential Draft Picks: Jevon Carter and Devonte Graham
- Point Guard
The Indiana Pacers surprised most people with their season and playoff success. Pushing the reigning Eastern Conference champs and LeBron James to seven games was an incredible feat for such a young roster. The team will continue to grow as a whole with additions through the draft and free agency.
With the 23rd pick, the Pacers should be targeting a wing to pair with the dynamic Victor Oladipo. Wing players such as Kevin Huerter and Dzanan Musa could be available when the Pacers are on the clock. Their combinations of shooting and size will allow them to play multiple positions in the Pacers’ lineup.
The Pacers could take a risk on Mario Hezonja due to his youth and potential. At times, a change of scenery is all a player needs to succeed. Indiana should know that best after watching Oladipo breakout this past season. A safer signing would be Trevor Ariza because he has proven himself over the course of his career in the NBA.
Potential FA: Trevor Ariza, Mario Hezonja
Potential Draft Picks: Kevin Huerter, Dzanan Musa, Anfernee Simons, Donte DiVincenzo, Aaron Holiday
Los Angeles Clippers
- Go-to scorer
The Clippers have a big decision come draft night: to trade up or to stay put. The organization is equipped with the 12th and 13th picks in the draft, but they may use those picks to trade up for Michael Porter Jr. The Clippers have expressed interest in the prospect due to his scoring prowess and versatility. Management has to scrutinize Porter carefully because he missed the majority of his sole collegiate season with a back injury. If the Clippers decide to keep their picks, players such as Collin Sexton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Robert Williams, Zhaire Smith, Kevin Knox, and Lonnie Walker IV will be in play. It’s unlikely that the Clippers pass on Sexton, if he’s available.
Although DeAndre Jordan has expressed interest in playing for Houston, it is unlikely that he finds $24 million elsewhere. If the big man stays, the Clippers’ will have very limited options in free agency. Despite trading Blake Griffin, management has made it clear that the team is looking to compete. The resigning of Lou Williams, and the retaining Jordan and Avery Bradley through the last season’s trade deadline, prove that statement true. Look for the less popular Los Angeles team to make the necessary signings to stay relevant, and bringing back Bradley would be key to keeping the team afloat in the tough Western Conference.
Potential FA: DeAndre Jordan, Avery Bradley
Potential Draft Picks: Michael Porter Jr, Collin Sexton, Kevin Knox, Robert Williams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Zhaire Smith, and Lonnie Walker IV
Los Angeles Lakers
- Shooting Guard
A rumor has gotten around that the Lakers will use their 25th overall pick to select Mitchell Robinson. For certain, someone promised to select him in the first round because not only did Robinson opt not to partake in the NBA Combine, but he is also not privately working out for any teams. The former top recruit decided to skip college to prepare for the NBA Draft, and, in doing that, he became very difficult to evaluate. The lack of film makes teams question his ability on the court. In high school, Robinson flashed raw potential, especially as a shot blocker, as he averaged six blocks per game, and the Lakers seem willing to take a chance on him, hoping that he will become the defensive anchor for their young core.
The Lakers also require depth at the shooting guard position. A defensive prospect such as Khyri Thomas could fill that role off the bench. He also adds an efficient three point shot (41% over his three-year collegiate career).
Every year in free agency, rumors have it that the Lakers will sign the most coveted player on the market. Of course, the narrative has not changed due to their immense cap space. With nearly $61 million in cap room, the storied franchise will look to ink LeBron James and Paul George. Both wings provide leadership, scoring, and versatility to bolster the young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, and Kyle Kuzma.
Julius Randle’s performance in the past season has made the Lakers’ offseason decisions much harder. Starting July 1st, teams will begin to offer the restricted free agent large contracts. Ideally the Lakers would be able to sign James, George, and retain Randle, but that would require Luol Deng’s contract to be moved. It’s not impossible, but it’ll be difficult.
Potential FA: LeBron James, Paul George, Julius Randle
Potential Draft Picks: Mitchell Robinson, Khyri Thomas
- Shooting Guard
- Power Forward
- Small Forward
- Depth Everywhere
Despite two aging stars and a season spoiled by injuries, the Grizzlies plan to return to the playoffs and compete in the 2018-2019 season. To do so, the team will have to draft well and add depth to nearly every position.
Memphis owns the 4th pick in the NBA Draft, and should use it on one of the coveted bigs. Marvin Bagley III or Jaren Jackson give the organization a building block for the future along with a piece in hopes to compete. Either player fills the need at power forward and will slot in next to former Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol.
The organization has handcuffed themselves with Mike Conley and Gasol for a few more years unless a trade occurs. If healthy, the two cornerstones will help the team be competitive, and therefore, management will be targeting wings who can provide consistent outside shooting. Veterans such as Wayne Ellington and Danny Green would fit the bill. Tyreke Evans is also up for grabs this summer; the Grizzlies could look to resign the versatile guard if doesn’t require a load of money.
Free agency will be a challenge for Memphis due to their lack of funds. Signing Chandler Parsons to a 4 year/$94 million contract is impossible to justify, especially when the franchise must pay both Gasol and Conley. And finding cheap-but-effective free agents is a difficult task, especially for a small market team in Memphis.
Potential FA: Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Tyreke Evans
Potential Draft Picks: Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson
- Scoring SG/SF
- Get rid of Whiteside
The Miami Heat will most likely have an uneventful summer due to their lack of financial flexibility and draft picks. The team, unfortunately, does not own a singular draft pick between the first and second-round. In addition, the organization has very little cap space to sign free agents.
Hassan Whiteside has publicly voiced his frustration with his role and playing time. The evidence is there that Whiteside and the Heat need a split. Also, the roster has a young player in Bam Adebayo who plays similarly to Whiteside but for significantly less money. It will be a challenge to move Whiteside due to his attitude and hefty contract, but it’s a move that needs to be done.
Their focus should be to retain Wayne Ellington, but he may be too expense to sign without paying the luxury tax. His shooting ability allows the floor to be spread for Adebayo (and Whiteside). Dwyane Wade is also a key free agent this year despite his age. In clutch situations on the Heat, Wade had a 37.3% usage rate. If Wade does not retire, the Heat will surely welcome him back.
Potential FA: Wayne Ellington, Dwyane Wade
Potential Draft Picks: N/A
- Jabari Parker
The Bucks will be looking to add shooting wings to their roster through the draft because they ranked 22nd in the league in 3-pt percentage at 35.5%. Players such as Donte DiVincenzo and Kevin Huerter can spread the floor with their consistent three-point shooting. In addition, both players play multiple positions, which fits the Bucks philosophy of positionless basketball.
Jabari Parker, a restricted free agent, has been haunted with injuries, year after year, but the Bucks should make him a qualifying offer and consider matching any reasonable offers from other teams. In Parker’s return from an ACL injury this season, he progressed well, without forcing the issue. In 24 minutes per game, Parker averaged 12.6 points and 4.9 rebounds on 48% shooting, and the former second-overall pick is just one year removed from averaging more than 20 points per game. Parker’s injury history will likely make other teams reluctant to offer him an expensive contract, and by retaining him, if nothing else, the Bucks might have a valuable piece to offer in a trade for better shooters to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo with.
Potential FA: Jabari Parker
Potential Draft Picks: Donte DiVincenzo and Kevin Huerter
- Bench Depth, especially at SG and SF
Minnesota owns the 20th pick in the draft, and here, the club will be looking to add depth and outside shooting. The Timberwolves were atrocious three-point shooters last season, making a league-low eight 3s per game. Players such as Troy Brown, Anfernee Simons, Keita Bates-Diop, or Dzanan Musa should be options in the middle of the first round, but none are considered three-point marksmen. Donte DiVincenzo and Kevin Huerter would be better options, but may not be available. Given that they are contenders, it would be wise of the T’wolves to look for at least one veteran shooter in free agency, no matter who they draft.
Tom Thibodeau is not known for giving his bench players a lot of minutes, but if he wants to win deep into the playoffs, he must use his bench unit more wisely. Last season, the team’s primary bench players were Tyus Jones, Jamal Crawford (free agent), Gorgui Dieng, and Derrick Rose (free agent), all of whom were not great options. With a limited amount of cap space, the Timberwolves need players who can efficiently produce for 10-20 minutes per game, while the starters rest. A player such as Joe Harris would provide the team with efficient three-point shooting, and adding a player such as Luc Mbah a Moute would give the team a versatile and reliable defender for an affordable price.
Potential FA: Joe Harris, Luc Mbah a Moute
Potential Draft Picks: Troy Brown, Anfernee Simons, Keita Bates-Diop, Dzanan Musa, Donte DiVincenzo and Kevin Huerter
New Orleans Pelicans
- Small Forward
Despite losing Demarcus Cousins to injury in January, the Pelicans continued to dominate, with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday leading the charge. With Cousins entering free agency, the Pelicans may opt to proceed without him due to the uncertainty regarding his Achilles’ injury, among other reasons. This would open the door for the team to sign a small forward such as Tyreke Evans or Rodney Hood. In addition, Evans could play point guard if Rajon Rondo opts to sign elsewhere.
The Bulls own the Pelicans’ first-round pick via a trade, leaving New Orleans with the 51st overall pick and scant hope to significantly improve through the draft this year. The team could sorely use more talent at small forward, and a wing such as Melvin Frazier, Rawle Alkins, or Vince Edwards could potentially find his way to the Big Easy, with a chance to carve out a role for a playoff team.
Potential FA: Tyreke Evans, Rodney Hood
Potential Draft Picks: Melvin Frazier, Rawle Alkins, Vince Edwards
New York Knicks
- 3-and-D Wing
- Point Guard
Not much changes for the Knicks in the upcoming season. They are still in complete rebuild mode, which may be slowed even further due to Kristaps Porzingis’ injury. The Latvian big man may be out until at least early December. With that said, the organization is looking for the best available talent on draft night. Newly-named GM Scott Perry stated, “We’ve got to get the highest level of talent we can get on our roster, and we’ll figure out all the positions once they get in there.” At the 9th selection, the Knicks possibly will be looking at players such as Mikal and Miles Bridges, Wendell Carter, Trae Young, and/or Collin Sexton. It must be noted that the Knicks have “the hots” for Young, though it is unlikely that he will even be available at the 9th pick. Mikal Bridges is also on the Knicks radar due to his 3-and-D playstyle.
Throughout the 2017-2018 season, the Knicks made additions to the roster purely off potential. Players such as Trey Burke and Emmanuel Mudiay were acquired because management is looking for the best young talent at a cheap price. Free agency this summer will not be different because management has no desire to win now. Mario Hezonja, 23 years old, is a head-scratching option due to his cocky attitude, on and off the court, but the organization would be able to sign him at a decent price. Like Mudiay, Hezonja would be signed due to his youth and potential, and a change of scenery for Hezonja may help alter his career for the better.
Potential FA: Mario Hezonja
Potential Draft Picks: Mikal Bridges, Trae Young, Wendell Carter, Miles Bridges, Collin Sexton
Oklahoma City Thunder
- Paul George
- Depth Everywhere
Last summer, the Thunder traded for Paul George in what looked like a steal, but, ultimately, the Pacers were the winners in that deal. George performed well throughout the season, but OKC fell woefully short in the playoffs. The prevailing feeling is that the All-Star, who has $21 million player option, will opt of his contract for a fresh start with different team.
The Thunder roster is anything but deep, and the club has limited options. When the core of George, Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Carmelo Anthony, and Steven Adams shared the floor this season, the unit had a 14.2 net rating, which ranked in the top third of the league, but the Thunder need at least two more supporting pieces to compete with the likes of Golden State. If George stays, the team will have a solid core, but it will not have the cap room to add any new key parts. In fact, free agent Jerami Grant will almost certainly be unaffordable if George stays. Without George, however, the options are even worse because the salary cap will still limit who can be added to the mix.
Finding talent in the draft will be difficult for the Thunder because they have only two late second-round picks. Barring a breakout, or in other words, a miracle, the prospects drafted will not be much help to the team in the immediate future. Look for the team to take a chance on at least one unproven player with a big upside, such as SF Brian Bowen.
Potential FA: Paul George, Jerami Grant
Potential Draft Picks: Justin Jackson, Rawle Alkins, Brian Bowen
- Aaron Gordon
- Point Guard
- Rim Protector
Orlando should be inking their point guard for the future on draft night. Trae Young provides much needed shooting and playmaking ability to pair with the uber-athletic Aaron Gordon. Young has received mixed reviews due to his poor second-half performance of his freshman year at Oklahoma; however, the all-star potential and need for point guard should push the Magic to select Young.
It is possible that the Magic draft a center with the 6th pick, and then look to free agency for a point guard such as Isaiah Thomas. The two-time All-Star has bounced around the league for his whole career, and will be looking for a new home, as the Lakers will not give him the starting job.
Wendell Carter, Mohamed Bamba, and Jaren Jackson are three centers that would look to take over for Nikola Vucevic in the paint. Each prospect has the potential to be a better defensive player than Vucevic, who averaged only 1.1 blocks per game last season. Also, the Magic allowed the 2nd most points in the paint with 48.3, only trailing the Lakers. With that said, pairing Gordon with a suitable defender makes watching Orlando games much easier to stomach.
It’s been a while since the Magic have seen success, and blame should be directed at its management. Outside of Gordon, who is a restricted free agent, the team lacks talent. The forward out of Arizona is an athletic freak, who can jump out of the building, and his scoring increased from 13 points per game in 2016-2017 to 18 points per game in 2017-2018. Gordon also improved on his three-point shooting, as he went from 28% to 34% in the last year. With that said, Gordon is the top priority for the Magic this summer. For the first time since Dwight Howard, the Magic have a potential superstar in their hands. Gordon will be receiving lucrative offers from multiple teams, but no price should halt the Magic from matching the offer sheet.
Trae Young and Aaron Gordon could be a filthy duo for years to come, but the Magic always seem to make the wrong decision, so don’t get your hopes up.
Potential FA: Aaron Gordon, Isaiah Thomas
Potential Draft Picks: Trae Young, Wendell Carter, Jaren Jackson, Mohamed Bamba
- Veteran Shooters
- Backup Center
Due to Ben Simmons immense struggles shooting the ball, the 76ers require shooters all over the floor to improve spacing. J.J. Redick, Marco Belinelli, and Ersan Ilyasova are set to hit free agency, and the team cannot afford to let them walk without adequately replacing them. With roughly $25 million in cap room, the 76ers have been publically eyeing the likes of LeBron James through billboards throughout Philadelphia. The addition of LeBron would push the 76ers to the top of the Eastern Conference, and make them immediate contenders for a title. Paul George has also been rumored to join “The Process,” but cap-space limitations would allow only one superstar to join the mix. Other less attractive options would include signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, or retaining last year’s core. Redick may prove to be too expensive, depending on who else joins the mix, but Belinelli and Ilyasova should be affordable and will provide great spacing and veteran leadership on a team of young stars. The Sixers will also need to find a defensive center to play behind Joel Embiid, assuming that the club doesn’t resign veteran Amir Johnson.
The 76ers were a top-10 team in the NBA, but will still select in the top 10 of this years’ draft. Mikal Bridges, the highly coveted 3-and-D player, is the perfect fit for the 76ers. Along with Mikal, Miles Bridges will be on the radar due to his elite athleticism and ability to knock down threes. There is potential to trade this pick for a veteran player because the 76ers are looking to win now. Even if the Sixers do keep the pick, they have a total of six, and are bound to trade at least a couple of them.
Potential FA: LeBron James, Paul George, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, J.J. Redick, Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova, Danny Green
Potential Draft Picks: Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges
- Point Guard
The Phoenix Suns were atrocious on defense last season, giving up 113.3 points per game, which ranked dead last in the NBA. Their focus will be stocking their roster with able defenders, but they are unlikely to address this issue with the No. 1 overall pick. DeAndre Ayton will more than likely be the first selection on June 21st. His strength, length and athleticism give good reason to believe that he will eventually be a solid defender, but currently, he mainly excels as a scorer and a rebounder. In taking Ayton first, the Suns will be looking to fill their need for a creator at point guard with the 16th pick.
Phoenix could take a different approach, however, by selecting PG Luka Doncic atop the NBA Draft. He is touted as the best international prospect of all time due to his incredible accolades at such a young age and at such a high level. This would leave a huge hole at center, so the Suns could potentially aim for a top free-agent center, such as Clint Capela or DeAndre Jordan, to fill their five spot and solve their defense issues.
Potential FA: Clint Capela, DeAndre Jordan
Potential Draft Picks: DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Elie Okobo, Aaron Holiday
Portland Trail Blazers
- Jusuf Nurkic
- Small Forward
- Stretch Four
Portland impressed last season, earning the third seed in the tough Western Conference Playoffs, but their success did not carry over into the postseason. The Blazers were swept for the second straight year, but this time by the New Orleans Pelicans. Damian Lillard struggled immensely, as he averaged 18.5 points per game on 35.2 percent from the field and 30 percent from deep. C.J. McCollum was the sole bright spot for Portland, averaging 25.3 points on 52 percent shooting and 42 percent from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, his effort was not enough to overcome New Orleans.
The Blazers lack an impact player at small forward, and will likely be using the 24th pick to fill that need. A player such as Chandler Hutchison, who has the ability to make plays off the dribble, has strong playmaking skills, and is a good defender, would be a good fit. Sliding him next to Lillard and McCollum would give Portland three ball handlers on the floor at once. Terry Stotts will have to figure out how to manage all three ball handlers because, if coached correctly, this lineup could be an offensive juggernaut. Other options would include Keita Bates-Diop and Troy Brown.
Any offer that is thrown at restricted free agent Jusuf Nurkic should be matched without question. Nurkic holds his own offensively, averaging 14.3 points per game along with 9.0 rebounds. Defensively is where Nurkic is needed the most. Although he averages just 1.4 blocks per game, he protects the paint well on a daily basis. When he is on the court, opponents have a 105 offensive rating, and when he is on the bench, opponents’ offensive rating increases to 109.1. Nurkic is essential to the Trail Blazers’ success going forward.
Potential FA: Jusuf Nurkic
Potential Draft Picks: Chandler Hutchison, Keita Bates-Diop, Troy Brown, Moritz Wagner
- Shooting Wings
- Stretch Four
Sacramento has been rebuilding longer than some young fans’ lives. The last time that they reached the postseason was 12 years ago in 2006, with Mike Bibby as the starting point guard. Over the last 12 seasons, the Kings have won only 34.6 percent of their games.
The Kings’ current reboot began by trading away All-Star center Demarcus Cousins in February of 2017, and with the 5th pick of the 2017 draft, the Kings took De’Aaron Fox out of Kentucky. That pick filled their need for a floor general, though Fox has yet to prove that he will be a cornerstone of the franchise. The 2nd-overall pick in this years’ draft will likely be used on the best international prospect the NBA has ever seen, Luka Doncic. What Doncic lacks in athleticism is made up in basketball IQ, ball handling, passing, and creating his own shot. He can play any position from point guard to small forward, and he has succeeded at the highest level outside of the NBA.
A Fox-Doncic tandem would be an exciting backcourt, especially in transition, but neither player is considered a knock-down three-point shooter. Both players would be best complemented by shooters and rim runners. The Kings hope that they have a few of the complementary pieces already on their roster, including shooter Bogdan Bogdanovic. The rookie from Serbia was the MVP of the Rising Stars challenge and overtook Buddy Hield as the starting shooting guard early into the season.
Due to youth and potential on their roster, the Kings will be careful in free agency. Spending too much money in hopes of speeding up the process could mess up the entire situation. The organization will be spending as little as possible to keep their roster focused on their young pieces.
Potential FA: Rodney Hood
Potential Draft Picks: Luka Doncic, DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba
San Antonio Spurs
- Kawhi Leonard
- Shooting Guard
First and foremost, the Spurs must get Kawhi Leonard back into the fold. Leonard is a key piece to the Spurs organization, to say the least, if they want to contend in the Western Conference. The quad injury that he suffered kept him sidelined for all but nine games this season, despite being cleared by team doctors mid-season. The Spurs relationship with Leonard has degraded due to him being distant during the rehab process and the playoffs. It is questionable if the Spurs will extend Leonard’s tenure with the organization; however, Coach Gregg Popovich will be sitting down with the superstar prior to the draft in hopes to rebuild the relationship.
The aging Spurs are in need of an injection of youth, especially at shooting guard and center. The team has its highest draft pick (18th) since 1997, so San Antonio should be expecting a more impactful player than usual. Shooting guards Kevin Huerter and Donte DiVincenzo are just some names that could land in San Antonio. Unfortunately, centers are limited throughout the draft, and the Spurs would have to reach for one at No. 18.
Current starting shooting guard Danny Green has averaged less than nine points per game for three straight seasons. Last season, he shot less than 39 percent from the floor and less than 37 percent from downtown. In addition, his defense is not improving with age. Free-agent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would provide better defense than Green, and the former top-10 pick has also steadily improved as an outside shooter, making 38.3 percent of his three-pointers last season. Another free agent who could fit the bill would be Avery Bradley. As for center, where 37-year-old Pau Gasol starts, Nerlens Noel is a young, defensive-minded player who could turn his career around under Coach Popovich.
Potential FA: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley, Nerlens Noel
Potential Draft Picks: Kevin Huerter, Donte DiVincenzo
- Paint Protector
- Wing Defender
In terms of overall defensive rating (103.4), the Raptors were a top-five defensive team last year; however, they were in the middle of the pack when it came to points allowed in the paint. Jonas Valanciunas is the main reason for these struggles; he blocked less than one shot per game. In addition, he is a liability when defending on the perimeter. When he was on the court this season, opposing teams had a 109.1 offensive rating, but only a 104.2 rating when he was on the bench. If the Raptors expect to defend well, Valanciunas cannot be their starting center.
The team’s only hope to find a paint protector is through free agency since the organization does not have a draft pick. Nerlens Noel is a possibility due to his youth and athleticism. Despite struggling in recent years, Noel has played great defensively in the past. He will be a cheap option for the Raptors, who do not have much cap space.
It would also be effective if the Raptors added another wing defender because they need more than OG Anunoby to defend the best players on the court. Adding Luc Mbah a Moute would help the young Anunoby develop into a powerhouse defensively.
Potential FA: Nerlens Noel, Luc Mbah a Moute
Potential Draft Picks: N/A
- Power Forward
- Small Forward
The Jazz are set to lose PF/C Derrick Favors to free agency this summer. The team has the room to either resign him or chase a more gifted player, such as the Lakers’ Julius Randle. Though neither forward provides efficient spacing, Randle is at least a younger and a more athletic forward to play alongside Rudy Gobert. In addition, Randle boasts better playmaking and ball handling ability than Favors. Another option at PF could be the offensive-minded Jabari Parker.
The Jazz should also address their shooting needs — only four of their players surpassed 36 percent from downtown this past season. Only SF Joe Ingles (3P% of 44.0) has a guaranteed future in Utah, but he might be better suited to come off the bench. Free agent Joe Harris should be on their radar due to his 41.9% shooting from three, but he, too, is more of a role player.
The Jazz hit the jackpot in last years’ draft with Donovan Mitchell. At the 21st pick, it’s possible to find another diamond in the rough. A player such as Moritz Wagner would not only give depth at power forward but also effective outside shooting. He shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc in his last two years at Michigan. Other options would include Keita Bates-Diop, a combo forward who shows promise as a shooter, and SF/SG Troy Brown, a raw player, who is much better on the defensive end of the court at this time.
Potential FA: Derrick Favors, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, Joe Harris
Potential Draft Picks: Moritz Wagner, Keita Bates-Diop, Troy Brown, Chandler Hutchison
- Backup Point Guard
- Quality Depth
The Wizards underperformed in the 2017-2018 season, but that was due, in part, to John Wall’s nagging knee injury, which caused him to miss 41 games. In hopes to compete in the playoffs, the Wizards will be looking to make some offseason acquisitions despite having nearly no cap space. Wall could use a backup because Tom Satoransky does not provide enough value. A player such as Shabazz Napier could be the igniter for the bench unit when Wall and Bradley Beal rest. A bench consisting of Napier, Jodie Meeks, and Kelly Oubre would provide a fair amount of offensive firepower.
The Wizards are in the bottom third of the league when it comes to shot blocking (4.3 per game), and the team could use the 15th pick in the draft on a rim protector. Robert Williams, an athletic PF/C with the ability to guard multiple positions, blocked 2.5 shots per game over his two years at Texas A&M. Williams is limited offensively, but he is effective around the rim, and is a very good rebounder.
The Wizards may opt to draft a guard, such as Elie Okobo or Donte DiVincenzo, to aid the bench, while they search free agency for a shot-blocking center. Nerlens Noel comes to mind due to his low price and defensive capabilities.
Potential FA: Shabazz Napier, Nerlens Noel
Potential Draft Picks: Robert Williams, Elie Okobo, Donte DiVincenzo