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The NBA draft is most teams’ first stop on their offseason shopping trips.
While the annual talent grab offers nothing in the way of guarantees, it’s one of the most pivotal parts of roster-building. Guess right, and you can change your franchise’s fortune in the most cost-effective manner possible.
That’s the hope, anyway.
Not every club will leave Thursday with a difference-maker, but they’ll all enter it with plans to pick up talent and correct some roster flaws. We’ve pinpointed each organization’s most glaring weakness and examined ways to address it at the draft.
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Chuck Burton/Associated Press
Draft picks: 3, 19, 30, 34
Most glaring weakness: Franchise centerpiece
The Atlanta Hawks can’t overthink this.
Last season may have felt like an eternity, but it was only their first year of full-fledged rebuilding. That means this roster is predictably devoid of top-tier young talent.
John Collins and Taurean Prince both look like long-term keepers. But which would be considered a building block? Collins might be a walking pogo stick, but he’s not much of a rim protector or floor spacer. Prince plays a glue-guy’s game, which means a lot of above-average strengths but no elite skills.
The third pick, then, must be spent on a potential star.
If Luka Doncic is still available at No. 3, he should be a no-brainer. His preternatural passing and advanced instincts could be the connective tissue in the Hawks’ reconstruction. If Doncic is gone, Trae Young’s superstar potential would be hard to ignore. Ditto the potential partnership of Collins with either Jaren Jackson Jr. or Mohamed Bamba.
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Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Draft pick: 27
Most glaring weakness: Perimeter depth
The Boston Celtics lost Gordon Hayward on opening night and Kyrie Irving in March, and they still won 55 games before losing the Eastern Conference Finals in seven games. In other words, nitpicking is a must to unearth any weakness.
That’s why we can say it’s perimeter depth while also conceding that if the Shamrocks keep their core intact, they might not have enough rotation spots for the players they already have.
But this is a proactive move to get them out in front of any possible subtractions. With Marcus Smart entering restricted free agency this summer, Terry Rozier heading there in a year and Jaylen Brown potentially being needed to facilitate a blockbuster trade, the Celtics could be incentivized to bulk up the wings now.
With the 27th pick, the Celtics could find a Smart clone in De’Anthony Melton; Rozier insurance with Jalen Brunson; or replace Brown with a three-and-D wing like Jacob Evans, Josh Okogie, Khyri Thomas or Melvin Frazier.
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Draft picks: 29, 40
Most glaring weakness: Two-way wings
Really, the Brooklyn Nets’ biggest need is star power, but there’s little chance of finding that without a lottery pick or the trade chips to add one. So, let’s instead focus on something they might find at their current slots—two-way contributors along the perimeter.
It’s hard to say if there’s even one on the roster.
D’Angelo Russell and Allen Crabbe are traffic cones on defense. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert are non-shooters, each sporting a career three-point percentage south of 34. Jeremy Lin has never been a special defender, last topped two offensive win shares in 2013-14 and will enter 2018-19 as a 30-year-old coming off a campaign lost to knee surgery.
While Brooklyn could think two-way wings with each pick—or spend one on a stretch big—potential targets are easiest to identify at No. 29. Using the latest mock from Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman as a guide, the Nets could have their choice of Evans, Frazier or Okogie.
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Chuck Burton/Associated Press
Draft picks: 11, 45, 55
Most glaring weakness: Versatility on the wings
The Charlotte Hornets spent $117.2 million on last season’s roster, and they owe at least $117.9 million to next season’s group.
Their starting 2, 3 and 4—Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marvin Williams—will command $51 million of the 2018-19 payroll. None had even a league-average player efficiency rating in 2017-18.
That means one of two things.
Either this roster is past the point of salvaging and needs a total teardown, which would move Kemba Walker’s replacement (Collin Sexton? Shai Gilgeous-Alexander?) to the top of the needs list. Or this group needs to capitalize on what could be Walker’s final campaign in Charlotte by upgrading the 2, 3 or 4.
Mikal Bridges would be an ideal addition for his three-ball and defensive versatility, but he isn’t getting to No. 11. Charlotte, then, could best help itself by drafting whichever prospect it rates the highest between Lonnie Walker IV, Miles Bridges and Kevin Knox.
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Draft picks: 7, 22
Most glaring weakness: Size, versatility on perimeter
The Chicago Bulls are early enough into their organizational reset that they should probably stick with the best-player-available approach. But if they account for team needs, they have a specific area in mind.
“We need to look at the wing position,” executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson told reporters. “That would be an ideal spot. Size and length at the wing, a shooting component; a defensive component would be something that if you’re looking at an area we would like to improve, that would be it.”
Last season, the Bulls loaded their wings with specialists. It could’ve been scoring (Justin Holiday), shooting (Denzel Valentine) or defense (David Nwaba), but head coach Fred Hoiberg had to settle on impacting a specific area.
That doesn’t have to be the case after this draft.
A healthy Michael Porter Jr. might be the most skilled offensive player in this class. Mikal Bridges has solidified himself as the crop’s best three-and-D option. Adding either would greatly enhance a quietly promising nucleus of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine (restricted free agent) and Kris Dunn.
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Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
Draft pick: 8
Most glaring weakness: Backcourt stability
This time last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers thought they had their point guard of the present and future in Kyrie Irving. Then, Uncle Drew decided he wanted out, leaving the Cavs to give regular-season starts at the position to Isaiah Thomas, George Hill, Jose Calderon and Derrick Rose.
On a related note, LeBron James was forced to do an absurd amount of this offense’s heavy lifting.
The 33-year-old played all 82 games for the first time in his career and paced the Association in minutes per game. He averaged almost 10 more points a night than any of his teammates, and he more than doubled any of them in assists.
Cleveland must address its point guard problem—regardless if James is staying or going.
The eighth pick should give the Cavs a shot at Young or Sexton, if not both. Young could walk in Irving’s old shoes as either James’ offensive sidekick or the primary source of non-LeBron hope. Sexton would immediately jolt the league’s second-worst defense, and his aggressiveness would either take heat off James or give Cleveland its post-LeBron identity.
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Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press
Draft picks: 5, 33, 54
Most glaring weakness: Athletic center
Any idea who paced the 2017-18 Dallas Mavericks in blocks? In order, the top three were: Salah Mejri, a part-time rotation member; Maxi Kleber, a rookie who averaged 16.8 minutes; and Dirk Nowitzki, who just celebrated his 40th birthday.
That whimpering sound you hear is the Mavs begging for a mobile big man. The only question is whether they’ll try to find one on draft night or wait until free agency.
Unless Dallas is really high on a non-big at No. 5—or receives an impossible-to-reject offer to move down—it should roll the dice on a rookie center.
Jackson and Bamba can blocks shots and switch assignments on opening night. Jackson also looks like a spacer already (38 threes at a 39.6 percent clip), and Bamba has hinted at becoming one (14 triples, 76.7 percent free-throw shooting his final 12 outings). Both sound more exciting than hoping DeMarcus Cousins fully recovers, DeAndre Jordan expands his offense or Houston forgets to match Clint Capela’s offer sheet.
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Bart Young/Getty Images
Draft picks: 14, 43, 58
Most glaring weakness: Two-way small forward
The Denver Nuggets have just enough of a need for a shot-creator and shot-blocker that they could pounce if a prospect capable of either slips to 14 (Gilgeous-Alexander for the former, Robert Williams for the latter). But chances are they’d prefer leaving this draft with a starter at small forward.
Wilson Chandler, who has a $12.8 million player option for next season, just posted his lowest PER in five years (11.0). Torrey Craig, who dazzled defensively on his two-way contract, had a worse PER (9.8) due largely to forgettable shooting rates from three (29.3) and the free-throw line (62.9), plus nearly identical averages in assists (0.6) and turnovers (0.5).
The Nuggets need to upgrade, especially because the rest of their starting five looks ready for playoff action.
Miles Bridges would be a great get if he’s still around. He’s an elite athlete with potential to become a multipositional defender who also chips in as a complementary shooter, shot-creator and passer. If Bridges is gone, Knox or Zhaire Smith would fit in the same box.
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Jason Miller/Getty Images
Draft pick: 42
Most glaring weakness: Shooting
Frightening riddle time for Detroit Pistons fans—what do you get when combine Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, Stanley Johnson, Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond? Combined 2018-19 salaries of $81 million and one career three-point percentage of 33-plus between them.
Oh, and Anthony Tolliver—the Pistons’ 2017-18 leader in triples—is entering unrestricted free agency and might have priced his way out of the Motor City.
As it stands, Detroit is only set to return two players who cleared 35 percent from distance: Bullock and Luke Kennard, who averaged 20 minutes as a rookie. The Pistons must turn the 42nd selection into a sniper, which could point them toward Landry Shamet, Anfernee Simons, Gary Trent Jr. or Malik Newman.
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Draft pick: 28
Most glaring weakness: Perimeter depth
The Golden State Warriors have an all-time sniping trio in Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. This past season, that essentially comprised the entire splashing core, which still converted the highest percentage from three and averaged the eighth-most makes.
But the Dubs don’t have to be so dependent on these three. By balancing the roster—maybe don’t carry six centers again?—the champions could make themselves even more dangerous.
They’ll have the opportunity to do so at No. 28.
The back end of the opening round looks rich with plug-and-play, three-point shooting wings. Grayson Allen, Dzanan Musa and Chandler Hutchison could all provide instant offense relief, while Okogie, Frazier or Evans might supply both spacing and defensive versatility.
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Noah Graham/Getty Images
Draft pick: 46
Most glaring weakness: Defensive versatility
The majestic point guard pairing of James Harden and Chris Paul and historic levels of three-point bombing helped transform the Houston Rockets into legitimate contenders. But another key ingredient was often overlooked—their collection of interchangeable wing defenders.
By plugging in PJ Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute alongside Trevor Ariza, the Rockets had three stoppers for virtually every situation. That trio became the rocket fuel launching Houston up the defensive efficiency standings, leading to a one-year leap from 18th to sixth.
But this summer could attack the backbone of this defense. Both Ariza and Mbah a Moute are entering unrestricted free agency, and each could be impossible to keep if the Rockets plan to pursue LeBron James or another top-shelf addition.
That makes it imperative to find a pliable defender—preferably one who can shoot—on draft night. That’s not easy to do in the middle of the second round, but the attempt should give consideration to Jarred Vanderbilt, Justin Jackson, Jevon Carter and Kenrich Williams.
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Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Draft picks: 23, 50
Most glaring weakness: Secondary scoring
The Indiana Pacers found their post-Paul George offensive hub in Victor Oladipo. Now, they must find more scoring assistance for their new franchise player.
Bojan Bogdanovic, playing on his third team in two seasons, nominally held the No. 2-option role last season. But his scoring average (14.3) was only 2.7 points higher per game than their sixth-best scorer’s (Domantas Sabonis, 11.6).
That’s good news for Indy’s scoring depth, not-so-great news for the individual quality of its non-Oladipo options.
The odds aren’t great that the Pacers uncover their next No. 2 option with the 23rd selection, but they’d help themselves by finding an offensive-minded prospect with shooting range. Allen, Okogie, Aaron Holiday, Donte DiVincenzo and Kevin Huerter all fit the bill.
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Sam Forencich/Getty Images
Draft picks: 12, 13
Most glaring weakness: Upside
Who’s the Los Angeles Clippers’ most exciting player for the future? It feels like the answer has to be Tobias Harris, even though he turns 26 this summer and already has seven NBA seasons under his belt.
The Clippers haven’t committed to a rebuild, despite the departures of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, JJ Redick and Jamal Crawford over the past 12 months. Instead, they extended Lou Williams’ contract, kept DeAndre Jordan past the trade deadline and locked up Doc Rivers on a longer deal.
By refusing to embrace a youth movement, L.A. has denied itself access to high-ceiling youths.
That needs to change.
Ideally, the Clippers move up—they’ve called several teams in the top 10, sources told The Athletic’s Michael Scotto—and snag a centerpiece, like Doncic or Porter. If they stand pat, though, they should prioritize high ceilings over high floors. Selecting two of Sexton, Walker and Robert Williams could give this organization a potential-rich foundation to build around.
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Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press
Draft picks: 25, 39, 47
Most glaring weakness: Wing shooter
Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton honed his craft in Golden State. He has firsthand knowledge of the transformative power of long-range shooting, and he’s tried applying that to his new team.
But there aren’t enough snipers for the strategy to work. While the Lakers launched the 15th-most triples this past season (29.1 per game), they were second-to-last in converting them (34.5). One can only imagine how many more would have been fired had the Lakers consistently hit their marks.
“Shooting is a premium for us right now, given that we didn’t shoot the ball too well from the free-throw line or the perimeter last year, so we’re always looking to improve in that area,” assistant general manager Jesse Buss said on Spectrum Sportsnet (via Silver Screen and Roll).
Huerter (who might have a promise from L.A., per Sports Illustrated‘s Jeremy Woo), DiVincenzo, Hutchison and Allen could all offer perimeter scoring and supplemental skills. The good news is all of these players work whether the Lakers have their dream summer or not. Spot-up snipers are ideal complements to both in-prime stars and budding ballers, plus they’re among the easiest commodities to move should the Lakers need to shed salary quickly.
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Brandon Dill/Associated Press
Draft picks: 4, 32
Most glaring weakness: Offensive firepower
The Memphis Grizzlies are still trying to compete, right? Controlling owner Robert Pera eyeballing 50 wins would suggest as much.
Then again, league sources told Scotto that Memphis is gauging the market for a Chandler Parsons-plus-No. 4 package. That would presumably amount to a salary dump or at least wind up with the Grizzlies getting something far less valuable than the fourth overall selection.
Here’s the thing—firepower is a need for either situation.
Memphis was abysmal on offense this past season, ranking 27th in efficiency and 29th in scoring. It’s foolish to expect Mike Conley—109 games missed over the previous three years—to fix those problems on his own.
Doncic might sit atop the Grizzlies’ draft board because of his polished skills, advanced instincts and offensive ceiling. If he’s gone, they could latch onto the scoring potential of Marvin Bagley III or Porter or explore trading down for Young or Mikal Bridges.
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Chris Szagola/Associated Press
Draft picks: None
Most glaring weakness: Wing scoring
Six different members of the Miami Heat are slated to earn salaries of at least $11.1 million next season, and a seventh is on the books for $9.3 million. Few teams are more desperate for the type of cheap labor available on draft night.
But Miami previously traded out of this draft, with its first-rounder one of two owed to the Phoenix Suns for 2015 Goran Dragic deal.
In other words, the high-level wing scorer this roster lacks is not arriving on draft night. What might, though, is a second-rounder should Miami feel inclined to purchase one.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk might be a clearance-priced replacement for Wayne Ellington, who could have priced his way out of South Florida. Newman has instant-offense potential, as does Allen if Miami is open to paying a higher premium.
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Charles Krupa/Associated Press
Draft picks: 17
Most glaring weakness: Perimeter playmaking and interior everything
That position is the glaring weakness, but it’ll be tough to address on draft night.
Unless Robert Williams falls into their laps, the Bucks probably won’t have any centers near the top of their big board at No. 17. Mitchell Robinson will likely be closest, but he’d be a reach that high, and Milwaukee is more interested in adding an instant-impact piece.
Everything outside of lanky forwards feels like a need, but the Bucks could use another perimeter player who can both create and make shots. Walker would be a steal here, but Holiday, DiVincenzo and Jerome Robinson also fit that description and should thrive in new coach Mike Budenholzer’s offense.
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Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Draft picks: 20, 48
Most glaring weakness: Three-and-D wings
If it feels like every club could add more three-and-D contributors, that’s because it’s true. But it’s an especially critical area for the Minnesota Timberwolves.
They were almost allergic to the arc this past season. No one attempted (22.5 per game) or converted (8.0) fewer threes. Right now, the problem looks even worse, considering two of the club’s top-five snipers—Jamal Crawford and Nemanja Bjelica (restricted)—are headed to free agency.
As for the defense, few playoff hopefuls played it as poorly as Minnesota. The Timberwolves tied for 22nd in defensive efficiency. Four of the six clubs behind them lost 54-plus games.
The obvious draft focus should be finding willing defenders who can make open shots and don’t need many touches. Luckily, 20 should be a great place to find one with Frazier, Evans, Okogie and Thomas all fitting the Tom Thibodeau mold.
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Sean Gardner/Getty Images
Draft pick: 51
Most glaring weakness: Serviceable wings
The New Orleans Pelicans can’t aim too high after parting with their first-round pick in the February trade for Nikola Mirotic. But the state of their wing rotation is such that even a marginal prospect would have a chance to crack the rotation.
E’Twaun Moore is a reserve scoring guard who starts at small forward out of necessity. Free-agent-to-be Ian Clark has point guard size but the game of a gunner. Darius Miller is a shooting specialist who struggles when forced to do more. Injuries and the inability to find an offensive niche have almost rendered Solomon Hill unplayable.
Understand, now, how non-top-50 prospects could still excite the Pelicans?
Granted, the odds of this selection yielding a nightly contributor aren’t great, but it happens. (Kyle Korver was 2003’s 51st selection.) Because New Orleans only has one shot at this, it should focus more on a proven commodity than a long-term project. Mykhailiuk is one of this draft’s top marksmen, and Devon Hall offers a polished, underrated three-and-D package.
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Rick Scuteri/Associated Press
Draft picks: 9, 36
Most glaring weakness: Wings and distributors
This might be deflating to hear in July 2018, but the New York Knicks are playing for July 2020. That’s when they should have both significant spending money and (at least) a full season of post-ACL-tear play from Kristaps Porzingis.
The challenge between now and then is to identify which other pieces belong around Porzingis in that pivotal summer. This draft should deliver at least one of them, preferably someone who either sets the table or addresses a major void on the wing.
New York was 21st in assist percentage this past season. It’s no small wonder the ranking wasn’t lower when the top distributors were 34-year-old journeyman Jarrett Jack, scoring guard Trey Burke and Emmanuel Mudiay, who’s only topped four assists per game once in three seasons.
The wings were similarly underwhelming. Tim Hardaway Jr. averaged an inefficient 17.5 points on a bloated $16.5 million salary. Veterans Courtney Lee and Michael Beasley handled uncomfortably large roles for a club that spent most of the season outside the playoff picture.
The Knicks need to grab the top talent at No. 9 to fill one of these spots—Young, Sexton or Gilgeous-Alexander at point guard or Mikal Bridges or Knox for the wing.
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Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press
Draft picks: 53, 57
Most glaring weakness: Depth
The difference between the Oklahoma City Thunder with (plus-10.1 net rating) and without (plus-0.5) Andre Roberson revealed two truths about this team.
- He’s more important than most might think.
- There’s zero margin for error with OKC’s lack of depth.
That problem could be exacerbated this summer. Paul George (expected to decline his player option), Jerami Grant, Corey Brewer and Raymond Felton are all heading to free agency. The Thunder can either skyrocket their payroll to keep them around or watch them leave without creating the necessary wiggle room to replace them.
Kind of like hoping to pluck two rotation pieces—or even one—with two of the draft’s final eight selections. Hall, Newman, Mykhailiuk and Donte Grantham might have as good a shot at sticking as any of the late prospects.
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Fernando Medina/Getty Images
Draft picks: 6, 35, 41
Most glaring weakness: No glaring strengths
The Orlando Magic’s most glaring weakness should be the point guard position. Their current rotation for 2018-19 features only D.J. Augustin and Shelvin Mack, whose salary is non-guaranteed.
But it feels foolish to point out any particular problem when the entire roster needs work.
There is no area that you’d feel comfortable saying the Magic definitely don’t need to invest a top-10 pick in it. Frontcourt feels the closest, but even then we don’t know if Aaron Gordon is staying (restricted free agent), what Jonathan Isaac will become or whether there’s a long-term future in Orlando for Nikola Vucevic or Bismack Biyombo.
“Drafting based on need is not a luxury the Magic have when they’d be basing it around 29 games of Isaac and the hope that Gordon will take a leap,” Mike Cali wrote for Orlando Pinstriped Post. “When Jeff Weltman and John Hammond make their selection, they should do so as if the pick will be the first piece of the puzzle for the Magic’s roster.”
It’s best-player-available-or-bust, then. Young or Porter could give Orlando an offensive identity, while Bamba could anchor the interior for the next decade-plus.
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Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
Draft picks: 10, 26, 38, 56, 60
Most glaring weakness: Perimeter shooting, versatility
Never once did you watch this past season’s Philadelphia 76ers and think, “Geez, they could use another five rookies.” But we’re guessing you might have noticed a need for extra shooters or off-the-bounce scorers.
This draft, then, is about consolidating these selections to scratch a significant itch or two. If some of the later picks can’t be packaged together to move up, they might be spent on draft-and-stash prospects or two-way contract candidates.
The Sixers have inquired about moving into the top five, sources told SI.com’s Jake Fischer. If they get into the top five, Doncic makes the most sense for his skill set, immediate-impact potential and seemingly decreasing value. Philly would have two jumbo triggermen in Ben Simmons and Doncic, with the latter potentially helping maintain spacing as JJ Redick leads a number of Philly shooters into free agency.
If Philly stands pat at 10, Mikal Bridges could be an ideal fit for his shot-making and defensive versatility. Wojnarowski says there’s “a lot of mutual interest” between Bridges and Philly (h/t Sagar Trika of Blazer’s Edge), and that feels like the best realistic option. If the Sixers stay at 26, they could double down on three-and-D prospects with Okogie, Frazier or Thomas.
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David Dow/Getty Images
Draft picks: 1, 16, 31, 59
Most glaring weakness: Interior anchor
Deandre Ayton can’t get his Phoenix Suns jersey on fast enough. Phoenix’s frontcourt has been a train wreck, to the point it stands out as the obvious weakness even while the franchise’s future at point guard is in flux.
The Suns can figure out their floor-general issue later. What they already know is Alex Len shouldn’t have been the fifth overall pick and Tyson Chandler is no longer a $13.5 million player. They’re still waiting to see whether resources were wasted on recent top-10 selections Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender.
Ayton should finally fill this void. He looks as physically gifted as 7-foot prospects can get, and his skills proved sharp enough for him to average 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds as a 19-year-old collegiate freshman. He’ll form a potent 1-2 punch with Devin Booker hopefully while Josh Jackson finds his place as a hyper-athletic glue guy.
Just like that, the formerly listless franchise could have both direction and excitement.
“Ayton is the guy,” Greg Moore wrote for the Arizona Republic. “He’s a quick learner. He’s competitive. And he represents something the Suns have never had, which means he could help them compete for a prize they’ve never gotten.”
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Layne Murdoch/Getty Images
Draft pick: 24
Most glaring weakness: Versatile wings
For all the money the Portland Trail Blazers have pumped into this team, all they’ve come away with is the proverbial real estate between a rock and a hard place.
Their bloated financial books look heavy before factoring in potential new deals for Jusuf Nurkic (restricted), Shabazz Napier (restricted), Ed Davis and/or Pat Connaughton (restricted). Their roster flaws and limited means of addressing them may eventually require splitting up the Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum duo, which runs the risk of leaving the roster less talented in the end.
This puzzle lacks an obvious fix.
So, this draft must provide relief, particularly the kind that can contribute sooner rather than later. Luckily, there are plenty of potential two-way helpers in this range.
If the Blazers want a third guard to mix in with Lillard and McCollum, then Thomas, Okogie, DiVincenzo and Melton can all offer two-way assistance. If the focus is more on forwards, then Frazier, Hutchison, Troy Brown and Keita Bates-Diop should all draw consideration.
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Gary Dineen/Getty Images
Draft picks: 2, 37
Most glaring weakness: Elite upside
Who’s the most exciting player on the Sacramento Kings’ roster?
Probably De’Aaron Fox, right? But do we know if he’ll ever be able to shoot? And if it’s not him, is the answer no one? Bogdan Bogdanovic turns 26 before next season tips, Buddy Hield might work best as a spark-plug sub, Harry Giles hasn’t been healthy in two years, and Skal Labissiere isn’t always a rotation member.
This conversation needs a clear answer after Thursday night with Sacramento clutching an early selection in a loaded draft. This is the time to go star-searching.
“When the Kings make their selection with the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, they should not base it on who could be the best player in 2018-19. This is about the next four or five years,” Jason Jones wrote for the Sacramento Bee.
Jones says that should steer Sacramento toward Porter, the former top prospect who lost this past season to back surgery. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony hears Sacramento is down on Doncic and focused on Bagley.
As long as the Kings walk away with the prospect they think has the best shot at stardom, they will have gotten this right.
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Darren Abate/Associated Press
Draft picks: 18, 49
Most glaring weakness: Perimeter scoring and athleticism
The San Antonio Spurs have spent much of the last year in foreign territory dealing with the Kawhi Leonard situation that could be coming to a head. This draft might feel like foreign territory, too, since the Spurs are holding a pick better than 20th for the first time since 1997.
They must take advantage and breathe new life into a wing rotation that underwhelmed without Leonard.
San Antonio’s top three perimeter scorers were: Rudy Gay, who mostly played power forward and is now heading to free agency; Patty Mills, a 29-year-old three-point specialist; and Manu Ginobili, the 40-year-old who’s followed each of the last few seasons by contemplating retirement.
If the Spurs want an athlete, they could grab Brown or Smith (if he falls) at 18. If offense is the bigger focus, that should get Huerter and Hutchison near the top of the list.
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Jason Miller/Getty Images
Draft picks: None
Most glaring weakness: Modern bigs
It was a novel idea for the Toronto Raptors to reset their organizational approach without resetting the roster. But, while modernizing their offense delivered the best regular season in franchise history (59-23, plus-7.6 net rating), their ingrained flaws led to the latest playoff disappointment.
So now, Dwane Casey is gone, Nick Nurse is running the show and no one on the roster is “off limits,” according to Marc Stein of the New York Times.
It’s an unfortunate time to have zero selections, although the Raptors are hoping to change that.
If they get into this draft, they might try to replace whatever they sacrificed to do so. But focusing only on their current group, they’re desperate for contemporary frontcourt players who can shoot, dribble and defend multiple positions. It’s hard to imagine that type of prospect fitting Toronto’s budget. It seems more likely this group could address another weakness by trading into the three-and-D range.
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Rick Bowmer/Associated Press
Draft picks: 21, 52
Most glaring weakness: Perimeter scoring
Donovan Mitchell’s miraculous rookie rise from 13th pick to No. 1 option and franchise player said a lot about him and maybe more about the Utah Jazz.
If they had better offensive alternatives, maybe they wouldn’t have tasked their 43.7 percent shooting freshman to launch 17.2 shots per game. But when Rudy Gobert and Ricky Rubio are your second- and third-best scorers, you’ll cling to anyone who hints at packing some scoring punch.
The Jazz need to get Mitchell some help. Huerter is a popular pick to potentially provide it.
“To keep improving, the Jazz need more offense—specifically, more outside shooting. Hurter would help,” Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune. “… If he’s available at No. 21, he would be a great selection.”
If Utah can’t get Huerter, it should consider Holiday, DiVincenzo, Hutchison, Musa and Elie Okobo.
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Nick Wass/Associated Press
Draft picks: 15, 44
Most glaring weakness: Athletic bigs
Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi will enter next season with 65 combined years of life experience between them. The Washington Wizards’ center rotation is…let’s say seasoned.
The NBA is demanding more of players at the position, forcing them to close out on shooters, switch onto perimeter players and ideally have some dimension of vertical spacing as a lob threat. All of those tasks get trickier with age.
See the problem here?
But there isn’t any money to find one in free agency, so they must either hope Robert Williams slips or be comfortable reaching for Mitchell Robinson. If those aren’t options, they could attack another need for wing depth by targeting Smith, Walker or Brown.
Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @ZachBuckleyNBA.