With the NBA Draft coming up, the SLAM PH team broke down all the lottery teams to determine what they need and who their options are with their picks:
New Orleans Pelicans (Nos. 1 and 4)
Vinz Miguel Alcid: Say all you want but the New Orleans Pelicans are having themselves quite the offseason. From landing the top overall pick in the draft to hauling a great trade package for Anthony Davis, acquiring Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first round draft picks including this year’s 4th overall pick. This shows that David Griffin is either one lucky GM or just flat out genius.
With the departure of Davis, the first order of business for the Pelicans come draft night should be filling in the void that he left behind: being the team’s franchise player that they can build around long term. And what better way to do that than to draft, perhaps the most coveted top draft prospect since LeBron James, Zion Williamson as their first overall pick. To be fair, every NBA team needs a Zion Williamson. At 6″7″ and 250 pounds, Zion is freakishly athletic, jumps everyone out of the building and most of all, can do it all inside the basketball court. To top it all, he is a sure top seller for ticket, merchandise sales and viewership. Or as Stephen A. Smith would often say in his show, “Zion is Box Office!”
Another void that the Pelicans need to address is their lack of outside shooting. Sure, the core of Jrue Holiday, Ball and Ingram plus Zion is a must watch and a havoc crew on the defensive end, it clearly lacks the shooting depth that is essential in today’s game. Expect the Pelicans to look into Virginia’s DeAndre Hunter and Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver for the fourth pick. Hunter and Culver are capable 3-and-D floor spacers that should work well with the new Pelicans core.
Memphis Grizzlies (No. 2)
Karlo Lovenia: By trading away Mike Conley, this should be a relatively easy choice for the Memphis Grizzlies. They need a young point guard to pair with their big man of the future in Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant seems like the perfect man for the job.
With that being said, there are other routes they can go to in acquiring a point guard. Reports have stated there is a possibility the Grizzlies trade down to get the 4th pick from the Pelicans while shipping away the 2nd pick. It clearly won’t be a straight swap, so doing this deal gives the Grizzlies extra assets aside from the 4th pick. Within that range, the Grizz could pickup Darius Garland who was widely considered as the top point guard of this class before he got injured. He has the type of range Morant doesn’t offer, which may entice a Grizzlies organization in search of a new identity. A duo of Garland and JJJ screams modern basketball and that’s what the Grizzlies may just need as they turn to a new age.
New York Knicks (No. 3)
Karlo: It’s totally understandable for the Knicks to totally Knicks this Draft given that their offseason looks to be going towards a Knicks route. But really, would it be the smartest thing for the Knicks to well, do Knicks things? Recent history suggests that they shouldn’t. Right?
Despite everything going wrong for New York so far, they shouldn’t panic and make rash decisions with this pick. There’s still reason to be hopeful with this Draft and their future. The team has young, talented pieces who could be cornerstones of a playoff team in the future. Dennis Smith Jr. is a dynamo athlete whose upside continues to be among the highest in the league. Mitchell Robinson looks like the perfect modern pick and roll big man. Kevin Knox has shown flashes of talent. As talented as those players may be, they don’t exactly scream franchise star.
So at this point, the Knicks should just go with the best player available in the Draft. It’s probably going to be RJ Barrett. If suddenly the Pelicans find a way to pair RJ with Zion by acquiring the number two pick, Ja Morant is not a bad alternative at all. There is hope. All is not lost in New York. What they have to do is simple, but difficult because they need to do something out of the box: not be the Knicks.
Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 5)
Karlo: Right now, you’re not exactly sure what the direction of the Cavaliers is. Collin Sexton looks to be an important part of their future, but Kevin Love’s contract makes it hard for the team to maneuver around. With that being said, the Cavs just have to keep it simple with this pick: choose the next best player available.
Right now, it’s looking like that player will be Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech. He’s been touted as one of the safer prospects in this draft as someone who will surely have a place in the modern NBA. With so much uncertainty surrounding the future of the Cavs, it’s best for them to go for a safe prospect. Culver seems like that kind of player for them.
Phoenix Suns (No. 6)
Vinz: The Phoenix Suns is an intriguing team with an intriguing young core. They have a perennial, superstar caliber player in Devin Booker paired with last year’s top overall pick DeAndre Ayton as the center pieces of their team. Field in quality wing players in Josh Jackson, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and TJ Warren, the Suns’ young players are with no doubt, full of talent and potential. But the reality of the situation is, they just can’t win. Last season, they finished with second worst record in the NBA with just 19 wins. Whether it’s because of the players, the constant changing of head coaches, or the organization itself, no one really knows on who to blame for the Suns’ demise.
One thing is clear, though. The team needs a direction. They can make take a big step forward on draft night by selecting the point guard they so badly need. With top guard prospect Ja Morant sure to be headed in the top three picks, the Suns should look for Darius Garland and Coby White as their choices for the sixth overall pick. Garland is regarded to have the most upside for a point guard in the draft pool who averaged 16.2 points per game and shot a remarkable 47.8% three-point shooting clip during his stint with Vanderbilt. White, on the other hand, is no slouch as well whose frenetic energy could bring positive impact to his teammates. He also averaged 16.1 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game and 4.1 assists in his lone season with North Carolina.
Chicago Bulls (No. 7)
Vinz: The Bulls entered the draft lottery expecting to land a top 4 pick after another tumultuous season since trading Jimmy Butler in 2017. While they got nice young pieces in Zach Lavine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen in return, disappointment still continues to grow in the Windy City. They also drafted Wendell Carter, Jr. and traded for Otto Porter, Jr. last season who added additional talent for the team.
Like the Suns, the Chicago Bulls is also in need of a point guard that could provide direction for them. LaVine was once viewed as a transitional point guard from the shooting guard position, kind of like Russell Westbrook, but that really didn’t work out too well. Dunn, on the other hand, has been a so-so, although his defensive savvy cannot be denied. If the Suns indeed chose a point guard between Garland and White, the Bulls selecting whoever was not drafted by Phoenix would be a fine compensation as both players could turn out as studs in the pros.
Atlanta Hawks (Nos. 8 and 10)
Karlo: The Hawks have one of the most exciting young cores in the league today and have a chance of loading up on more talent for this draft. Given Travis Schlenk liking for players who can shoot, pass, and dribble, it isn’t tough to imagine he’ll go for a high quality wing who can provide ample help in the backcourt to Trae Young.
With reports of moving up being a possibility for the Hawks, Culver looks like the best fit for the team. But if the team opts to stay pat and keep both their picks, Cam Reddish seems like a logical option. While one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft due to his tendency to fold during the clutch, Reddish has all the tools to be an elite prospect down the line. His offensive game is as smooth as butter, while having the physical attributes built for a star. There are fears of him going the Jeff Green and Andrew Wiggins route. Those are valid concerns. But if the Hawks opt to give Reddish a chance, it would be a calculated risk at that spot in the draft.
Washington Wizards (No. 9)
Vinz: The Washington Wizards have big decisions ahead of them. First, they have the John Wall contract situation. Then, they need to decide on what to do with Bradley Beal who is entering the final year of his contract. There are rumors that the Pelicans might be interested in trading the 4th pick for Beal or the Wizards could opt to ride the incoming season with him as the helm since Wall might be out for the rest of the season.
Whatever the Wizards’ front office decides to do with their current lineup, one thing is for sure come draft night: they need to draft the best available talent. Whether it is someone with a high ceiling regardless of timeline or someone who can contribute instantly for the team. The ideal prospects that the Wizards should look into are Reddish, Texas’ Jaxson Hayes and Sekou Doumbouya from France.
Reddish is a high risk, high reward player that could either fill the Wizards’ holes or be a bust just like the team is. Hayes is the much safer pick as his defensive wits in the five position is enough to contribute for the team instantly. Doumbouya, however, offers the highest ceiling of the three, as his size and length combined with his athletic ability could make him a budding star in the future.
Minnesota Timberwolves (No. 11)
Vinz: When you think of the Timberwolves team last season, you think of two names, Karl-Anthony Towns and Derrick Rose (Sorry, Wiggins) and that’s about it. Towns was his usual all-star self whose talent is still unquestionable (just not his heart, I guess) throughout last season. Wiggins, well, is still Wiggins. Nothing much has changed. On the bright side, they picked up one of the steals of the draft last year in Josh Okogie and Tyus Jones has been emerging as consistent starting point guard in the league.
What the Timberwolves lack, however, is help from the frontcourt especially in the power forward position who could either play ahead or behind Dario Saric. Prospects such as Brandon Clarke from Gonzaga or Doumbouya should provide that need for them. Both are terrific athletes that could blend just fine with Towns and Saric.
Charlotte Hornets (No. 12)
Karlo: The Hornets have been stuck in mediocrity for a long time now. The status of Kemba Walker continues to be up in the air. There is not much flexibility to make moves. The least they can do for this Draft is to grab the best player available
With that being said, Hayes and Nassir Little look like the best bets for the team. Hayes is an athlete with plenty of untapped potential. Maybe a pick and roll combination with that type of big man entices Kemba to an extent. Little, on the other hand, is the type of talented wing who could fit in well with what James Borrego is building in Charotte. He may have been underwhelming during his lone year in North Carolina, but the tools are there.
Miami Heat (No. 13)
Vinz: After an eventful final season of Dwyane Wade last season, the Miami Heat are stuck in a weird spot. They really don’t have a go to guy, unless you consider Josh Richardson or Justise Winslow in that conversation. Though, both players are better off as high end role players. And now, with reports that Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside are opting in on their contracts, the Heat will not have flexibility salary-wise to sign marquee free agents in the offseason.
The best thing to do for the Heat with the 13th pick is to select a prospect with a high potential and hope that it could turn out as an all-star caliber gem in the future that they can build around but can also contribute instantly next season as expect this team to fully compete for a playoff spot under the reins of Erik Spoelstra. They should consider prospects such as Little, who can be turned into a 3-and-D dynamo, or Rui Hachimura, a power forward with guard skill that averaged 19.7 points per game for Gonzaga.
Boston Celtics (No. 14)
Karlo: Contrary to popular belief, is all is not lost in Boston. Yes, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving may be on the way out. Things have not gone as smoothly as expected. But at the very least, they have young pieces who have experience of being in the biggest stages of basketball. There is a foundation here for Boston. All they have to do is to add pieces to aid in this rebuilding process.
Ever since, the Celtics have had trouble with their front court. The easy choice would probably be Hayes due to his upside. A safer option may be Clarke of Gonzaga. He isn’t seen as a high-ceiling contributor unlike other players, but his IQ and versatility are qualities Danny Ainge has consistently liked.
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