Teams That Most Need the Draft
Heading into any draft, there are essentially two types of teams: those hoping to use the process as a way to add a significant player, and those who really, really need the draft. In some cases it’s a fine line, but in other situations it’s pretty cut-and-dry. Some teams will be okay no matter who they end up drafting (if any player at all), but some can’t afford to lose out. Here are the teams with the biggest needs heading into Thursday’s draft:
Cleveland – Considering how bad the Cavs looked last year, there’s no questioning the fact they need this draft to be successful more than anybody. They’re banking on the #1 and #4 picks yielding them the two players who essentially will become their future, and it almost doesn’t even matter what positions those guys play.
If I’m the GM of the Cavaliers, the only player I’d insist on keeping in Anderson Varejao, which means if they end up with Kyrie Irving to run point for the next ten years, as well as a combo forward like Derrick Williams or a big man like Enes Kanter or Jonas Valanciunas (and it’s likely to be two of those four players when everything’s all said and done), they’ll be three-fifths of the way towards a solid starting lineup. A year or two more of solid drafting, and they could be on their way, but it starts this year. They need to hit home runs with both picks, and that first pick needs to be Irving. Anything less, and they could look just as disheartening a year from now.
Sacramento – The interesting thing with the Kings is they’ve got a couple of different needs pulling them in a couple of different directions. There’s a very real financial need to draft a player that sells tickets—someone like, say, Jimmer Fredette—but there’s also a need to immediately improve the quality of the team. Fredette’s a great young ball player, but Tyreke Evans is the team’s high-volume scoring point guard already. To add another shorter and less athletic version of that would be counterproductive, no matter how many jerseys he sold.
So in terms of that second need, what kind of player does Sacramento need to be targeting specifically? Ideally, they’d find a more natural point guard to run alongside Evans or Marcus Thornton, or they’d look for a small forward with star potential. In this draft, that pretty much equates to Brandon Knight (whose likelihood of slipping to pick #7 is borderline impossible) or someone like Jan Vesely or Kawhi Leonard. Either of those latter two seem most realistic, and probably are more along the lines of what the front office and coaching staff would rather see.
But, there’s something to be said about Jimmer, too, and if he’s going to sell tickets, it might be worth the redundancy at his position to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Of course, putting together a winning basketball team, regardless of name recognition, sells a lot of tickets, too.
Charlotte – New Bobcats GM Rich Cho is a smart man, and he has to know his roster is as devoid of talent as it has been since they were an expansion team almost a decade ago. The ‘Cats are okay at shooting guard with Stephen Jackson and Gerald Henderson holding things down, and between Tyrus Thomas and Boris Diaw they probably won’t go with a power forward, either.
What the Bobcats really need is real talent at the center position. Sagana Diop is the only center under contract next year, and that is by no means something that organization can feel good about. Of course, the problem is that there aren’t a lot of legitimate centers ripe for the picking at the #9 slot in this year’s draft. Bismack Biyombo is intriguing but inexperienced and undersized at 6’9″ (despite his 7’6″ wingspan), and unless they want to really reach for Donatas Motiejunas, they’re probably going to have to look at a small forward for point guard at that spot.
Just like with Sacramento, who picks a couple of spots before Charlotte, the best hopes are guys like Vesely and Leonard, though Fredette or Kemba Walker would both certainly help inject some firepower into the offense as well. One way or another, though, they’ve got to add the most talented player possible because Charlotte is running conspicuously low on talent. The best they can get is what they should grab.
Indiana – It seems like forever ago the Pacers stood up to the Chicago Bulls in a hard-fought first round of the 2011 playoffs, but that series definitely happened, even with deficiencies at a couple positions. While Paul George is a tremendous young talent, he’s playing out of position at shooting guard, and Tyler Hansbrough’s inconsistency means Indy could shore up the power forward spot as well.
The Pacers do have some money to spend in free agency to help solve these problems, but they may be able to find a shooting guard or a power forward at the #15 pick in the draft, as well. Guards like Klay Thompson, Marshon Brooks, or Alec Burks all have the potential to eventually be starters in the league, and power forward prospects like Tristan Thompson, Markieff Morris, and Motiejunas all could hold things down at power forward the Pacers.
Perhaps none of these guys end up being stars, but as far as needs are concerned Indiana has two glaring ones, and plenty of players available in their slot to help solve their problems.
While their other teams with needs of their own—Minnesota, Washington, Phoenix, to name a few—they aren’t as specific as the teams on this list. The draft will solve as many issues as it can for these organizations, but as we know well by now, nothing is ever certain when you’re bringing these young men to your franchises. Hopefully, these needs all get fulfilled - but if they don’t? Well, there’s always next year.