With the NBA Draft rapidly approaching (Thursday, June 20), we thought it would be a good idea to identify each team’s needs and, based on what we saw in the playoffs, potential offseason activity and draft position, identified players they may select once on the clock. Justin Fensterman, our resident NBA guru, and Dan Servodidio, who led our college basketball analysis, have combined their efforts to give you everything you’ll need to know on Draft Day.
Let's take a look at the Southwest Division.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 37th)
With one lonely second round pick, the Mavs could use a little bit of everything. Will they be able to maintain Kristaps Porzingis ? Likely. The Mavs will also most likely keep Dwight Powell , even if he does opt out. Reports say they would like to retain Dorian Finney-Smith . The Mavs can use the pick for guard help as they are looking for more forward depth in free agency.
Luka Doncic did an excellent job facilitating the offense and Tim Hardaway Jr. (coming off an injury) should be active when the season begins. Besides Jalen Brunson , the Mavs don’t have any other guard depth and should look for a shooting guard with handles to back up Hardaway Jr. The guard they target should have good agility and long-range shooting. They should look for a player to be constantly on the run at the arc looking for openings off of screens. They should prioritize shooting guard over point guard as they will need more long-range scoring added to their second unit. Dirk Nowitzki is retired and they are looking to part ways with Courtney Lee . If they plan on retaining Porzingis, they can also use the pick for a Center if they want to play him at PF.
With the Mavericks set at multiple positions next year, shooting guard should be the target with plenty of options available at #37 overall. Some prospects they could target with their lone 2019 pick are Louis King (Oregon), Zach Norvell Jr. (Gonzaga), Terence Davis (Mississippi) and Dylan Windler (Belmont). All these players are being mocked from the tail end of the first round to the mid-second - but any of them can play shooting guard at the next level if still on the board for Dallas.
Norvell Jr. and Windler are both 3-point specialists who can provide value for a team by running themselves open off screens behind the arc and develop into deadly three-point shooters. Windler (6’7”) has a little better size than Norvell (6’5”) and was a more consistent shooter in college last season - Windler shot 42.9% from three while Norvell shot 37% in a similar amount of attempts. Windler’s sharpshooting helped propel Belmont to their first-ever NCAA Tournament win as he also was better than expected at rebounding, driving to the rim and on-ball defending.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: NONE)
The Rockets currently don’t have a stake in this draft, but they have been very public about the availability of Chris Paul and even Clint Capela and they can trade either one for picks to enter the draft. I think it’s unlikely, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. The Celtics have been reportedly targeting Capela and they have multiple picks in this year’s draft.
If the Rockets did somehow trade into this draft without giving up a key piece, they should look to draft a Power Forward. The Rockets don’t play much defense and Clint Capela can’t do it all on his own and P.J. Tucker is much better guarding big men on the perimeter. He would serve as a better Small Forward and the Rockets don’t have any PF depth. Even if they kept Kenneth Faried for a penny, they still are in desperate need of help in the paint.
As Fensty noted, the Rockets may look to trade into this draft to get a power forward. If the Rockets do end up trading Capela away on draft night to enter into the fray, some centers they could target in the late-first and mid-second rounds are Nic Claxton (Georgia), Daniel Gafford (Arkansas) and Naz Reid (LSU). Now, let’s focus on some power forwards who could go in that range of picks as well if Houston gets into the draft without giving up a major piece. Grant Williams, Eric Paschall and Chuma Okeke would all benefit from playing alongside a center-type (like Capela) in the NBA.
Williams and Paschall provided a veteran presence for Tennessee and Villanova last season, respectively, and are more NBA-ready than most bigs in this draft because of their experience and polished game. Both players have the versatility to bang in the post for rebounds, step outside to knock down three’s and defend multiple positions. Okeke, meanwhile, may have been a lock to go in the lottery picks before he tore his ACL in the NCAA Tournament. Since that injury just came in March, teams picking the Auburn product have to remain patient with his recovery - but they could be rewarded because Okeke can develop into a coveted 3-and-D player with the ability to play the small or power forward positions.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 2nd)
Memphis is in an interesting spot because even though they can use R.J. Barrett to fit their current rotation, Mike Conley could be on the move and they will have an immediate need at Point Guard. The Grizzlies really want to trade Conley and it will be hard for them to pass on Ja Morant. The biggest need for Memphis is Guard at this point and being that they have one pick at the top of the board, they will add a guard to their roster. If they can trade Conley on draft night, they could add more draft picks to their arsenal while still taking Morant second overall.
Another issue the Grizzlies face is whether or not Jonas Valanciunas will stay with the team and if he leaves, the Grizzlies will have zero depth at Center. Ivan Rabb and Jaren Jackson Jr. would be the main big men and that will not help them move up the standings. They’ve moved on from Marc Gasol and are likely drafting a highly touted guard prospect in Morant and they should try to do whatever it takes to add another pick so they can address their frontcourt depth. Even if Valanciunas stays, he will need back up big men.
UPDATE: After unloading Mike Conley to the Jazz, the plan of action is still to fill the Point Guard void by drafting Ja Morant with their second overall pick. In the trade, they also pick up the 23rd overall pick. Grizzlies should be looking for a big man to take at that spot.
There aren’t many sure things in this draft, but Ja Morant being the second-best overall prospect is about as universal as Zion Williamson being the #1 overall pick. It seems like a matter of when, not if, the Grizzlies will deal Mike Conley away - and Morant would slot in as the most dynamic rookie point guard from Day 1. The athletic guard has elite skills as a passer, dunker, ball-handler and floor general and all qualities were on full display when he led Murray State to a first-round upset over Marquette in the NCAA Tournament in March. The only things he’ll need to work on to be a complete All-Star point guard in the NBA are his strength in driving to the basket (because of his thin physique) and his jump shot (which he honestly didn’t need to develop much in college). Both are small potatoes when you have the dramatic playmaking skills like he does at such a young age (19).
If the Grizzlies end up trading Conley (or anyone else) to get back into the draft to grab a big man for Valanciunas insurance, some they could target in the second-round are Jaylen Hoard (Wake Forest), Zylan Cheatham (Arizona State) and Jontay Porter (Missouri). At 6-foot-9, Hoard has the unique combo of dribbling skills, athleticism and rebounding ability that are ideal for the NBA. The only questions are his thin frame for his size and if he can develop into a better shooter to stretch out defenses. Cheatham, meanwhile, reminds us a lot of Draymond Green as he can be the ideal small-ball center with the defensive versatility to switch onto smaller guards and the size and rebounding instincts to bang with taller bigs.
New Orleans Pelicans
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 1st, 39th, 57th)
While picking Zion Williamson first overall seems like the obvious game plan for how the Pelicans will use their top pick, what does that mean for their fourth overall pick? Will they keep the pick? The Pelicans are not done wheeling and dealing and that fourth pick could lead to a trade for a rising star. The Pelicans have now added Lonzo Ball , Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram . If you combine those three with Jrue Holiday , the Pelicans are set at SG and SF and they need to draft a PF or a C. Their fourth overall pick is very expendable and they can use their second round picks to load up on big men. Julius Randle opting out draws an immediate need of paint presence. Williamson can’t guard the paint by himself. Expect the Pelicans to be active in trade talks prior to the start of the draft as they can be flipping more players and that coveted fourth overall pick.
With the recent Anthony Davis trade to the Lakers, the Pelicans have the unique situation of owning both the 1st and 4th overall picks in this draft. Outside of taking the no-doubter Zion at #1, there is some uncertainty with that other top-5 pick. The Pelicans could definitely trade the pick but if they keep it, the best players available would be point guard Darius Garland (Vanderbilt), combo guard Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech) and forward De’Andre Hunter (Virginia). Hunter could play the stretch-4 and both forward positions in the NBA so that would makes sense.
If the Pelicans do trade that 4th overall pick, though, they will need to find power forward talent in the second round at either #39 or #57 overall. Some names they could target at 39, specifically, are Isaiah Roby (Nebraska), Darius Bazley (High School), Chuma Okeke (Auburn) or Zylan Cheatham (Arizona State).
Bazley is such a wild card prospect but the team that takes the risk could be rewarded massively in a year or two. This could be the type of long-term project the Pelicans gladly take a chance on in their current rebuild. The 19-year-old was a five-star recruit coming out of Princeton HS (OH) but was not a pure one-and-done prospect and NBA scouts assumed he’d play at Syracuse for a few years polishing his game. However, the 6’9” combo forward opted to skip college altogether and he instead spent the past year working out with private trainers. It’s a similar path that the Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson took a year ago and he looks like one of the second-round steals of the 2018 Draft. Bazley could be a player who benefits from playing alongside Zion Williamson and not having the pressure of succeeding right from Day 1.
San Antonio Spurs
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 19th, 29th, 49th)
Expect the Spurs to have a similar squad entering next season. Rudy Gay is a free agent and wants to stay with the Spurs. They have a ton of guard-depth and should focus on strengthening their frontcourt. Even if Gay returns to the team, he’s older and suffered injuries last season and can use back up. LaMarcus Aldridge had to spend time playing both Power Forward and Center and Jakob Poeltl has proven that he’s not ready to play effectively for 30-plus minutes per game and the Spurs should look to use all three of their picks addressing their frontcourt. They just need multiple options who can play alongside Aldridge for 20 minutes at a time to help guard the paint.
They need a Center or even a highly touted Power Forward with their 19th overall pick so it can allow Aldridge to start at Center. They should look to draft at least one combo-forward who can help both Gay and Aldridge. Once they build up their frontcourt, they will move up in the Western Conference standings. If they plan on drafting guards with their picks, they might as well trade the picks. They are unbalanced and are in desperate need of help in their frontcourt. Two forward-centers and one combo-forward would help fill those voids.
If the Spurs are to target a power forward, center or combo forward with their first round selections, keep an eye out for a few of these names they could take a chance on at #19 or #29 overall: KZ Okpala (Stanford), Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga), Jalen McDaniels (San Diego State) and Luka Samanic (Croatia). The Spurs have been one of the best talent-developing programs for years and this could be a match made in heaven for all four of these players - each have clear talent but need a year or so to turn into something special.
The Japanese-born Hachimura is particularly interesting. He needs some polish on both ends, but he’s developed a lethal mid-range shot and post moves that make him dangerous for his size (6-foot-8, 230 pounds). He showed flashes of that dominance last season for Gonzaga, but the team had so much talent around him that there was a limit to his upside (especially with fellow big Brandon Clarke being a force in the paint). Being on a new team with more freedom to play his own game could unleash serious potential - talent that’s had him compared to Giannis Antetekounpo in the past year.
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