2019 NBA Team Needs - Central Division
Dan Servodidio and Justin Fensterman take a look at what every NBA team needs this offseason and what they may do in the NBA draft division by division.
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 Central Division.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 7th, 38th)
The Bulls are in an interesting spot because their starting lineup is set with the return of Wendell Carter Jr. to join up with Zach LaVine , Kris Dunn , Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen . The Bulls will likely be in a situation in which they pick the best player available. While their starting lineup is solid on paper, all starters have been hampered by injuries throughout their career and they need back up. Carter doesn’t have too much experience because he was out for a good chunk of the season, and the Bulls have a need for a backup big man to help Carter. The Bulls should target a scorer that can lead their second unit. If they can find a player that can fit at multiple positions such as a small forward with good ball-handling skills, it would be a great fit. The Bulls can use their second-round pick to address their depth at PF and C if they select a guard-forward with their first-round pick. A defensive back up Center would be a good fit for this team as well. With all of the scorers that they have, one of their starters will always be on the floor.
With the 7th overall pick in this draft, the Bulls may likely just go with the best player available to lock down a scorer off the bench. The pick will likely come down to Coby White (North Carolina) and Cam Reddish (Duke) and Chicago will just have to decide which position they want to target the most. White is largely considered the third-best point guard prospect behind Ja Morant and Darius Garland - and he could lead the Bulls’ second unit and/or eventually replace Kris Dunn in the starting lineup. Reddish, meanwhile, is one of the top small forward prospects in this class and can play/guard multiple positions while also providing offensive upside off the bench. Reddish got lost in the weeds often last season as he usually played the third or fourth fiddle on Duke’s offense behind Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Tyus Jones . If you put Reddish on any other college team, though, he’s probably their leading scorer and go-to offensive option. The Bulls can use their second-round pick on a big man for depth in the frontcourt. A few names they could target at #38 overall are Naz Reid (LSU), Daniel Gafford (Arkansas), Luke Samanic (Croatia) or Jontay Porter (Missouri).
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 5th, 26th)
The Cavs faced a ton of injuries in their frontcourt last season and with Kevin Love , Tristan Thompson , Ante Zizic and Larry Nance Jr. , it’s time to look at guard or Small Forward. The Cavs want to grow Collin Sexton , but Jordan Clarkson would be better suited coming off the bench. Cedi Osman would still fit as the starting SF as he will be used as the bailout shooting option. His defense improved last season. The Cavs need a Shooting Guard badly and that’s the direction they should go with their fifth overall pick. Even though Clarkson’s production is very inconsistent, he can split his playing time at both guard positions. The Cavs just need a shooter who can also create and take it to the rack. The Cavs can use their second first round pick on a small forward to back up Osman when his shot is off. The Cavs should target a SF that will crash the boards to help keep Love on the perimeter a bit more. Shooting Guard and Small Forward is the obvious priority for this team.
Having the 5th overall pick in this draft can be both a blessing and a curse for Cleveland. Unfortunately, this draft has a top tier of three players (Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett) - but, on the other hand, the Cavs will likely have the pick of the litter of the remaining talent afterwards. The best available players at #5 will likely be De’Andre Hunter (Virginia) and Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech) - and either of them would cover one of Cleveland’s two team needs at shooting guard and small forward. Culver would be ideal because he can create his own shot, drive to the rim and provide an offensive perimeter threat. Depending on what Cleveland does with their lottery pick, they will likely address their other team need with the 26th overall pick. If they are looking for shooting guards near the end of the first-round, Ty Jerome (Virginia) or Keldon Johnson (Kentucky) should be the priorities. And if the Cavs look at small forwards with their latter pick, KZ Okpala (Stanford) or Cameron Johnson (North Carolina) would fit nicely as second-unit scorers. Johnson can provide a legit three-point threat (he shot 457% from beyond the arc last year) with the versatility to defend multiple positions and the experience to be effective in the NBA right away after his four-year college career.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 15th, 45th)
With Reggie Jackson still on the payroll, the Pistons have a serious need at Small Forward. Wayne Ellington was a stopgap and we’re still in a wait and see mindset with Glenn Robinson III . They should look to draft a bigger wing that can play strong perimeter defense and knockdown long-range jumpers. Blake Griffin is a better Blake Griffin when he plays in the paint and by having a reliable long-range shooter that can use his size to power pass the elbow, it will make it easier for Griffin and Andre Drummond to cut to the basket. This wing player should also have the ability to set up in the high-post so it can help further with other players cutting to the basket. If they are done with Ish Smith , they can use their second-round pick to pick a point or combo-guard. Reggie Jackson is inconsistent and the bigger need to fill is point over shooting guard. Luke Kennard does a great job of hitting free throws and getting back on defense. If they don’t target a Small Forward in the first round, they can look to replace Jackson. The biggest need for this team is a Small Forward with both shooting and driving ability.
Detroit Pistons: UPDATE: The Pistons traded for the 30th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and Tony Snell and they sent the Bucks back Jon Leuer . The Pistons should still look to draft wings with their two first round picks even though they acquired Snell. They need to build depth at the position.
If the Pistons want to focus on 3-and-D small forward or wing players with their 15th overall pick, keep an eye on North Carolina’s Nassir Little or Kentucky’s Tyler Herro. Little could easily go higher considering NBA teams are high on his potential and raw talent despite not making much of an impact for the Tar Heels in his freshman year. A year ago, Little was a top-5 high school recruit and viewed as a top-5 pick in this draft but his struggles to be productive last season have moved him down teams’ boards. Herro, meanwhile, is a totally different player as a smaller winger who can play both the shooting guard and small forward positions. As a freshman for Kentucky last year, Herro showed his lights-out shooting potential (35.5% from three), ability to get to the basket and intensity on the defensive end. There were games where Herro was far-and-away the best Wildcat on the court - and that was with PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson and others present. The Pistons could be looking at a couple interesting combo/point guards with the 45th overall pick. Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s) and Jalen Lecque (Brewster Academy) are two completely different players but both have the potential to be eventual stars at the next level. Ponds brought a score-first mentality to the point guard position in college with elite ball-handling skills and the deep three-point range to play some off-ball two-guard as well. Lecque is a virtual unknown after he sat out all of last year to work out with trainers instead of playing college ball. Still, though, some view the New Hampshire native to be one of the most athletic players in this class outside of Zion Williamson - and he impressed at the NBA Combine.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 18th, 50th)
The Pacers have a lot of free agents and from all of the reports out there, it looks like Bojan Bogdanovic will be their main target to keep from leaving. Victor Oladipo ’s injury-rehab timeline will likely bleed a little into the season, but he should be a full go by December and that will re-fill the void at SG. The Pacers could use the pick to target a Point Guard with Darren Collison and Cory Joseph being free agents. Is Aaron Holiday ready to be the starter? He may need another year under his belt being that he had such a small role last season. If the Pacers plan on pursuing point guards in free agency and want to keep their timeshare at Center of both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis , they can target a power forward to start over them or to be the first big man off the bench. The Pacers could try putting Turner or Sabonis at PF, but they are more effective when operating at C. They don’t need a Center as much as they need a Power Forward, but they may find themselves in a best player available scenario and if a highly touted PG or PF is there at 18, they should scoop him up and whichever of the two position they don’t address at 18, they can look to fill at 50.
As Fensty mentioned, the Pacers could likely go with the best player available with their 18th overall pick. Some of those options, with a focus on power forward and point guard, are PJ Washington (Kentucky), Mfiondu Kabengele (Florida State), Romeo Langford (Indiana) or Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Virginia Tech). Washington and Kabengele are both big men who can provide depth off the bench as rim-protectors, rebounders an inside scorers. Langford and Alexander-Walker, meanwhile, are combo guard-types who played the point in college and possess scoring and passing skills from either guard position. Langford could go earlier than here, but if he’s there the Pacers should scoop him up because he’s a taller point guard who is being undervalued based off his performance last season when he was hurt for part of the year and played on a bad Indiana team. Depending on which direction they go with their first-round pick, the Pacers will probably go best player available at #50 with a focus on PG or PF - whichever position they don’t address with their first selection. A few point guards they could target in the second-round at this spot are Jordan Bone (Tennessee), Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s) or Justin Wright-Foreman (Hofstra). And some power forwards we could see Indiana target are Dedric Lawson (Kansas), Jaylen Hoard (Wake Forest) or Jalen McDaniels (San Diego State).
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 30th)
The Bucks want to retain both Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez and that could mean that Malcolm Brogdon is the odd man out. Nikola Mirotic did not look like a great fit and the Bucks should target a Forward in the draft to give the team more depth. Giannis Antetokounmpo can play both forward spots and it would be nice having another forward, preferably a Small Forward who plays good defense and isn’t afraid to drive and draw contact. If they draft a Small Forward with good ball-handling skills, it will allow Antetkounmpo to set up in the post more. Lopez is clearly not a post player and having another big man will add pressure to the paint for the opposition when the Bucks are on offense. A big reason why they couldn’t defeat the Raptors is because the Raptors had multiple big men who can threaten the interior with fierce driving ability. Having another player who can bang and succeed in the paint on the drive or even in the high post could take some of the defensive pressure off of Antetokounmpo. Forward is the way to go for the Bucks.
Milwaukee Bucks: UPDATE: The Bucks acquired Jon Leuer from the Pistons and traded out of the draft surrendering their lone 30th overall pick and Tony Snell in the process. If the Bucks trade back in, they should target a backup big man, even if they lock up Brook Lopez in free agency.
If small forward is the direction the Bucks should go with the 30th overall pick - the last of the first round - then look for Louis King (Oregon), KZ Okpala (Stanford) or Dylan Windler (Belmont) to be the selection. All three can play the two-guard role or bring versatility to the small forward position for a playoff-caliber team like Milwaukee. Windler is a polarizing prospect because he has the reputation of dominating in a smaller, less-talented college conference with skills that may or may not translate to the NBA. There’s no denying his sweet three-point stroke, though, after he drained 42.9% of his three’s in his senior year and helped anchor Belmont to the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament win. Okpala and King, meanwhile, both emerged late in the year as real NBA prospects and each probably could have stayed in college another year to fine tune their games. King was thrust into a bigger role for Oregon as a freshman last season after they experienced a ton of injuries and needed King to play the score-first point guard position at times. Naturally, though, King is a wing scorer who ideally can play an effective forward position alongside other talented scorers - like Milwaukee.