Needs for every team in NBA draft lottery
As a prelude to Game 2 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday, the NBA will hold the draft lottery (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) — that fateful unveiling of the league’s formal drafting order, as decided randomly by a flurry of bouncing ping pong balls. Teams that have endured months of hard losses for the sake of improving their odds at the No. 1 pick will see those efforts either validated or negated by cold probabilities.
It’s worth noting that even the team with the worst record has but a 25 percent chance of scoring the top pick. All 14 teams in the lottery have some chance — however remote — of selecting first in the draft.
What might each team look for in a potential pick? Below is a catalogue of the needs of every lottery team, listed in order from worst regular-season record record to best — or, correspondingly, from the highest lottery odds to the lowest.
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 25 percent
Biggest needs: Foundation-level talent at every position
Orlando enters the lottery with the best chance of nabbing the top pick. Nikola Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson, Tobias Harris and Maurice Harkless give general manager Rob Hennigan some interesting components as he goes about a patient rebuild, but none among them is so promising as to be above replacement. If the odds strike in Orlando’s favor, the Magic will survey the field and take the best prospect available — likely Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel — without much concern for how he’ll fit with a core that’s very much under construction. The Magic could also use a point guard or a solid wing type.
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 19.9 percent
Biggest needs: Perimeter shooting, interior rotation players
Although they didn’t match their historic level of 2011-12 ineptitude, the Bobcats struggled through another rough season of slow-burn development. Guard Kemba Walker improved in his second season, and beyond him there were small gains in the games of rookie forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and second-year big man Bismack Biyombo. But there’s little elsewhere on Charlotte’s roster worthy of confidence or optimism, at least in terms of the team’s long-game plans to return to the playoffs.
Gerald Henderson is a helpful player, but he’s an upcoming free agent and makes for one poor shooter too many alongside Walker (32.2 percent from three-point range) and Kidd-Gilchrist (22.2 percent). Otherwise, the Bobcats employed a collection of big men (Biyombo, Brendan Haywood, Byron Mullens, Josh McRoberts, Hakim Warrick, Jeff Adrien) who hovered dangerously close to replacement level. Some of those players are worth keeping for depth, but Charlotte would be incredibly well served in finding another big man — preferably with face-up ability and some shooting range — capable of filling significant minutes.
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 15.6 percent
Biggest needs: Viable wing players
Kyrie Irving needs help, and the Cavs will have both a prime draft pick and a sizable chunk of cap space to go about laying the groundwork for a quality roster. Every option is likely to be explored, but adding another shot creator through the draft might be the most cost-effective way to fill out the rotation, all while creating a safety net for the 21-year-old Dion Waiters. We shouldn’t rush to judgment on Waiters, who just completed his rookie season, but the possibility remains that he — and the Cavs — might ultimately be best served by using him as a dominant reserve ball handler rather than a complement to Irving in the starting backcourt.
With that in mind, the ideal pick would likely be a positionally flexible wing, one capable of rounding out the starting lineup now and able to slide into Waiters’ role in the backcourt at a later date. With that kind of addition, the Cavs would be in a great position to nurture each of their latest lottery picks without running into redundancy.
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 11.9 percent
Biggest needs: Help at any position but point guard
After a season of trial and intermittent error, the Suns have just two starting-caliber players — point guard Goran Dragic and swingman Jared Dudley — under contract beyond next season. Experiments with Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson failed; the addition of Shannon Brown proved predictably underwhelming; Marcus and Markieff Morris offer two decent (but uninspiring) rotation options; Marcin Gortat’s contract will expire in a year; Channing Frye’s status is questionable after a heart scare; and the 33-year-old Luis Scola doesn’t exactly jive with a roster set for a return trip to the lottery next season. Phoenix needs young talent and it needs it badly, at any position save the one occupied by Dragic and little-used prospect Kendall Marshall, the 13th pick in 2012.
New Orleans Pelicans
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 8.8 percent
Biggest needs: Wing replacements/depth
Two front-office decisions make this team shaky on the wings. The first: matching the Suns’ four-year, $58.4 million offer sheet for Eric Gordon in July, which locked in an injury-prone, disenchanted player to a long-term deal. It’s already clear that the Pelicans can’t afford to count on Gordon as a building block; his talent is real and significant, but if one of the best players on the roster isn’t committed to the team that cuts his checks, he isn’t likely to play a constructive role in that team’s progress.
The second decision: declining the fourth-year team option (worth $3.7 million) on the rookie contract of Al-Farouq Aminu, who is set to become a free agent. He was New Orleans’ best small-forward option this season, providing value with his cutting and rebounding. Aminu improved to the point that the Pelicans might like a mulligan on that team option, but should he leave, New Orleans will find its way without him. The Pelicans simply need be wary of the void that now exists in that particular wing slot, and the urgency in filling that void given Gordon’s flightiness, Austin Rivers’ miserable rookie season and a dearth of in-house alternatives.
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 6.3 percent
Biggest needs: A big man whose game meshes with that of DeMarcus Cousins, better all-around perimeter players
The Kings have a somewhat talented roster locked in a perpetual state of disarray. Few players are put in a position to succeed and several prominent players seem to share a few too many similar flaws. It’s a mess that could theoretically be redeemed — and hopefully will with the franchise set to be under new ownership.
But, for now, all that can be done is to attempt to add another quality player to this weird glut of a roster, with an emphasis on how he might fit alongside Cousins. Concerns about the 22-year-old center’s emotional maturity are warranted, but Cousins’ talent is so rare that the Kings owe it to themselves to attempt to build around him under a more stable team culture. That will come more easily with the Maloofs gone, but there’s still so much work to be done to repurpose these raw materials into something worthwhile.
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 3.6 percent
Biggest needs: Playmaking, outside shooting
Big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond give the Pistons a stable base, but Detroit has major needs elsewhere. Guard Brandon Knight is a solid player, but his play through two seasons has been tenuous enough to consider alternative options. At the very least, Detroit should invest in a player capable of either creating his own shot from the perimeter or spacing the floor as a spot-up shooter, with an ideal fit offering both.
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 3.5 percent
Biggest needs: Shot creation, prospect bigs
A top-10 defense in 2012-13 bodes well for Washington’s playoff hopes in 2014, but the Wizards desperately need another shot creator. When healthy, John Wall was able to drive and kick effectively enough to lift the Wizards out of the doldrums. But Washington would benefit from another ball-handling option, especially one who could theoretically complete a starting trio with Wall and backcourt mate Bradley Beal down the line.
Additionally, the Wizards have done well in relying on Nene and Emeka Okafor as their defensive anchors, but they could stand to pick up another big man to both learn from that veteran duo and eventually slide in to replace them. Okafor’s contract expires after next season.
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 1.7 percent
Biggest needs: Wing shooters
Minnesota will be far better with a healthy roster next season. The Wolves have quality bigs and could likely work the free-agent market to find one more large-bodied defender if need be. They have point guards — too many, perhaps. But they’re sorely lacking wing players who can hit perimeter shots reliably (the Wolves ranked last in three-point percentage).
Portland Trail Blazers
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 1.1 percent
Biggest needs: A big man superior to Meyers Leonard, depth at any position
Finding a long-term center option with their first-round pick would be nice, but the Blazers would probably settle for an NBA-viable player at any position. It’s been widely noted that the Blazers had one of the most tragic benches in the NBA this season, a disadvantage that isn’t likely to be remedied by internal development alone. A few of Portland’s reserves will get marginally better if returned to similar roles next season, but the easiest option would simply be to replace some bench players outright, preferably with a draft selection capable of sliding between multiple positions.
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 0.8 percent
Biggest needs: Any quality, non-point guard player
At this point, point guard Jrue Holiday is the only established piece of the Sixers’ rebuild. Forward Thaddeus Young is a terrific player, but he may prove more valuable as a trade asset than a long-term piece. Swingman Evan Turner remains a phenomenally strange player and has yet to demonstrate redeemable value beyond his collection of ill-fitting, somewhat inefficient skills. And center Andrew Bynum is anything but a sure Sixer; he may well come back, but at this point Philadelphia has to prepare for the possibility of his departure, largely by focusing its rebuilding efforts around Holiday and Holiday alone.
There are other pieces in play, to be sure, but for now, Philadelphia’s priority is hitting on this pick, as long as the player selected makes sense in a core alongside Holiday.
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 0.7 percent
Biggest needs: Backup point guard, big man with rotation potential
Note: Toronto initially traded this pick to Houston in the deal for Kyle Lowry last summer. The Rockets then sent it to Oklahoma City in the October trade for James Harden. It is currently top-three protected, meaning that if this pick falls outside the top three, it goes to the Thunder. If the pick lands in the top three, a 2.5 percent chance, the Raptors keep it. For a look at OKC’s needs, here’s our extended analysis of the Thunder’s offseason.
The Raptors are a lesser team without all that many glaring needs, but they could eye two points of weakness if they wind up with a top-three pick. The first is a reserve ball handler, both to alleviate Lowry’s responsibility in the short term and potentially slide into a starting role once Lowry’s contract expires after the 2013-14 season. There’s a possibility, of course, that Lowry could re-sign as a free agent, but given their heavy cap commitments, the Raptors have to prepare for the likelihood that he won’t.
The other choice would be to add a rotation-caliber big man, largely in anticipation of Andrea Bargnani’s inevitable departure. Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas give Toronto two very solid options for next season, but the Raptors could stand to fill out the back end of their big-man rotation. The Raptors should have some decent options if they land in the top three.
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 0.6 percent
Biggest needs: Any player who can function alongside Dirk Nowitzki
Some have specifically highlighted the center position, but let’s not limit Dallas’ offseason to-do list to bigs alone. Nowitzki, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Jared Cunningham and Jae Crowder are really the only Mavericks guaranteed to be on the roster next season. Guards Darren Collison and Rodrigue Beaubois are both due qualifying offers that have yet to be tendered; guard O.J. Mayo will likely turn down his $4.2 million player option to pursue a larger deal; and center Bernard James’ contract is not guaranteed. The Mavs simply need any player who makes sense alongside Dirk, be it a ball handler, a wing scorer, a defensive specialist or another big man.
Odds of landing No. 1 pick: 0.5 percent
Biggest needs: A capable playmaker
Utah could move in any number of directions this offseason, as the expiring contracts of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Mo Williams give the Jazz the freedom to pursue the full development of their younger pieces and the addition of some fresh talent. But given their collection of promising prospects at other positions, the Jazz’s top priority is rather predictable: This team needs players capable of handling the ball and creating for others, preferably filling that void with a conventional point guard. That’s a need that doesn’t necessarily have to be addressed through the draft, but it might make sense for Utah to do so because the crop of free-agent point guards is underwhelming.