NBA Draft 2012: Separating "Needy" Teams from "Best Available" Teams
In general, NBA teams draft players based on one of two factors: need or talent.
Need is when a team needs a specific position filled. For example, there are a ton of options for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who pick No. 5 this Thursday night.
Maybe they'll pick a player, or they could trade the pick. The one thing we know they won't do is draft a point guard. That's because that position is filled by the reigning NBA Rookie of The Year, and former No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving.
Then there's talent. If you were to look at ESPN.com's draft page right now, you'd see two lists prominently featured.
One is a Top 100. This is a list 100 players, 60 of whom are highly likely to make up the bulk of the 60 players selected in two rounds at the draft this Thursday. The players are ranked by projected NBA talent.
The other is a "Mock Draft." This is, of course, a prediction for all the picks in the two rounds of the NBA draft. The lists share some common ground, but they also reveal plenty of differences.
That's because every team doesn't automatically pick the most talented player available.
Some teams will be picking for a specific need this Thursday night, and some won't: They'll simply look at who's available and pick the guy they feel has the best chance to make it as an NBA player.
Who's who? Which teams are fishing for a specific position or player, and which ones are more likely to grab the best player available?
Atlanta Hawks : TALENT
Atlanta Hawks' Picks: First Round, No. 23. Second Round, No. 43.
As a general rule, the lower a team is picking in the first round, the better a team they are.
The Atlanta Hawks might not be a title contender next season, but they'll start the season with more reasons for optimism than many other teams will.
With a starting five already under contract, the Hawks are a natural candidate to lean towards the most talented player left on the board. That would apply to both their picks.
If Atlanta were to come out of the 2012 draft with two NBA players, the draft would be considered a success regardless of the specific positions those players can fill.
Boston Celtics: NEED
Boston Celtics' Picks: First Round Nos. 21 and 22. Second Round No. 51.
Even though the Boston Celtics just concluded a season that saw them reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, this team has some very specific needs.
First of all, the Celtics have so many free agents that there's little assurance next year's team will even resemble the squad that was so successful this season.
Second of all, this year's team had a major weakness: rebounding. The Celtics were a terrible rebounding team. Boston averaged 38.8 rebounds per game last season. That placed them dead last in the league.
The Celtics will be looking for players who can hit the glass. Once they feel that need is filled, they may start to look at overall talent level, but not before.
Brooklyn Nets: TALENT
Brooklyn Nets' Picks: Second Round No. 57.
The Nets could, depending on how free agency shakes out have a ton of needs. Then again, they might enter the 2012-2013 season with a pretty decent squad.
This Thursday's NBA draft won't play a big role in the Nets' offseason. Not unless an as-of-now-unforeseen trade is made.
With only one draft pick, late in the second round, the Nets will just try and pluck the most talented player available. If you can get an NBA player at any position with the No. 57 pick, you've pulled off a bit of a coup.
Charlotte Bobcats: TALENT
Charlotte Bobcats' Picks: First Round No. 2. Second Round No. 31.
The Charlotte Bobcats really need some of everything. That's what happens when you have one of the worst seasons in NBA History.
Coming off a an epically bad 7-59 season, the Bobcats' most glaring weakness is scoring. Yet the team has so many weaknesses one player won't dramatically change the outlook for next season.
With that in mind, the Bobcats will probably just take the most talented player available at No. 2.
The second round could be different, if a solid shooter were to somehow drop into the later part of the draft. The overall goal in Charlotte has to be adding talent to the league's least talented returning team.
Chicago Bulls: NEED
Chicago Bulls' Picks: First Round No. 29.
The Chicago Bulls were probably going to enter the summer of 2012 with one glaring need. Then a gruesome knee injury to star point guard Derrick Rose created a second one.
Either way, the need was going to involve a guard. The Bulls are going to get Derrick Rose back. It won't be until after the 2012-2013 season has started, but it will happen nonetheless.
The Bulls do need a shooting guard. It's possible that the team won't find one they like at No. 29, but they still seem likely to select the best shooting guard left when the No. 29 pick rolls around.
Cleveland Cavaliers: NEED
Cleveland Cavaliers' Picks: First Round Nos. 4 and 24. Second Round Nos. 33 and 34.
There might not be another team with a better overall draft situation than the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers already have one of, if not the most important position in the modern NBA filled. That's a result of No.1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft Kyrie Irving and his outstanding first season manning the point guard position.
Now Cleveland has four picks in a deep NBA draft. Look for Cleveland to make targeted picks, in an effort to acquire a versatile crew of scorers for Irving to distribute the ball to.
Dallas Mavericks: NEED
Dallas Mavericks' Picks: First Round No. 17. Second Round No. 55.
Here's what can safely be assumed about the Dallas Mavericks.
They had two primary guards this past season. Both were veterans: Jason Kidd and Jason Terry. Both are free agents, as is backup point guard Delonte West.
With star point guard Deron Williams entering free agency, the Mavericks may choose to fill their glaring backcourt need via free agency, and not the draft.
If that happens, then Dallas will look to fill another specific need, that of a shot-blocking interior presence.
One way or another, there are two obvious needs for Dallas. The Mavs will be targeted and diligent in their efforts to fill them.
Denver Nuggets: NEED
Denver Nuggets' Picks: First Round No. 20. Second Round Nos. 38 and 50.
The Denver Nuggets are a team that already has a fair amount of young, talented players on their roster.
What the Nuggets lack is defense; they allowed the second most points per game this past season. Look for Denver to target a player who they feel will focus on defense as opposed to scoring.
Who the Nuggets select might not be position-specific, but the player's priority while on the court will be.
Once the Nuggets get into the second round, the team could start to just pick based on overall talent, especially at No. 50, where talent level can be the difference between an NBA career and a guy that's out of the league without ever really getting a chance to play.
Detroit Pistons: TALENT
Detroit Pistons' Picks: First Round No. 9. Second Round Nos. 39 and 44.
The Detroit Pistons have built a decent nucleus over the past few years. The team still has a few needs: scoring and a more athletic big man to compliment the bruising style of Greg Monroe.
Picking at No. 9, the Pistons may be able to fill one of those needs. The problem is that the Pistons will have to choose which one it is they want to prioritize.
It may come down to talent, who the Pistons have ranked higher as a future NBA player. If the best guy left is a low-post player, then the Pistons could grab him and go big. If it's an athletic shooting guard or small forward, then perhaps Detroit snags that prospect instead.
Either way, look for Detroit to become more focused on the remaining specific need by grabbing two lesser talents in the second round.
Houston Rockets : NEED
Houston Rockets' Picks: First Round Nos. 14 and 16.
Unless the Rockets can pull off a blockbuster trade to acquire Magic center Dwight Howard, then the Rockets will focus on bolstering the center position.
That might even mean they use both first-round picks on big men.
If the team does pull of a deal for Dwight Howard, then the odds are those draft picks, or at least one of them, would be sent to another team.
As of now, look for Houston to go with two big men in the first round.
Golden State Warriors: NEED
Golden State Warriors' Picks: First Round Nos. 7 and 30. Second Round Nos. 35 and 52.
The Golden State Warriors may be picking high in the draft, but they're not a team that appears too far away from genuine improvement.
In order to get to that point, there are some specific need the team must address.
The first and most glaring one involves the small forward position. The other four starting positions seem set, barring injury, but small forward is not. Golden State is likely to take whoever the team has ranked highest among small forwards with that No. 7 pick.
After that, it's probably going to be finding players that can step in if and when some of the Warriors more injury-prone starters miss time.
Backup point guard is going to be a major concern with Stephen Curry's propensity to miss time to injury.
Look for the Warriors to address that need with the No. 30 pick. If they don't feel that the No. 30 pick is the answer, then the Warriors could spend those second-round picks rolling the dice on lesser-known point guards.
Indiana Pacers: TALENT
Indiana Pacers' Picks: First Round No. 26.
The Pacers really could use a top-of-the-line scorer. That became apparent when the Miami Heat defense was able to clamp down on the Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals and rip off three consecutive wins to win the series.
At No. 26, the Pacers aren't going to find that type of player. Look for Indiana to settle for the best player available. In this deep draft, that might work out pretty well.
Los Angeles Clippers: TALENT
Los Angeles Clippers' Picks: Second Round No. 53.
The Los Angeles Clippers really do have a few specific needs this offseason: another athletic swingman, either at shooting guard or small forward who can come off the bench and provide offense.
Unfortunately, with only one draft pick at No. 53, the odds of L.A. landing exactly what they need is very slim.
Look for the Clippers to select whatever player they feel is most NBA-ready when they make their lone selection late in the second round.
Los Angeles Lakers: TALENT
Los Angeles Lakers' Picks: Second Round No. 60.
The Los Angeles Lakers have now had back-to-back disappointing finishes to seasons that started with promise.
If Kobe Bryant and his teammates are expecting to get help from the NBA draft, then they might need to change that expectation.
The Lakers' draft situation is pretty bleak this year. They have only one pick, and it's the final pick of the entire draft.
While the Lakers no doubt are a team with some specific needs, picking at No. 60 won't be the solution. L.A. will simply call the best name available and hope he works out.
Memphis Grizzlies: NEED
Memphis Grizzlies' Picks: First Round No. 25.
Memphis only has one pick in the draft. It's a first-round pick, and the team has a very specific need.
If you can shoot the ball from three-point range with accuracy, then there might be a job for you in Memphis.
The Grizzlies really struggled from long-range last season. They connected on just 32.6 percent of their three point shots, and it was that of shooting that allowed the Clippers to upset Memphis in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
NBA teams don't always find great all-around players late in the first round. Something as specific as an accurate three-point shooter isn't out the question.
Miami Heat: NEED
Miami Heat's Picks: First Round No. 27.
Now that Miami has won the NBA championship, it's time to start looking forward.
The future is bright in Miami. The core of the title-winning team is back. In spite of being crowned the NBA's best, there were some weaknesses exposed over the course of both the regular season and postseason.
Miami could use another viable big man. They could also use a younger, more athletic small forward.
The Heat know that no matter who they have coming off the bench, the team will not be as good when LeBron James is not on the floor.
That doesn't mean they couldn't be a little better than they were this year, though.
Miami got ample contributions from Shane Battier, especially on defense and from long-range.
The defense was consistent all season; the shooting was not.
Miami will look at options on big men and small forwards and take the one most prepared to fit into a specific role, right from the beginning of next season.
Milwaukee Bucks: NEED
Milwaukee Bucks' Picks: First Round No. 12. Second Round No. 42.
When the Milwaukee Bucks dealt former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut to the Golden State Warriors in exchange for Monta Ellis, the Bucks effectively solved their shooting guard issues for the next couple of years.
It created other needs, though.
The Bucks are picking at a point in the first round where they may be able to fill that need. There are a number of capable big men available in this draft, and picking at No. 12 gives Milwaukee an excellent change to pick a big man that can contribute to the team for years to come.
If Milwaukee is able to address the center position, then look for them to select an athletic small forward with their second-round pick.
Minnesota Timberwolves: NEED
Minnesota Timberwolves' Picks: First Round No. 18. Second Round No. 58.
In spite of a 26-40 record last season, the future is bright in Minnesota.
That's largely because the Timberwolves have two of the league's most talented players, Kevin Love at power forward and Ricky Rubio at point guard.
What the Timberwolves need is an athletic player to play shooting guard, or possibly small forward.
It's not easy to pluck a qualified NBA player to fill one of those positions at No. 18. The Wolves will give it a go, though. If they are successful, then next season could be one worth remembering up north.
New Orleans Hornets: NEED
New Orleans Hornets' Picks: First Round Nos. 1 and 10. Second Round No. 46.
No team has been given a better overall opportunity to address specific needs more than the New Orleans Hornets.
After winning the NBA Draft Lottery, the Hornets had both Nos. 1 and 10.
At No. 1, the Hornets will most likely select Anthony Davis. That will set up the team as far as shot-blocking and defense goes for many years to come.
Last week the Hornets shed two cumbersome salaries when they dealt Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to the Washington Wizards.
New Orleans can now address either the point guard or small forward position with its No. 10 pick.
By the time the Hornets make their second-round selection, they'll probably be picking more on talent than need, but that's mainly because they were able to address so many needs in the first round.
New York Knicks: TALENT
New York Knicks' Picks: Second Round No. 48.
It's going to be an eventful summer for the New York Knicks, but not when it comes to the NBA draft this Thursday.
That's because the Knicks have only one pick, and it's not until fairly late in the second round.
The Knicks have some needs: backup point guard, more size to back up Amar'e Stoudemire. They are unlikely to find a solution on draft night, though.
The Knicks will be one of those teams that leans towards grabbing whoever the most talented player available is and then hopes for the best.
Oklahoma City Thunder: NEED
Oklahoma City Thunder's Picks: First Round No. 28.
The Thunder only have one pick in the draft. Then again we're talking about a team that's got an extremely talented trio of young stars, all of whom are under the age of 24.
What could this team "need"?
Not much, but with veteran backup point guard Derek Fisher ticketed for free agency and the other backup, Erik Maynor, recovering from ACL surgery, the Thunder may be compelled to grab a point guard.
If Thunder GM Sam Presti is confident that Maynor will return totally healthy and ready to compete by the time the 2012-2013 season starts, then he might go in a different direction.
The only other potential weakness is a small forward to come off the bench and score. After all, Kevin Durant doesn't need to play 40 minutes every night.
Both needs are fairly specific, and both are attainable, even late in the first round.
Orlando Magic: NEED
Orlando Magic's Picks: First Round No. 19. Second Round No. 46.
In Orlando, the story is, as it has been for seemingly over a year, Dwight Howard.
Maybe he's staying, maybe he's going? No one really knows, but one thing is for certain: The Magic should at the very least prepare for his departure.
Then again, one way to help convince Howard to stay in Orlando might be to draft players who would compliment the league's most dominant big man.
This pick will be used to fill one of several needs. The big question is, "Which one?"
The Magic could use a scorer on the wing. They also may need a point guard. Finally, there's the prospect of Howard's departure, which might mean another big man is needed.
As usual, it's all about Dwight Howard in Orlando. Some things never change.
Philadelphia 76ers: NEED
Philadelphia 76ers' Picks: First Round No. 15. Second Round Nos. 45 and 54.
The 76ers do have one primary need: a scorer. However, they may end up with a second need, a power forward.
That's because the 76ers may end up amnestying power forward Elton Brand.
Doing that would free up money to sign a free agent.
Either way, picking at No. 15, the 76ers will have an opportunity to fix one of those problems. They still have to get the pick right, but they're going to have a shot.
Once the draft gets to the second round, expect Philadelphia to be on the hunt for anyone who can shoot the ball. Even if it's a player that can't create his own shot, the 76ers may take a flier.
Phoenix Suns: NEED
Phoenix Suns' Picks: First Round No. 13.
The Phoenix Suns are going to have the No. 13 pick in the NBA draft, and they will use that pick to fill one of two needs.
If the Suns feel that free agent point guard Steve Nash is going to stay a member of the Suns, then Phoenix will draft someone who can score.
On the other hand, if it looks like Steve Nash has played his final game for the Suns, then that No. 13 pick may very well be used on a replacement for Nash.
It will be interesting to see which need Phoenix tries to fill on Thursday.
Portland Trail Blazers: NEED
Portland Trail Blazers' Picks: First Round Nos. 6 and 11. Second Round Nos. 40 and 41.
With four picks, two in each round, the Blazers will ultimately end up drafting for both talent and need. They have that luxury.
It's going to start with some specific needs, though: a center, a point guard and a shooting guard.
The two first-round picks will be used to target two of those needs. Odds are that the other will be addressed or attempted to be addressed through free agency.
Look for Portland to draft one big man and one scorer. There will be free agents on the market that the Blazers can pursue.
Portland can also try and pluck a point guard in the second round, although the odds are that a player picked at that point won't turn out much better than a backup.
Sacramento Kings: NEED
Sacramento Kings' Picks: First Round No. 5. Second Round No. 36.
The Sacramento Kings may be open to dealing the 2010 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans.
If that were to happen, then the Kings would be picking fifth in the draft with a purpose: to bring in a scoring, small forward.
If the Kings decide to not deal Evans, then this could become more of a talent-based pick.
Don't be shocked if something interesting happens on draft night with Sacramento.
San Antonio Spurs: TALENT
San Antonio Spurs' Picks: Second Round No. 59.
The Spurs have only one draft pick, and it's the second-to-last pick of the entire draft.
On some teams, this could spell disaster, but the Spurs are already a fairly deep and very talented basketball team.
The Spurs have no glaring need, at least not one that can be rectified with such a low pick. That means they'll figure out who the most talented player remaining is, and whether or not he can fit into the Spurs system.
Toronto Raptors: TALENT
Toronto Raptors' Picks: First Round No. 8. Second Round Nos. 37 and 56
In spite of a high draft pick, the Raptors may end up just grabbing the most talented player available. At No. 8, that could be a pretty talented player.
Toronto seems to be undecided about what direction the franchise is headed. The Raptors seem open to grabbing a talented, but raw player even at No.8.
Toronto has last year's No. 5 pick entering the league this year. Jonas Valanciunas did not play in the NBA last year, but he will this year. That has Raptors execs excited.
It almost seems like the Raptors are more excited about last year's high first-round pick than this year's.
Utah Jazz: NEED
Utah Jazz's Picks: Second Round No. 47.
In spite of the fact that the Jazz are picking so late in the draft that the odds of finding and filling a specific need are slim, they'll still target guards over forwards and centers.
That's because the Jazz have a stockpile of frontcourt players.
It's unlikely that they'll solve their guard problems with a No. 47 selection, but they'll give it a try.
Washington Wizards: NEED
Washington Wizards' Picks: 1st Round No. 3 Second Round No. 32.
In 2010 the Washington Wizards made John Wall the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft.
Two years later, he's still looking for a reliable scorer to pass the ball to.
The Wizards intend to get him one this Thursday. Look for Washington to not only select a scoring guard at No. 3, but don't be shocked if they try to snag another, lesser scoring threat when they make their selection in the second round at No. 32.