Biggest Needs for Likely NBA Lottery Teams
It's only fitting that the NBA's tanking season coincides so closely with March Madness. After all, the NCAA tournament gives those lottery-bound teams another chance to track and scout the top options in the NBA draft, whose rights they're trying so hard to lose.
To be sure, any team that feels there's incentive enough to pursue mediocrity as a rebuilding strategy likely has more issues to solve than any one player can on his own, even if the kid looks like the league's next superstar.
Though there doesn't seem to be even one among the 2013 crop.
That being said, most teams of any quality could and would be able to pick out one particular weakness to mend if their front office were pushed to do so. Of course, you don't have to be a well-traveled general manager, a top-notch scout or a longtime basketball insider to figure it out.
Heck, if I can do it—as I attempt to in the depth-chart-decorated slides to come—then surely anyone can...right?
Biggest Need: Talent...Period.
More than anything, the Charlotte Bobcats just need quality pros right now.
That is, assuming they can't dig up a superstar in a decidedly shallow 2013 NBA draft or that one doesn't land in their lap like manna from heaven.
They could certainly use some new blood at shooting guard, though the 'Cats would probably have to find a landing spot for the malignant Ben Gordon and his $13.2 million player option first. Even then, they could always welcome back Gerald Henderson, a restricted free agent averaging 19.6 points over his past 10 games.
The same goes for Byron Mullens up front, assuming his three-point-bricking ways still appeal to Charlotte's front office.
At this point, Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist seem to be the only players on the roster who've been valuable contributors in multiple ways this season and, as such, have earned more time to develop into long-term cornerstones of the forlorn franchise.
Other than that, it would behoove the Bobcats, who are about to finish with the NBA's worst record for the second year running, to go with the best player available, whoever that may be and whichever avenue—draft, trade or free agency—the acquisition takes.
Biggest Need: Shooters and Time
The Orlando Magic have assembled a nifty core, comprised of intriguing youngsters and steady veterans. The weathered backcourt of Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson gives the Magic a solid foundation, one through which Jacque Vaughn can disseminate his Popovichian message of effort, teamwork, tough defense and crisp execution.
What they don't do so well, though, is shoot. Afflalo and Nelson have been dangerous from the outside in years past. But both have seen their strokes stumble to below league-average levels of accuracy this season, and J.J. Redick's deadline departure has left Orlando without anyone who can reliably pick up the slack.
A swingman with a plus perimeter stroke, then, would be a welcome addition. The Magic figure to have their pick of the lot in the lottery, be it a slash-and-shooter like Shabazz Muhammad, a Ray Allen clone like Ben McLemore or a bigger jack-of-all-trades like Otto Porter.
The Magic could also look to upgrade in the middle if they're not thrilled with Nikola Vucevic, though this year's draft looks to be particularly thin on quality bigs.
At the very least, Orlando needs time to sort through its current assortment of wings—including Al Harrington, Moe Harkless and Tobias Harris—to figure out how it wants to play going forward.
Biggest Need: A Low-Post Partner for Kyrie Irving
The Cleveland Cavaliers are pretty much set in the backcourt, with Kyrie Irving playing like an All-Star (when healthy) and Dion Waiters looking like a slasher/scorer type next to him (also when healthy).
What this team needs is someone who can get the job done inside on a consistent basis. Tristan Thompson has developed into a not-draft-bust who can rebound and score a bit with his patented push shot. Anderson Varejao will be a valuable glue guy and defensive presence when he returns. Tyler Zeller can run the floor and generally look goofy.
But none of those three grades out as a reliable interior complement to the firepower the Cavs have on the perimeter. Chances are Cleveland won't find one in this draft, unless it opts for UNLV's Anthony Bennett, an all-around beast whose game resembles that of Larry Johnson.
However, if the Cavs will take a chance on an eventual replacement for Varejao, they'd do well to spring for Nerlens Noel. The Kentucky product was a shot-blocking beast prior to suffering a gruesome knee injury and would be a boon to the back line of the Cavs' abysmal defense once he's nursed himself back to health.
New Orleans Hornets
Biggest Need: Another Scorer on the Wing
Whether the New Orleans Hornets hang on to the oft-injured Eric Gordon or not, they'll need another player who can chip in points from the perimeter.
That is, assuming Monty Williams intends to bring Ryan Anderson off the bench for the foreseeable future.
Even then, the Hornets could use someone who can finish shots, if not create them for himself. Shabazz Muhammad and Otto Porter both fit the bill, especially because each has shown the aptitude and physical ability to be a plus defender when properly poked and prodded.
And if Austin Rivers ever adapts to the NBA, New Orleans will be that much better off on the wings.
Biggest Need: A Proper Burial for Michael Beasley
There'll be no getting out from under Michael Beasley's contract until 2015 for the Phoenix Suns, unless they're willing to foist a valuable draft pick on another team.
While the front office busily looks to atone for its myriad mistakes, it'd do well to bring in another versatile wing to justify Beasley's (hopeful) benching, at the very least. Anthony Bennett has the sort of multi-positional upside that Beasley once had when he first came into the NBA out of Kansas State. His inside-out game would give Goran Dragic a companion worthy of a well-dropped dime from time to time.
Short of that, the Suns could look to upgrade at shooting guard—as they attempted to do this past by going after Eric Gordon—with Shabazz Muhammad, Victor Oladipo or (if they're lucky) Ben McLemore.
Biggest Need: Someone to Stretch the Floor
Barring an unforeseen blunder on the part of general manager Joe Dumars, the Detroit Pistons seem set to build their future around the twin towers of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
That, in turn, means they'll need players who can feed the ball into the post and/or space the floor with their shooting. Marcus Smart and Ben McLemore would each be able to fill at least one of those needs but may very well be off the board by the time the Pistons are on the clock.
Unless, of course, Detroit gets a lucky bounce of the lottery balls.
Otherwise, the Pistons might as well re-sign Jose Calderon to a reasonable deal and spring for either Shabazz Muhammad or Victor Oladipo in the draft.
Biggest Need: A Scoring Wing
The Minnesota Timberwolves have been after a perimeter scorer for some time now. They threw gobs of money at Nicolas Batum this past summer, only to see him re-sign with the Portland Trail Blazers as a restricted free agent. They lured Brandon Roy out of retirement, only to see his worn-out knees give out on him in November.
Alexey Shved might fit the bill at shooting guard, but if the T-Wolves can find a talented scorer to man either wing, they'd do well to snatch him up pronto. Again, Shabazz Muhammad and Victor Oladipo come to mind.
With such a scorer in the fold next to a re-signed Nikola Pekovic and a healthy Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, Minny might finally find itself back in the playoff hunt.
Biggest Need: Low-Post Scoring/Another Wing Partner for John Wall
I'll admit, I'm a bit of a sucker for NBA teams drafting youngsters who have ties to the area. The Washington Wizards had an opportunity to make such a move last year but opted to add Bradley Beal instead of D.C. native Thomas Robinson.
So far, they look smart for having done so.
This time around, the Wizards will once again have an opportunity to stay local, depending on what they want to do with their pick. If they'd prefer a wing scorer with upside to replace Martell Webster, they can go with Georgetown forward Otto Porter. If they'd rather add a promising post player—the giant contracts of Emeka Okafor and Nene be damned—they can always pluck Alex Len away from Maryland.
As long as John Wall is fit to lead next season, Washington's latest addition should walk into a winning situation.
Biggest Need: A Glue Guy
The Sacramento Kings have more than enough guys who need the ball in their hands to be successful. Even if Tyreke Evans leaves town, the Kings will still have the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton and Isaiah Thomas on hand to dominate possession.
What they need, then, is someone to do everything else, someone who can not only defend, rebound, make hustle plays and hit open shots, but who also won't mind doing so one bit.
That perfectly describes what Victor Oladipo has been about since he first arrived at Indiana. He's an athletic wing with a winner's mentality who can attack off the dribble and create his own shot but is just as productive and effective while cutting and moving off the ball.
Moreover, Oladipo knows a thing or two about building a winning culture. He arrived in Bloomington back in 2010, when the Hoosiers were fresh off a 10-21 campaign, and has played an integral part in IU's return to powerhouse status under Tom Crean.
Biggest Need: An Andrea Bargnani Escape Hatch
The Toronto Raptors won't pick in the lottery this year unless they somehow land in the top three. They forfeited their first-round pick in the trade that landed them Kyle Lowry this past summer.
That selection will belong to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who figure to spend in the most perfect way to keep their most perfect Midwestern magnate afloat.
As for the Raps, they'd grade out as winners of the summer if they extricated themselves from Andrea Bargnani's onerous contract—which would be much easier said than done.
Bargs is due a combined $22.25 million between the final two seasons on his contract. That's a ton of money to spend on a soft, injury-prone forward who shoots 40 percent from the field and doesn't play a lick of defense.
Toronto could "amnesthetize" Bargs' contract, though all signs point to them taking the "easy" way out with Linas Kleiza instead. As long as the Raps can clear sufficient room to allow Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas to spread their respective wings, the team should have itself a sufficient base upon which to build for a post-Bargnani future.
Biggest Need: An Interior Presence with Working Knees
The Philadelphia 76ers may very well opt to go with a shooting guard in the lottery if they decide Evan Turner isn't worth paying, especially because the stock of quality wings is relatively deep in 2013.
Really, though, the Sixers will spend the offseason atoning for the seven-foot boy blunder known to most as Andrew Bynum. Philly would be wise to cut ties with the oft-injured free-agent center this summer unless he agrees to re-up at a discount on a short contract.
In any case, the Sixers should hedge their bets in that regard by picking up a big guy to whom Jrue Holiday can feed the ball down low. Cody Zeller and Alex Len would both be wise choices if available, with Willie Cauley-Stein, Mason Plumlee and Kelly Olynyk as potential fallback options.
Portland Trail Blazers
Biggest Need: Bench Scoring and/or Another Big
The Portland Trail Blazers have been victimized by the NBA's least productive bench all season. The addition of Eric Maynor at the trade deadline gave the Blazers a taste of what it's like to have a productive reserve, though he's ticketed for free agency this summer.
So is J.J. Hickson, likely headed for a big payday after averaging a double-double this season. Portland has a replacement in waiting in Meyers Leonard, if the team feels the wiry center is up to the task. If not, the Blazers can restock with some Northwest flavor in the form of Kelly Olynyk or spring for a guy like Alex Len if the lottery does right by them.
Otherwise, they'd be wise to look for a substitute gunner like C.J. McCollum, who can man either backcourt position and spell Rookie of the Year hopeful Damian Lillard from time to time.
Biggest Need: Whichever Spot Free Agents Aren't Likely to Fill
Assuming O.J. Mayo opts out of his current contract this summer, the Dallas Mavericks will have just six players under contract for next season. That leaves a ton of holes to be filled and only one lottery pick to be used in that pursuit.
As such, don't be surprised if the Mavs simply go for the best player available. As long as the player in question isn't a perimeter-shooting power forward like Dirk Nowitzki, he should fit in just fine with Dallas' now-perennially amorphous plans.
Biggest Need: A Floor General
The Utah Jazz have enough giants, both on cheap contracts (Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors) and due for raises in free agency (Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson), to snub their nose at small ball a gajillion times over.
As you might expect, that leaves them short on quality pieces in the backcourt. Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks seem like potential solutions on the wing, but as of now, the Jazz don't have a point guard under contract for 2013-14.
They could attempt to facilitate a trade for Los Angeles Clippers backup Eric Bledsoe this summer. But if the Jazz would rather go for an even younger talent with a cleaner bill of health, they should be able to find an amenable option in the 2013 NBA draft. Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart looks like the best of the bunch among point guards but will likely be gone long before David Stern calls Utah to the podium.
In that event, Michigan's Trey Burke and Lehigh's C.J. McCollum should be plenty appealing to the Jazz's particular tastes.