Major Needs for Every 2014 NBA Draft Lottery Team
As the 2014 NBA playoffs begin to percolate, the lottery teams at home are trying to address their weaknesses and rebuild, with hopes of joining future postseasons.
Many of these cellar-dwelling clubs have a slew of major needs to fill this offseason, whether it's a specific position or a collective task. They're banking on this year's draft class to be strong enough to deliver substantial upgrades.
Some teams don't have nearly as many holes, as they're only a couple key moves from contending again. What areas should they work on to jump back into the playoff fray?
We broke down the major needs of every lottery franchise, focusing mainly on the needs they could potentially address on draft night.
*Two teams (Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers) have two lottery picks, so there are only 12 total franchises filling the 14 lottery slots.
**Teams listed in order of No. 1 pick probability. Odds gathered via ESPN.com.
Milwaukee Bucks: Go-to Scorer, Passer, Post Scorer (Pretty Much Everything)
2013-14 Record: 15-67
Odds of Winning Draft Lottery: 25%
Finishing 2013-14 with the worst record in the NBA, the Milwaukee Bucks have holes all over the place and are hoping to secure the No. 1 overall pick.
Whether they draft Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, they'll still have major needs to address.
The club has been in need of a highly productive, versatile swingman scorer, and it will also lose one of its best passers, Ramon Sessions, to free agency. In addition, Milwaukee can't survive with Ersan Ilyasova being its most productive 4 or 5.
So if the Bucks wind up with the first pick, which need should they address?
If Joel Embiid is healthy, they should chase the big-man presence and rare center scoring production. That being said, they can't really go wrong by choosing the combo-forward offensive prowess of Jabari Parker. Either way, the rebuilding process is only partially accomplished.
Philadelphia 76ers: A Featured Wing Scorer and Defender
2013-14 Record: 19-63
Odds of Winning Draft Lottery: 19.9% (and 1.1% chance with the Pelicans' first-round pick, which is top-5 protected for the Pelicans)
The entertainingly terrible Philadelphia 76ers are in good position to land a top-three pick in June, and then they have another lottery selection from the New Orleans Pelicans via the 2013 Jrue Holiday trade.
With these high picks plus free-agency cap space, Sam Hinkie will aim to add a prolific scorer.
The team played an exciting uptempo offense in 2013-14, and Michael Carter-Williams looks like a superb floor general to lead Brett Brown's attack. But at the swingman spot, the Sixers need someone who can shoulder substantial responsibilities, especially in half-court scenarios. Philly needs more than MCW's shot-creating skills to be a successful offensive unit in the East.
Long-term, Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins seem to be great options.
Parker would supply versatile scoring immediately, not to mention eventually blossoming into one of the league's best bucket-getters. However, Wiggins may thrive better in Brown's high-possession approach, and he also has higher two-way upside. After all, the Sixers gave up nearly 110 points per game this season.
Orlando Magic: High-Level Passer, Scoring Production
2013-14 Record: 23-59
Odds of Winning Draft Lottery: 15.6% (and 0.7% with Denver Nuggets' lottery pick)
Jameer Nelson is on his way out, and Victor Oladipo doesn't quite fill all of the Orlando Magic's needs from a facilitating standpoint. As such, general manager Rob Hennigan will be looking for point guard talent this offseason.
Oladipo finished a solid rookie campaign averaging 4.1 assists per game, so it looks like he'll be a dangerous combo guard. However, he's not going to pile up the assists and distribute the ball like a quarterback; he's too good of a slasher and scorer.
The potential marriage everyone has been talking about involves Dante Exum, and for good reason. ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) said "Exum would be the perfect complement to Victor Oladipo. Both players can handle either backcourt position and both bring great athletic ability to the table."
In addition to their position-specific point guard needs, the Magic just need scoring in general. A swingman attacker or inside-outside weapon would be highly beneficial for Oladipo and center Nikola Vucevic. They should consider a small forward if they land high enough in the lottery.
Utah Jazz: Firepower in Backcourt/On the Wing
2013-14 Record: 25-57
Odds of Winning Draft Lottery: 10.4%
Tyrone Corbin’s Utah Jazz notched just 95.0 points per game in 2013-14, placing them 29th out of 30 in the league in scoring. Their best wing scorer, Gordon Hayward, may depart this summer.
Consequently, they’ll be hunting for firepower in the draft and free agency.
Trey Burke appears to be a solid building block at the point, and Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter continue to develop in the paint. But this squad needs shot-creators and shot-makers on the wing, not to mention some facilitating help for Burke (the Jazz were 26th in assists with 20.3 per night).
Adding a dynamic scorer would open up so many things for Burke and the big fellas. Hayward is a nice young piece, but an inside-outside threat like Jabari Parker would be an upgrade.
If Utah doesn’t land in the top two of the lottery, there should still be some attractive options. Australia’s explosive combo guard Dante Exum might be there at No. 3, 4 or 5.
Boston Celtics: A Big Fella
2013-14 Record: 25-57
Odds of Winning Draft Lottery: 10.3%
The Boston Celtics need help in several areas, but one upgrade that would make life easier on everyone is in the post.
Brad Stevens’ crew held its own and scrapped on the boards in 2013-14, as 10 different players had three-plus rebounds per game. Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk will be great role players moving forward. But they need a true tower in the middle to score over big men, protect the rim and own the glass.
The NBA is trending toward a small-ball style of play, but skilled players 6’10” and up are still highly useful in today’s league. If you can finish strong underneath and also play some pick-and-pop (think Kevin Garnett), you can be an effective cog on a championship-caliber team.
Boston needs to target one of these types in the lottery. If the Celts land high enough in the lottery and get lucky, Joel Embiid might be available at No. 3 or No. 4. Otherwise, Noah Vonleh is sitting in that No. 5-7 range.
General manager Danny Ainge recently said the Celtics will “certainly look into” dealing for an All-Star. If they target big men, then their draft needs may shift to backcourt depth and shooting guard scoring.
Los Angeles Lakers: Small Forward and Defense
2013-14 Record: 27-55
Odds of Winning Draft Lottery: 6.3%
After one of the most embarrassing seasons in franchise history, the Los Angeles Lakers will now mount an effort to become competitive in the near future.
Ideally, they would love to upgrade the roster as much as possible through the draft and small moves in 2014, and then make a couple big splashes in 2015 to complete the rebuild for Kobe Bryant's final campaign. That's easier said than done, especially when the Lakers have several needs.
B/R Associate NBA Editor Ethan Norof explained that positionally, the Lakers' biggest need is small forward; he added that, collectively, they need to rebuild their defense from the inside-out. Kobe needs help from a competent swingman, and the whole squad must allow fewer easy buckets.
Landing Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins would be a terrific way to fill the 3 spot, but LA is a long shot to land one of the top couple spots. Norof notes that getting a combo guard with size would be the next best thing: "I think Dante Exum will be the pick unless LAL (is) in top two for Parker/Wiggins."
In a matter of weeks, we'll see how the pingpong balls land for Mitch Kupchak and Co.
Sacramento Kings: Playmaking and Defense in Backcourt
2013-14 Record: 28-54
Odds of Winning Draft Lottery: 4.3%
In all likelihood, Mike Malone’s Sacramento Kings will be hurting for point guard creativity and passing skills this summer.
It will take a collective effort to improve upon their league-worst 18.9 assists per game, but with Isaiah Thomas potentially leaving as a restricted free agent, the team will need to add a floor general.
Sactown delivered glimpses and stretches of explosive offense this season, but it clearly needs more efficiency and consistency. With just 6.0 three-pointers per game, it lacked perimeter threats to stretch opposing defenses and allow the playmakers and DeMarcus Cousins to maximize their skills.
And it’s not just offensive help that the Kings need: They could also use some fortification on the other end: Sacramento surrendered 103.4 points per game, ranking 25th in opponent three-pointers (8.5 per game) and 29th in opponent three-point percentage (38 percent).
One player isn't going to solve these problems, but a two-way guard like Dante Exum or Marcus Smart would be a superb foundational piece. Tyler Ennis would still be available if the King's draft slot slips to the No. 8-10 range.
Detroit Pistons: Efficient Outside Shooting
2013-14 Record: 29-53
Odds of Winning Draft Lottery: 2.8%
With Brandon Jennings generating plenty of offense as a scorer and passer and Andre Drummond rising as the big man of the future, the Detroit Pistons already have a couple key cogs in place.
However, they struggled throughout the year to connect from long range, hitting just 6.2 triples per night at a measly 32 percent clip.
B/R NBA Draft Lead Writer Jonathan Wasserman explained that most of Detroit's biggest stars thrive close to the hoop, so there wasn't enough reliable outside shooting production: "With Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith all being inside-the-arc scorers, the Pistons desperately need a wing who can consistently stretch the floor."
Detroit drafted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2013 largely because he was a perimeter threat. He'll likely improve on his 32 percent mark, but adding a player like Gary Harris or Nik Stauskas would give Motown's offense a whole different element.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Production at Small Forward
2013-14 Record: 33-49
Odds of Winning Draft Lottery: 1.7%
After the Andrew Bynum and Anthony Bennett additions turned out to be overwhelming disappointments, the Cleveland Cavaliers aren't as close to contention as we thought they'd be this summer.
Bennett turned out to be inept in the small forward role, and midseason arrival Luol Deng is a free agent this offseason. So position-wise, the Cavs' biggest hole is at the small forward spot.
They don't have to draft a superstar with their late-lottery pick, but he can't be a no-show like Bennett was for most of his rookie campaign. Cleveland needs someone who can be a key role player for the team's future playoff runs.
If Aaron Gordon is still on the board when they're on the clock, he should be the Cavs' primary target. In the event that Gordon is already gone, guys like Dario Saric or James Young would still provide value.
Denver Nuggets: Backcourt Defense
2013-14 Record: 36-46
Odds of Winning Draft Lottery: 0.8% with New York Knicks' pick
Randy Foye showed some glimpses of tough defense in 2013-14, but as a whole, the Denver Nuggets floundered on that end of the floor.
It was a tweaked roster that dealt with injuries for much of the year, and first-year head coach Brian Shaw had some trouble implementing his system. But the bottom line is that the Nuggets struggled to deal with the loss of Andrew Iguodala.
As ESPN's Ethan Sherwood Strauss noted last summer, "Iggy's defense helped take Denver from 19th in Defensive Rating to 11th" in 2012-13.
Without him, the Nuggets are back to 21st in 2013-14, according to Basketball-Reference.com. The backcourt/swingman collection of Foye, Ty Lawson, Evan Fournier and Wilson Chandler couldn't steer playmakers away from trouble, and that caused some ugly chain reactions for the whole club.
A favorable lottery slot could put them in position to land Marcus Smart if he falls to No. 7 or 8. If that doesn't materialize, then a 2-guard like Gary Harris could be just as valuable and maybe even more versatile.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Outside Shooting and Interior Defense
2013-14 Record: 40-42
Odds of Winning Draft Lottery: 0.6%
You need perimeter accuracy to compete in the NBA, and the Minnesota Timberwolves' inefficiency in this area hurt their chances to get over the hump.
They run great offensive sets that give them a host of different scoring opportunities, but from beyond the arc, they don't have enough dependable weapons. As a group, they were an underwhelming 34 percent on three-pointers.
Flip Saunders must work to add more depth in the shooting department. Fortunately, there are a bunch of sharp-shooting 2-guards and small forwards in the late-lottery range of this year's draft class.
Although they'll likely go with a wing shooter with this lottery pick, it's worth noting that Minny needs to improve its interior stoppage.
Even with Gorgui Dieng's second-half surge, the club still finished dead last in blocked shots. Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic aren't great at preventing high-percentage opportunities, nor are they great at contesting those field-goal attempts. The duo needs help.
Phoenix Suns: Another Star to Make Them a True Contender
2013-14 Record: 48-34
Odds of Winning Draft Lottery: 0.5%
The numbers and the eye test show that the Phoenix Suns are on a different level than any other lottery team. Their 2013 acquisitions all clicked, so they don't have too many holes entering the 2014 offseason.
That being said, in today's Western Conference, you need inside-out star power. All eight playoff teams in the West have that combination, while Phoenix's only bona fide stars are in the backcourt.
From a draft perspective, Ryan McDonough may use the Suns' four picks, including the lottery one, to acquire a big fish. He indicated as much to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com:
Our preference would probably be to maybe package a few of them. We’re obviously all looking for stars and we feel like we can put together a package as good, if not better, than any other team in the league if and when a star becomes available. That’s kind of generally what we’ve wanted to do, not only with our draft-pick situation but also with the cap space that we’ve acquired.
Even though Phoenix missed the playoffs, the 2013-14 season was a massive step for the organization. With the right addition, it could really start throwing its weight around in the West.
Dan O'Brien covers the NBA Draft for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR