The Best Strategy for Every NBA Team in the 2014 Draft Lottery

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterJune 3, 2014

The Best Strategy for Every NBA Team in the 2014 Draft Lottery

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    Some NBA teams need to draft with a best-player-available approach in the 2014 NBA draft. Others should be looking to fill specific needs. And two teams have multiple picks in the lottery, which should be taken into account when they make their selections. 

    Each general manager should attack this draft with a specific strategy based on the direction of his franchise, its roster and its spot in the lottery.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Plan A: Draft Best Overall Talent

    Plan B: Don't Screw Up

    If the Cleveland Cavaliers medical staff clears Embiid's back, then I just don't know how they can pass on this type of upside.

    He fits the roster and its needs as a two-way anchor in the middle. Anderson Varejao blocked 39 shots in 65 games last year. Tristan Thompson blocked 35 shots in 82 games. Embiid gives the Cavaliers a game-changing defensive presence who has top-five center upside as a scorer.

    He's actually an option you can feed in the post, and with world-class footwork, soft touch and a 7'5" wingspan, Embiid has the potential to pose as one of the toughest one-on-one covers in the league. 

    However, if his physical comes back showing anything other than 100 percent health, then the Cavs should just play it safe and take the surest thing on the board. 

    And that's Jabari Parker, who's also more of an immediate-impact player. Andrew Wiggins might have more long-term potential but not by much. Parker makes the Cavaliers a tougher team to defend in 2015 given his ability to generate offense in the half-court post, mid-range and long range. 

    And that's what this team should be looking for—a guy who can make it better right away. 

    Tristan Thompson didn't make that jump offensively last season, and Luol Deng appears to be on the way out. Parker can replace Deng while also offering All-Star upside down the road. 

    And just because he's not as athletic as Wiggins doesn't mean he can't become the better player. Plus, after taking Anthony Bennett No. 1 last year, the Cavs can't afford to screw this one up. You just can't go wrong with Parker anywhere on the board. 

Milwaukee Bucks

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    Plan A: Target Joel Embiid

    Plan B: Fall Back on Jabari Parker

    If he's listed as healthy and available, the Milwaukee Bucks need to target Joel Embiid, who offers game-changing potential as a two-way 7-footer. 

    Brandon Knight, Larry Sanders, John Henson—all nice players. But not game-changers. 

    And you don't pass on Embiid because of Sanders. However, you do pass on Embiid if he's not fully cleared by doctors. And if that's the case, or Embiid is off the board, then I'd play the safest bet in the field. 

    If I'm the Bucks, I have Jabari Parker ranked No. 2 ahead of Andrew Wiggins.

    At 6'8", 235 pounds, with the ability to play down low, he's a better complement to Giannis Antetokounmpo, who plays mostly on the perimeter.

    Wiggins and Antetokounmpo—two skinny wings who operate from similar spots on the floor—are both all about potential as opposed to instant-impact talent. And if you're Milwaukee, I'm not sure you want your top two guns to be all about potential, which doesn't offer much certainty. 

    Parker offers as much certainty as any prospect on the board, along with All-Star upside worthy of the No. 1 pick. 

    With Parker, the Bucks get a sure thing who fits perfectly into the lineup. And he gives this franchise, which has been fairly silent, something to get excited about in 2014-15.  

Philadelphia 76ers

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    Plan A-1: Draft Best Available Talent at No. 3

    Plan A-2: Fill in the Blanks at No. 10

    There's no need to overthink here if you're the Philadelphia 76ers, a franchise that should be looking to stockpile the most valuable assets possible. 

    This draft is offering three major prizes, and the Sixers have a top-three pick. They should happily accept whoever falls to them. 

    Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker would fit perfectly between Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel. And they each offer potential No. 1 overall value. 

    If both are gone and Joel Embiid's back checks out, you don't pass on him based on the presence of Noel, who's yet to log an NBA minute. Embiid might not be the best fit, but there isn't another prospect in the field with a higher two-way ceiling. 

    Like the Detroit Pistons, who took Andre Drummond with Greg Monroe already in the lineup, the Sixers should be ignoring fit to take the top talent on the board. 

    With a core of Carter-Williams, Noel and either Wiggins, Parker or Embiid, the 76ers now just have to fill in the blanks, which should be easy. Regardless of whom the Sixers take at No. 3, guys such as Kentucky's James Young, Croatia's Dario Saric, Michigan's Nik Stauskas, UCLA's Zach LaVine and Arizona's Aaron Gordon would each fit and offer upside at No. 10.

Orlando Magic

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    Plan A-1: Sit Tight, Draft Best Available at No. 4

    Plan A-2: Draft Best Available Talent at No. 12

    At No. 4, the Orlando Magic guarantee themselves one of Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and point guard Dante Exum. Chances are Embiid, Wiggins and Parker go top three in any order, leaving them Exum at No. 4, who, for Orlando, might have been worth taking with the first, second or third pick based on fit and upside.  

    If Exum goes top three, then Orlando gets ridiculous value with one of Embiid, Parker and Wiggins at No. 4. And regardless of how those guys fit, the talent they each offer is too good to pass on because of a positional clash. 

    The Magic also have the No. 12 pick in this draft. Regardless of whom the Magic take at No. 4, they're likely to have a young, promising player at each position, with Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic. There won't be a glaring hole in the lineup to fill, meaning they should be targeting the best available talent. 

    Of course, if the Magic don't get Exum at No. 4, they might want to think about taking a point guard such as Syracuse's Tyler Ennis or Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton. But if they go Exum first, then Orlando should be drafting with a best-available approach at No. 12.

Utah Jazz

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    Plan A: Trade Up

    Plan B: Draft Best Available Talent 

    The Jazz should be operating under the belief that Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Dante Exum will all be off the board by No. 5. Plan A should be to find a way to crack the top four. 

    Utah has two first-round picks and a number of assets in the lineup—assets that might start to lose value if they don't improve this season. I'm not so sure I'd consider Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors and even Trey Burke untouchable if the right deal came around. And by right deal, I'm talking about one that includes either Parker, Embiid, Wiggins or Exum. 

    If the Jazz can't move up, then they should take the top long-term talent on the board. Nobody at No. 5 is likely going to change the direction of Utah's ship as a rookie. With no rush to win now, the Jazz should be looking at whomever they think will be the best player three years down the road. 

    It sounds like a reach, but Croatia's Dario Saric or Indiana's Noah Vonleh could very well be that guy.

Boston Celtics

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    Plan A: Trade Up

    Plan B: Draft Best Available Talent 

    The Boston Celtics probably aren't getting one of their primary targets at No. 6. However, between the zillion first-round picks they have in the future, including the No. 17 pick this year, as well as guys such as Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk they have to offer, the Celtics might have the assets to move up.

    Still, chances are Danny Ainge sits tight and drafts his top talent on the board. Boston is in the early stages of the rebuilding process. This isn't a team that desperately needs a guy to change things right away. 

    And with Rajon Rondo the only player in Boston really worth writing home about, and his future with the team in question, positional needs shouldn't matter. Whether it's Indiana's Noah Vonleh or Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, Ainge should go with the top-ranked prospect on his big board.

Los Angeles Lakers

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    Plan A: Trade Up

    Plan B: Trade Out

    Plan C: Draft/Favor NBA-Ready 

    At No. 7, the Lakers will be missing out on all three of the draft's big prizes. And with the Orlando Magic in need of a point guard at No. 4, Dante Exum will likely be off the board as well. I'm not sure how they do it, but plan A should revolve around getting into that top four. 

    Plan B is a trade the other way, only out of the draft completely. There's no point in moving down—the Lakers should be looking to see if they can move this pick for an established talent around the league. 

    If they can't move up, and they can't trade out and get a player who can help right away, then they should look to draft a guy who can. 

    Julius Randle would offer nice value at No. 7 as a guy who can make an instant impact in the paint. Marcus Smart can contribute as a rookie. And you know Kobe Bryant's going to love his competitive edge. 

    The Lakers could draft an upside prospect such as Noah Vonleh or Zach LaVine, but with this team expected to be a player in the 2014 and 2015 free-agent markets, it might want to think about adding NBA-ready talent.

Sacramento Kings

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    Plan A: Trade Up

    Plan B: Sit Tight

    At No. 8, the obvious goal for the Sacramento Kings should be to trade up, although it's possible they'd rather save their assets to make an offer to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. 

    Otherwise, the Kings should just sit tight at No. 8. They're probably not going to be able to trade for a game-changing talent with a pick in the late lottery. But they can still add an asset at No. 8 through the draft, whether it's Arizona's Aaron Gordon, Creighton's Doug McDermott, Kentucky's James Young or Michigan's Nik Stauskas. 

    I know the Kings could use Gordon's defensive versatility as well as McDermott's, Young's and Stauskas' three-point stroke. Only two teams made fewer threes per game last year. 

    Point guard Marcus Smart or Tyler Ennis might also give them a boost in the backcourt and an upgrade at the position. 

    The first-tier prospects appear to be off-limits to the Kings, but at No. 8, they can still land a prospect with strengths that could help fill a team need.

Charlotte Hornets

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    Plan A: Draft to Fill a Need

    The Charlotte Hornets can't afford to trade talent to move up, and at No. 9, they probably won't be able to get much in return if they move the pick. 

    This is a perfect opportunity for the Hornets to fill an immediate need: shooting. 

    Only five teams made fewer three-pointers per game last year. Starting 2-guard Gerald Henderson hit a total of 40 threes in 77 games at a 34.8 percent clip. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has hit three total in two NBA seasons. 

    Creighton's Doug McDermott, Michigan's Nik Stauskas and Kentucky's James Young can each provide deadly long-range shooting—and they could probably bring it right away as rookies.

    This team is no longer in rebuilding mode. After making a run to the playoffs, the Hornets should be looking for someone who can contribute immediately. And McDermott, Stauskas and Young each have NBA-ready strengths that fill a need in Charlotte.

Denver Nuggets

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    Plan A: Draft to Fill a Need

    The Denver Nuggets have two holes in the lineup. And they should be able to fill either one at No. 11 overall. 

    For starters, the Nuggets could use an upgrade at the 2-guard position. Michigan's Nik Stauskas, Michigan State's Gary Harris and Kentucky's James Young all fit the bill as lottery-worthy options. 

    The Nuggets could also use a big man who can stretch the floor, considering Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee and J.J. Hickson play mostly inside the paint. Croatia's Dario Saric and Michigan State's Adreian Payne are two power forwards who can operate 25 feet from the rim with threatening three-point strokes. 

    At No. 11, there probably won't be a can't-miss prospect on the board. Most of the guys in the back end of the lottery will offer similar upside. The Nuggets should ignore the minimal differences in upside and instead focus on a prospect whose strengths can help fill an immediate need.

Minnesota Timberwolves

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    Plan A: Draft an NBA-Ready Contributor at Position of Need

    The Minnesota Timberwolves should be looking for a guy to contribute right away. This team has been waiting long enough. At No. 13 overall, there's no reason to chase long-term upside, given most of it will probably have gone in the top five, anyway. 

    Only four teams shot it worse from downtown last year. And at No. 13, the Timberwolves will have plenty of shooters to choose from, whether it's Michigan's Nik Stauskas, Kentucky's James Young, Creighton's Doug McDermott, Duke's Rodney Hood or Michigan State's Gary Harris and Adreian Payne. 

    ESPN's Jeff Goodman mentioned (subscription required) that "Flip Saunders isn't sold that Ricky Rubio is his point guard of the future." If that's the case, then Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis could make sense as a guy who can thrive as a backup as a rookie yet also offer starting potential down the road.

Phoenix Suns

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    Plan A: Package Picks to Trade for Established Talent

    Plan B: Draft Best Available Talent 

    The Phoenix Suns draft at No. 14, No. 18 and No. 27. Individually, Phoenix is looking at potential role players at each position. But package two or three of them together with a little something extra, and it might be able to flip those picks into established talent. 

    The Suns already have a number of young prospects to develop. I'm not sure they need three more mid-to-late first-rounders, all of whom get guaranteed deals. 

    If the Suns can't land any players on the trade market, then they should just draft the best available talent. 

    Phoenix doesn't exactly have one specific need to fill. It just has to continue stockpiling assets and improving the strength of the roster from top to bottom.