Projecting the Biggest Need for Every Rebuilding Team in the 2015 NBA Draft
For every rebuilding team in the NBA, there are a handful of holes to fill, deficiencies to address and roster moves to make. But which one is each team's biggest need leading up to the 2015 draft?
Nearly a dozen franchises are still in rebuilding mode. Some are in dire need of defensive help around the basket. Others are yearning for a forward who can stretch the floor. And a couple of squads need a playmaker—someone to spark their offense.
For these clubs under construction, which draft assets are their most important targets? We broke down the most urgent demand for each team.
Set aside in their own category are the Denver Nuggets and Brooklyn Nets. Neither team started the 2014-15 season in rebuilding mode, and neither team has fully launched the rebuilding process yet.
In other words, these are a couple of teams in limbo, each still trying to figure out their identity and rebuilding strategy.
Brooklyn Nets: Point Guard
Deron Williams and Jarrett Jack are still major contributors to Lionel Hollins' attack, but they hardly figure into the franchise's long-term plans. With frontcourt assets like Mason Plumlee and Thaddeus Young in place, Brooklyn needs to find a playmaker for the future.
The Nets don't draft until the tail end of the first round in 2015 (pick via the Atlanta Hawks), so they might opt to draft a different position if they can't find the right floor general.
Potential Targets: Tyus Jones, Delon Wright
Denver Nuggets: Two-Way Wing
With coach Brian Shaw out the door and the team in flux, the Nuggets could use help on both ends of the floor.
Arron Afflalo's departure significantly weakened the team's wing corps, so Denver should be searching for a new swingman or small forward. The Nuggets are picking in the mid-lottery range, and there will still be a plethora of versatile options on the draft board.
Potential Targets: Mario Hezonja, Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow
Boston Celtics: Rim-Protector
The Boston Celtics have a respectable frontcourt, especially on the offensive end. Tyler Zeller, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk are all quality players to utilize in the rotation.
However, this offseason the Celtics should still look for a 5-man. Their rim protection needs to get better if they want to improve their point differential (right now it's minus-1.6).
Thanks to defensive-oriented guards like Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, the Celtics don't give up a ton of easy slashes or outside shots. But once opponents get into the paint, there's not much Boston's bigs can do to stop them.
The team averages just 3.8 blocks per game while racking up a whopping 21.1 fouls per contest. Its most productive shot-blockers aren't imposing, as Zeller and Olynyk average 1.3 and 1.1 blocks per 36 minutes, respectively.
It's time to find someone who can build a fortress around the rim.
Potential Targets (Late Lottery): Willie Cauley-Stein, Myles Turner
Detroit Pistons: Shooting Wing/Forward
The Detroit Pistons need some help on the wing.
Both Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince aren't part of their long-term picture, and Kyle Singler was recently traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Reggie Jackson deal. Stan Van Gundy must find someone who can help Jodie Meeks and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stretch the floor efficiently.
The Pistons have hoisted plenty of three-point attempts this season, but they're 19th in the league when it comes to three-point percentage (34 percent). In order to maximize the effectiveness of bigs like Andre Drummond, they must be able to consistently connect from deep (like what Van Gundy had in Orlando with Dwight Howard).
Adding someone like Shawne Williams was a nice move in late February, but his 2015-16 salary isn't guaranteed, and he's not likely a key component for the future.
The sooner Detroit can make its offense more dynamic, the sooner it can do serious damage in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Potential Targets (Late Lottery): Justise Winslow, Kelly Oubre, Devin Booker
Los Angeles Lakers: Point Guard
Jeremy Lin has enjoyed a productive couple of weeks, but he's off the Los Angeles Lakers' books this summer. Jordan Clarkson looks like a promising piece of the future, but he's not the top-tier playmaker L.A. needs to compete in the Western Conference.
Byron Scott's squad needs a standout two-way floor general.
"If this season has been indication of one thing for the Lakers, it's that they need a point guard," said CBS Sports' Sam Vecenie. "Ronnie Price, (Clarkson) and (Lin) have all started games for the team, and none of them have been able to stabilize the position totally."
According to SportVU team tracking, the Lakers are 28th in the league in points created by assists per game (46.9), and their backcourt defense is still miles from respectable. They need someone who can really make opposing guards uncomfortable on both ends of the court.
To be clear, the Lakers have several other issues that are nearly or equally as important. They need to find an anchor in the paint, a productive small forward and add bench depth. We're just nominating the point guard spot as L.A.'s biggest deficiency.
Potential Targets: Emmanuel Mudiay, D'Angelo Russell
Minnesota Timberwolves: Defensive Stretch 4
Flip Saunders' Minnesota Timberwolves have some exciting pieces in place. Young slashers Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins are feasting off Ricky Rubio's playmaking prowess, while Gorgui Dieng is a promising low-post contributor.
But they need a frontcourt player who can fill two glaring needs: protecting the rim and stretching the floor with outside shooting. Minny needs a tall stretch 4.
Dieng could use some serious help defending the paint because Nikola Pekovic is a woeful rim-protector. The Wolves yield the worst field-goal percentage at the rim (57 percent) in the league by far, and they're a bottom-five team in blocks.
In addition, they've made the fewest triples in the NBA. They need to make more room for their playmakers and scorers, and unfortunately, Rubio and the post players aren't able to keep defenses honest with jumpers.
The good news is there are some valuable prospects in the 2015 class who have length and shooting skills.
Potential Targets (Top-Five Range): Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis
New York Knicks: Skilled Big Man
What don't the New York Knicks need?
We could go in a lot of directions, but to break the seemingly eight-way tie for biggest deficiency, let's focus on the interior.
The Knicks don't have anyone in the paint who scares opponents. With apologies to the current cast of big men, they lack a pillar who can score or impose his will on foes around the basket. As such, New York is well below average in two-point field goals, free-throw attempts and rebounds.
Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher need a center or power forward who not only physically controls the paint, but one who can work in the triangle offense and make good reads. Don't forget that Shaquille O'Neal was valuable to Jackson for more than his size, as he became an excellent passer in the system.
The summer can't come soon enough for the 'Bockers, and they're lucky players like Jahlil Okafor and Karl-Anthony Towns are ripe for the picking.
Potential Targets: Jahlil Okafor, Karl-Anthony Towns
Orlando Magic: Swingman/Small Forward
In the Orlando Magic's quest to return to relevance, they've acquired some high-quality building blocks in recent years.
Center Nikola Vucevic, shooting guard Victor Oladipo and point guard Elfrid Payton all fill key roles. If they can develop Aaron Gordon and somehow hang onto Tobias Harris (restricted free agent in 2015), then the power forward spot looks solid as well.
The small forward position is the one that needs some attention. The only true small forward, Maurice Harkless, plays 13.9 minutes per game and doesn't figure to be a big part of their future.
Orlando needs someone who can produce offense on the wing to supplement Oladipo and Evan Fournier, and it also needs that 3-man to be able to defend rangy swingmen. Ultimately, the Magic would love to grab someone who can play both the 2 and the 3.
Potential Targets: Mario Hezonja, Stanley Johnson
Philadelphia 76ers: Point Guard with Range
When the Philadelphia 76ers traded away Michael Carter-Williams, guys like Tony Wroten, Isaiah Canaan and Ish Smith temporarily shared the playmaking responsibilities. It's clear the next step in their rebuilding process is to find a franchise point guard.
For a while, it looked like 2014 Rookie of the Year MCW might be the man for Philly, but the front office obviously didn't love him enough to hang onto him. He stuffed the box score, but his low percentages, lack of range and turnovers limited his appeal.
Moving forward, they're looking to upgrade the position, preferably with a point guard who can shoot. During his first two seasons in the league, Carter-Williams has averaged just 26 percent shooting from beyond the arc, and it's hard to tell whether he'd ever become a reliable long-range threat.
"Over time I do think shooting is something that we'll [address]," Hinkie told Derek Bodner of Liberty Ballers. "All of the best teams are strong both offensively and defensively, and these days all of the best teams are really strong from behind the [three point] line as well."
It's not hard to project who they'll be targeting.
The two best guards in the 2015 draft class are Emmanuel Mudiay, who skipped college and played in China, and Ohio State's D'Angelo Russell. Russell is dishing 5.2 assists per game and hitting 43 percent of his triples, while Mudiay might be the more explosive playmaker and is shooting just 34 percent from distance.
Potential Targets: D'Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay
Sacramento Kings: Defensive Big Man
The Sacramento Kings are still a couple of steps away from sniffing the playoffs next season. One of the chief areas they must address is the frontcourt.
DeMarcus Cousins is a tremendous two-way anchor for the franchise, but he's the only rotational player to average more than 1.0 blocks per 36 minutes. Sac-Town gives up the fourth-most points per game because it regularly surrenders high-percentage opportunities. Opponents shoot 53 percent at the rim against the Kings, according to SportVU team tracking.
Forwards like Derrick Williams and Jason Thompson aren't difference-makers positionally, so it would be great if general manager Pete D'Alessandro could make an upgrade in the paint.
It doesn't matter whether it's a defensive specialist or a skilled big who can shoot. As long as the player can collaborate and coexist with Cousins spatially, the Kings will take a big step toward their long-term goals.
Potential Targets (Late Lottery): Willie Cauley-Stein, Myles Turner
Utah Jazz: Stretch Big/Frontcourt Depth
A couple of months ago, I would have said the Utah Jazz's biggest need was a defensive-minded wing or forward. But thanks to the increased roles of youngsters like Rudy Gobert and Elijah Millsap, Quin Snyder's crew has come on strong defensively.
Now the team's primary area to address should be in the frontcourt, ideally a stretch big who can complement the interior work of Gobert and Derrick Favors.
Both the Jazz and Enes Kanter had hoped the Turkish big man would provide some perimeter production this season, but that didn't work out. June's draft is now more important than ever for Utah after Kanter was dealt to the Thunder.
B/R NBA draft scribe Jonathan Wasserman explained the team's need for someone like Texas' Myles Turner, who has size (6'11") and shooting skill:
With Alec Burks expected back, Enes Kanter gone and Rodney Hood entering year No. 2, the Jazz may look to go big and add depth behind Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Only unlike Favors and the sophomore stud from France, Myles Turner prefers to operate on the perimeter, where his game revolves around catching, squaring up and shooting.
In that late-lottery range, someone like Turner or even UCLA's Kevon Looney would be a strong addition to Utah's promising roster.
Potential Targets: Kristaps Porzingis, Myles Turner, Kevon Looney
Dan O'Brien covers the NBA and NBA draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @DanielO_BR