Answering Biggest 2018 NBA Draft Questions for Every Projected Lottery Team
There are questions about how each projected lottery team should strategize for the NBA draft. And teams who miss the playoffs can't afford to screw up their pick.
General managers must decide whether to fill needs or take their best player available, even if he plays a position the team is already set on.
The draft is also an opportunity for franchises to reset. Some teams could explore trading up, down or out.
We pointed out the biggest question each projected lottery team will face and offered a solution.
The projected draft order is based on NBA standings heading into April 8.
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the Phoenix Suns: Should the Suns draft Luka Doncic to play point guard or one of the bigs to play center?
The Suns will have the best chance of winning the lottery. And they'll most likely be choosing between Slovenian star Luka Doncic, a guard and excellent passer, or one of the top college bigs.
Deandre Ayton has generated the most No. 1 buzz from the NCAA field. He comes off as a mix between DeMarcus Cousins and Karl-Anthony Towns—skilled bigs with post games and the ability to stretch the floor with their jump shots.
But Ayton had trouble defensively at Arizona, as did Marvin Bagley III at Duke. And the Suns are already the NBA's worst team in defensive efficiency, per ESPN.com. Do the Suns value Ayton's and Bagley's offensive upside and choose not to overthink on their defensive concerns?
Doncic isn't known for his defense, either, but based on his position, he's less likely to hurt the team's defensive identity than a poor rim protector would.
B/R's answer: Target Doncic.
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the Memphis Grizzlies: Is it time to move on from Marc Gasol with a 2018 rookie?
The Grizzlies could pick in the top two and will be looking at Ayton and Doncic but also Bagley, Michigan State's Jaren Jackson Jr. and Texas' Mohamed Bamba. Except for Doncic, those bigs each project best at center, where Marc Gasol patrols the paint.
Gasol could be under contract until 2020 if he opts in to his final season. If Doncic is gone, the Grizzlies must decide if they want to draft a center and move on from Gasol. Or they could take Ayton or Bagley and play their selection at the 4, where they played in college, even though it's not their ideal position.
B/R's answer: If the Grizzlies can't get Doncic, they should draft one of the bigs, look to trade Gasol and hit the reset button altogether.
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the Atlanta Hawks: Is it problematic to pair John Collins with a big man who plays poor defense?
Luka Doncic would fill a need for the Hawks, but he might not be there if they're picking at No. 3. Ayton and Bagley could be in the conversation as best-player-available options for Atlanta. But neither prospect looked good this season defensively.
The Hawks have to ask themselves whether pairing John Collins with a weak defensive center will be a problematic building strategy, even if Ayton and Bagley turn out to be exciting NBA scorers.
Jackson or Bamba make more sense in terms of fit. Both averaged at least three blocks per game and flashed enormous potential in rim protection with their mobility, length and instincts.
B/R's answer: Draft Doncic or Ayton if available, but take Jackson over Bagley because of Jackson's superior defense.
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the Dallas Mavericks: Who will be Dallas' best player available?
After drafting Dennis Smith Jr., the Dallas Mavericks won't likely look at point guards in the draft. Every other player and position should be in play, though. The Mavericks don't have any long-term cornerstones from the 2 through 5, meaning fit or need shouldn't factor into the equation for Dallas.
Who will be their best player available? How will the Mavericks rank Bagley, Jackson, Bamba and Porter? Odds are these will be the prospects Dallas is choosing from assuming it lands outside the top two in the draft.
Rim protectors Jackson and Bamba would likely mean saying goodbye to Nerlens Noel. Bagley would give Dallas an athletic weapon with upside as a scorer and rebounder. And Porter could pair with Harrison Barnes as a secondary go-to option and shot-maker.
B/R's answer: Jackson should be Dallas' target, followed by Bagley, Bamba and then Porter.
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the Orlando Magic: Will the Magic add another big if he's the best player available or will they select a guard?
Orlando could be in a tough spot if Doncic isn't on the board when the team is on the clock. Ayton, Bagley, Jackson, Bamba and Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. could be considered the best players available to the Magic. But will Orlando be able to play Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and another big together?
Ideally, the team comes away with a guard. But if they're picking in the top five, taking a guard like Oklahoma's Trae Young or Alabama's Collin Sexton could mean passing on the best available player.
Orlando will have to decide how much to factor needs into the equation when deciding on a prospect. Young or Sexton would fit best as scorers and playmakers at the point, while Ayton, Bagley, Jackson, Bamba and Porter could be considered better prospects.
B/R's answer: Ignore needs and take best player available, even if it's another big.
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the Sacramento Kings: Which one-and-done forward or big will fall to the Kings?
De'Aaron Fox is the only secure building block for the Kings. Assuming they'll look past Trae Young and pick near No. 6, where they're currently projected, Sacramento should be locked into one of the bigs.
Which one will slide? Ayton and Doncic will be gone. Bagley isn't likely to fall outside the top five. That leaves Jackson, Bamba and Porter, and each would fill a need for the Kings.
Jackson and Bamba would give the Kings a higher-upside rim protector than Willie Cauley-Stein. With Porter, the Kings would add a scorer from the 3 or 4 over Justin Jackson and Skal Labissiere.
B/R's answer: Porter is most likely to fall to the Kings, who'd take him.
Cleveland Cavaliers (via Nets)
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the Cleveland Cavaliers: Will the Cavaliers trade up, draft Trae Young or take someone else?
The Cavaliers should at least explore what it would take to trade up for a rim protector. Jackson and Bamba aren't likely to be available at No. 7, where Cleveland is projected to pick.
If the Cavs pick seventh, there will be a lot of talk about adding Trae Young, particularly after LeBron James voiced his support for him earlier in the season.
Otherwise, the Cavaliers could look at Porter if he's available. He'd give them a shot-maker and some insurance in case James leaves Cleveland. The team will also look at three-and-D wing Mikal Bridges and a post scorer in Duke's Wendell Carter Jr.
B/Rs answer: The Cavaliers should pass on Young and take Porter if he's there or, if he's not, select Bridges as the best player available.
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the Chicago Bulls: Will the Bulls draft a point guard or fill a bigger need?
Kris Dunn had a bounce-back season, but he's still plagued by durability concerns. Zach LaVine also didn't look fully healthy after returning from ACL surgery.
The Bulls could have the chance to draft Young or Sexton. Will they? It could mean playing a three-guard lineup or moving Dunn or LaVine to a sixth-man role.
If Chicago is set on its current backcourt, it could look at Bridges, who'd fill a big need at small forward. Or the Bulls could draft their center of the future in Carter or Texas A&M's Robert Williams.
B/R's answer: The Bulls should target Young, then Bridges or Carter.
New York Knicks
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the New York Knicks: Will the Knicks draft a point guard, or is Trey Burke a realistic long-term option?
The Knicks have found out that Frank Ntilikina may be better suited at shooting guard. Meanwhile, Trey Burke has stepped in as the starting point guard and run away with the job.
Will the Knicks buy into Burke as the long-term starter? Will his emergence affect the way the Knicks draft?
With the No. 8 or 9 pick, they should have the chance to grab either Young or Sexton, who are widely viewed as the top point guard prospects.
If the Knicks do believe in Burke, they may be inclined to target a wing like Bridges or a big like Carter.
B/R's answer: Ignore need and Burke and select the best player available, regardless of position. Bridges should still be New York's top target, with Young as the backup plan.
Philadelphia 76ers (via Lakers)
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the Philadelphia 76ers: Will the Sixers ignore needs in the draft?
With Ben Simmons running the point, Markelle Fultz returning to form and Joel Embiid anchoring the paint, would the Sixers draft a point guard or center? Young, Sexton, Carter and Williams could be there at No. 10. And it's possible the team views one of them as the best player available.
Shooting guard could be the biggest need with JJ Redick entering free agency. The Sixers also don't have wing scorers, with Robert Covington more of a three-and-D forward.
Mikal Bridges, Kentucky's Kevin Knox, Michigan State's Miles Bridges, Miami's Lonnie Walker IV and Creighton's Khyri Thomas would ultimately fit best based on Philadelphia's roster.
B/R's answer: Ignore need and draft the best player available, even if it's a big or guard.
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the Charlotte Hornets: Will the Hornets use Kemba Walker and/or Dwight Howard as trade chips to move up?
The Hornets acquired Howard last summer and still missed the postseason.
They are in no-man's land between rebuilding and competing. And no prospect available around No. 11 seems likely to impact Charlotte's progress as a franchise.
It would make sense to use the draft as a chance to reset. Will the Hornets look to trade Walker and/or Howard in an attempt to move up for a star prospect?
If they stay put, they'll likely be looking at Carter, Sexton, Miles Bridges and Knox. Based on team needs, Bridges and Knox would make the most sense, given how little scoring production the Hornets get from their forwards.
B/R's answer: Hit the reset button and try to trade up or add another lottery pick.
Los Angeles Clippers
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the Los Angeles Clippers: With two lottery picks, will the Clippers try to trade up?
The Clippers have their own pick and the Detroit Pistons' later in the lottery. It gives them the option to get creative. L.A. could explore packaging both picks together to move up for a bigger-name prospect. Or the Clippers could trade one and Danilo Gallinari (to rid themselves of his contract) and keep a pick.
If they can't make a deal or would rather draft two prospects, there will be players available who could fill needs.
They can look at Sexton or Kentucky's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander as potential starting point guards. Sexton would give them another tough-minded competitor like Patrick Beverley, only Sexton offers more scoring firepower. Gilgeous-Alexander isn't as explosive, but he shows more feel as a facilitator.
The Clippers could also look at rim protector Robert Williams as a potential replacement for DeAndre Jordan, who has a player option next season.
Miles Bridges will also earn consideration as a possible best-player-available option.
B/R's answer: L.A. should try to move up into the top six. Otherwise, stay put and select two prospects.
Biggest 2018 NBA draft question for the Denver Nuggets: Will the Nuggets add a point guard or wing, or will they trade?
The Nuggets are loaded up front with 4s and 5s. It would seem pointless to add another since there won't be any available minutes for him to play.
The team's biggest need is at point guard, where the Nuggets have Jamal Murray playing despite his 3.4-assist-per-game average. They could potentially use another wing as well, even if Denver brings back Will Barton.
Gilgeous-Alexander makes sense as a target for his defense and playmaking next to Murray. Miles Bridges and Knox could play the 3 as well, though neither is guaranteed to be available.
Denver could also look to trade out or back like it did last year if the team isn't thrilled with who's on the board.
B/R's answer: Denver should target Bridges and Knox first and then Gilgeous-Alexander.