1 Mistake Every Team Must Avoid Making in the 2018 NBA Draft
The NBA draft is a huge opportunity for franchises to improve their roster without giving anything up.
Lottery teams are looking for All-Stars and cornerstones that can change the direction of the organization and whom they can bank on for years to come. Those picking later in the first round are just hoping to add depth or fill holes with players who can contribute on rookie contracts.
And every year, we see general managers make mistakes by focusing on positions, worrying too much about specific needs or simply misevaluating.
These are the mistakes each franchise needs to avoid on June 21.
Phoenix Suns: Not Answering the Phone
Teams make calls to the lottery winner every year about the availability of the No. 1 pick. And general manager Ryan McDonough should at least entertain inquiries.
When the majority of scouts had Markelle Fultz as the No. 1 prospect in 2017, Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge didn't seem to care. He moved from the first overall pick down to No. 3 and wound up with a terrific player in Jayson Tatum, as well as another future first-round pick.
The Suns will presumably be choosing between Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic, two excellent offensive prospects but suspect defenders. And the Suns had the worst defensive team in the league, per ESPN.
Jaren Jackson Jr. and Mohamed Bamba would be ideal fits based on their strengths as elite rim protectors. But McDonough would have to feel confident that one of them falls in the same talent tier as Ayton and Doncic.
Regardless, refusing to listen to offers would be stubborn. Phoenix shouldn't necessarily be shopping the pick or looking to trade, but it doesn't hurt to hear what other general managers are willing to give up.
Sacramento Kings: Overthinking
The Sacramento Kings are in a can't-lose spot at No. 2. There won't be any need to overthink, or even think at all.
The plan should be to take whoever falls to them between Ayton or Doncic. Both are potential No. 1 overall candidates, and each player would fill a need for the Kings.
Ayton would give them the franchise scoring center they've been missing. Doncic, meanwhile, would work nicely next to De'Aaron Fox, who has the explosiveness and defensive quickness Doncic lacks.
The Kings may be enticed by Marvin Bagley III, but his shot-creating weakness and uninspiring defense should raise questions about his fit in Sacramento. Unless the Kings receive a better offer, they should exit the draft with either Ayton or Doncic on their roster.
Atlanta Hawks: Drafting for Needs
Light-years away from having a competitive roster, the Atlanta Hawks should not be looking to fill needs around Dennis Schroder, Taurean Prince and John Collins.
If Doncic slips to the Hawks, they'd be foolish to pass, though ESPN's Jonathan Givony suggests they could.
The Hawks must draft the best player available to acquire the most valuable asset in a vacuum, whether he plays point guard, forward or center. If they think Trae Young is better than Bagley, Jackson or Bamba, then on principle, Young has to be their pick.
If they think there is a gap between Bagley and the rest of the available prospects, they should be taking Bagley and ignoring his fit on a roster of prospects whose ceilings are limited.
Memphis Grizzlies: Thinking About Conley, Gasol During Pick
The Memphis Grizzlies must enter this draft as if their roster is completely blank. If their best player available is a center, they shouldn't pass on one because Marc Gasol plays the position. And if Memphis is convinced Young is better than anyone left, they shouldn't worry about about his fit with Mike Conley.
The Grizzlies must forget about competing next year and think about a future without Conley and Gasol, who are both in their 30s and slowing down, statistically and physically.
The most likely scenario has two of the following prospects available at No. 4: Bagley, Bamba and Jackson. And there is a good chance one of them is Memphis' best player available.
They can't pass on long-term potential due to Gasol's presence at the 5. He's not helping Memphis reach the playoffs in the Western Conference next season, and he could be an attractive trade target for a contender.
It's time for Memphis to start thinking a few years down the road and prioritize acquiring and developing young talent, even if it means moving on from Gasol when he still has a few decent seasons left in the tank.
Dallas Mavericks: Overlooking Wendell Carter Jr.
Once Ayton is gone, the next three bigs in line are Bagley, Jackson and Bamba. Of that group, Bagley is least likely to be available at No. 5.
But the Mavericks shouldn't overlook Wendell Carter Jr., who may be undervalued after being overshadowed by Bagley despite registering per-40 minute numbers of 20.2 points, 13.5 rebounds, 3.1 blocks and 3.0 assists on 58.6 percent shooting inside the arc and 41.3 percent from three.
The Mavericks also have one of the least physical frontcourts, finishing last in offensive rebounding percentage, per NBA.com. Carter ranked in the 94th percentile in offensive rebounds and putbacks, per Synergy Sports, thanks in part to a powerful 6'10", 251.4-pound frame and a 7'4 ½" wingspan.
But he also flashed encouraging skill with his post game and shooting that helped draw comparisons to Al Horford for their similar bodies and ability to play inside and out.
Orlando Magic: Drafting Another Big
Unless the Orlando Magic plan on letting Aaron Gordon walk in free agency, drafting another big could cause problems.
It's a rare situation where the best player on Orlando's board may not be the right player for the franchise. Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Nikola Vucevic couldn't play in a lineup with Bamba, Jackson or Michael Porter Jr.
Isaac needs minutes after playing just 27 games as a rookie. Even if the Magic trade Vucevic, a combination of Gordon and Isaac plus another big still creates a clunky lineup that could stunt Isaac or Orlando's new rookie's development.
It's important the Magic give whoever they bring in a suitable setting.
All signs point to Young as a target after the Magic passed on Dennis Smith Jr. last year and then traded Elfrid Payton. If they believe one of the bigs remaining is clearly superior to Young, Orlando should have some type of plan in place to make room for him.
Chicago Bulls: Not Being Aggressive in Trying to Move Up
Lauri Markkanen was a great find and represents the Chicago Bulls' most valuable player asset. But they'd be overconfident in thinking Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine are reliable franchise cornerstones. Despite signs of progress, Dunn has had trouble staying healthy and still can't shoot well at 24 years old. LaVine is coming off ACL surgery and didn't look fully recovered upon returning. And he may still be better suited as a sixth man or third option.
The Bulls need another potential star. They should at least explore what it would take to move up in the draft. With the No. 7 pick and the New Orleans Pelicans' No. 22 pick, plus Dunn or Bobby Portis, Chicago may have some expendable assets.
Moving into the top five would guarantee them either Ayton, Doncic, Bagley, Jackson, Bamba or Young. As of May 25, we don't project any of those prospects to be available at No. 7.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Not Shopping Their Pick
By winning 28 games, the Brooklyn Nets hurt the Cleveland Cavaliers chances of drafting a star. Cleveland owns Brooklyn's eighth pick, which isn't as likely to help them land a difference-maker in terms of winning now or convincing LeBron James to stay, assuming rim protectors Jackson Bamba are off the board.
This team is still hunting for a title. They should be looking to shop the pick for a veteran who can contribute to franchise's title aspirations right away.
Last year, we saw the Minnesota Timberwolves move the seventh pick and manage to acquire Jimmy Butler. it's unclear who'll be available, but the Cavaliers' front office should be working the phone lines to try and add another star-caliber payer in exchange for their draft pick.
Brooklyn Nets: Drafting to Fill a Need
The Brooklyn Nets may be motivated to draft a forward with Jeremy Lin, D'Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Allen Crabbe on the roster.
However, it's fair to question the ceilings or reliability of each one of those guards, whether it's due to injury history (Lin, Russell, LeVert), contracts (Lin, Russell, Dinwiddie) or stalled development (Crabbe).
The Brooklyn roster just needs talent. And given the success rate of even finding NBA players at No. 29 overall, the Nets shouldn't be overly picky in terms of looking to fill a specific position or need.
New York Knicks: Collin Sexton
If Mikal Bridges, Porter and Young are gone at No. 9, the New York Knicks may be enticed by Collin Sexton.
He'd be a mistake for this particular franchise. Sexton, who averaged 3.6 assists to 2.8 turnovers and shot 33.6 percent from three, isn't the lead guard New York needs to run the offense, assuming Frank Ntilikina is better suited for the 2-guard slot.
On paper, it may make sense for the Knicks to have an attacker like Sexton next to Ntilikina, but not one who struggles with creating for teammates and shooting.
Miles Bridges, Lonnie Walker IV or even Wendell Carter Jr. as best player available (despite questions about his fit next to Kristaps Porzingis) would be better options at No. 9 than Sexton, whose scoring ability could work well for someone else but isn't the answer for the Knicks. New York will be better off starting Trey Burke and adding to its wing or frontcourt.
Philadelphia 76ers: Ignore Shooting
Between the strange turn of events regarding Markelle Fultz's shot and JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova entering free agency, the Philadelphia 76ers should favor prospects who can shoot.
They'll have two first-round picks to add shot-makers, though with the No. 26 pick, teams are usually just hoping to find an NBA player, not a specific fix.
Mikal Bridges, who shot 43.5 percent from three in his last season at Villanova, makes sense as the target if he falls to No. 10.
Otherwise, Miles Bridges should earn consideration after averaging at least two three-point makes a game each year at Michigan State. And regardless of the freshman numbers, Walker has a smooth, translatable stroke, plus plenty of untapped upside as a scoring 2-guard.
Charlotte Hornets: Being Close-Minded About Trading Kemba Walker
The Charlotte Hornets are in a lose-lose spot, and the sooner they recognize that, the quicker and better their chances of turning it around.
Kemba Walker is one year away from demanding a hefty pay raise that would take him into his early 30s. Only the roster they've built around him hasn't helped them reach the postseason, even in a weaker Eastern Conference.
The Hornets could spend big bucks on Walker, but then they'd better hit the jackpot in free agency since they don't have other exciting assets to trade for support, and the No. 11 pick likely isn't a future star or franchise difference-maker. Otherwise, they'll just be wasting Walker's money years.
This team is stuck between tanking and competing, but realistically, they're too far away from threatening any of the better seeds in the East. Walker is Charlotte's only ticket to retooling and finding young players and picks—if it's not too late. Teams interested will likely want to know he'd re-sign.
Detroit Pistons: Failing to Explore Possible Andre Drummond Trade
The Detroit Pistons don't have a first-round pick. And the pairing of Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond couldn't propel the franchise to the playoffs in the East this season.
Detroit is stuck in limbo and needs to change the makeup of the roster. It's time to shop Drummond in hopes of adding more youth and/or perimeter talent. The trio of Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson just won't cut it if the goal is to compete sooner than later, which was presumably the objective when they chose to acquire Griffin.
Still 24 years old, Drummond could ultimately hold more value to another team than he does for the Pistons (especially after they added Griffin). The Chicago Bulls, who pick at No. 7 and No. 22, may be a potential suitor to contact.
Los Angeles Clippers: Trading Nos. 12 and 13 for a No. 7-11 Pick
The Los Angeles Clippers have the Detroit Pistons' pick at No. 12, plus their own at No. 13. If they can trade into the top six to guarantee themselves one of Doncic, Ayton, Bagley, Bamba, Jackson or Young, then they should explore it.
But a team with a top-six pick probably won't want to give up the chance to take one of the previously mentioned stars.
The Clippers shouldn't package both picks just to move up to No. 7-11. They're better off keeping both picks to either fill two holes or hope they luck out and draft a steal nobody saw coming.
Since 2013, Giannis Antetokounmpo (No. 15), Devin Booker (No. 13) and Donovan Mitchell (No. 13) have each been taken in the Nos. 13-15 range. In 2014, Dario Saric and LaVine went No. 12 and 13, respectively.
If they stay put, the Clippers should have the chance to get one or both of the following prospects: Sexton, Walker, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Miles Bridges, Robert Williams and/or Kevin Knox. Unless they can move into the top six for a star prospect, it would be wise to stay put with two selections in the lottery.
Denver Nuggets: Ignoring Defense
The Denver Nuggets ranked No. 6 in offensive efficiency and No. 26 in defensive efficiency.
At No. 14, it's unlikely they find a high-level scoring or playmaking weapon, anyway. Denver should be thinking defense with its draft pick, particularly since there could be quality defensive prospects on the board.
Robert Williams offers rim protection. Khyri Thomas is a three-and-D guard who just won his second consecutive Big East Defensive Player of the Year award. Gilgeous-Alexander could facilitate next to Jamal Murray, but he also has the size and length to guard both backcourt positions. Zhaire Smith is a mega-athlete and defensive playmaker who covers both wings and plays with high energy. De'Anthony Melton defends ball-handlers with toughness and pressure. And Troy Brown could be one of the most versatile defenders in the draft.
Washington Wizards: Adding a Big Who Isn't BPA
The Washington Wizards' identity has been built around their backcourt for years, so the front office may be motivated to find frontcourt help in the draft.
But it shouldn't take a big man just to fill a need, particularly this year at No. 15. Robert Williams stands out as the only big worthy of consideration based on where Washington is picking, though there is a good chance he goes in the lottery with the Los Angeles Clippers picking twice.
If Williams is gone, that leaves Mitchell Robinson, who left college before it started and then skipped the combine, making him a risky pick when there could be more proven prospects at other positions on the board.
If the Wizards' best player available happens to be a wing like Knox or a shooting guard such as Walker or Thomas, they shouldn't pass to reach on a big, particularly given the surplus of them typically available in free agency.
Miami Heat: Failing to Explore Possible Hassan Whiteside Trades
Hassan Whiteside's time with the Miami Heat has run its course. They only played him 15.4 minutes per game during their five-game playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Bam Adebayo is waiting to break out and represents the more modern-day center who can guard all over the floor.
Meanwhile, Miami doesn't have any picks in this draft. And though Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Justise Winslow are fine players, the Heat could use more firepower and offensive upside from the forward spots.
Miami should be making calls to 29 teams about their interest in Whiteside, who doesn't appear to be on the same page as coach Erik Spoelstra.
Milwaukee Bucks: Passing on a Guard
The Milwaukee Bucks shouldn't be set or satisfied with their backcourt. Eric Bledsoe is entering the final year of his deal and wasn't overly convincing in the playoffs. And the Bucks get little offense from Tony Snell.
There aren't many exciting big-man prospects worthy of taking in the second half of the first round. However, Milwaukee will see plenty of ball-handlers, shooters and wing defenders who'd fill needs without being considered reaches at No. 17.
Anfernee Simons, Aaron Holiday, De'Anthony Melton and potentially Gilgeous-Alexander are enticing point guard options. Any of Khyri Thomas, Lonnie Walker, Zhaire Smith, Dzanan Musa, Troy Brown, Gary Trent Jr., Chandler Hutchison and Donte DiVincenzo could help off the ball.
This draft is a good opportunity for Milwaukee to strengthen its backcourt depth and talent.
San Antonio Spurs: Thinking Win Now
The San Antonio Spurs pick at No. 18. They haven't selected that high since taking Tim Duncan No. 1 overall in 1997.
But this year, they shouldn't feel any obligation to find an NBA-ready player to help them get back into contention.
If the Spurs are looking to push back up the Western Conference standings, they should use free agency. The draft is to prepare for the future since Manu Ginobili could retire, Pau Gasol is on the decline, and LaMarcus Aldridge turns 33 years old in July.
Dejounte Murray and Derrick White are promising building blocks, but San Antonio still needs more young talent and athleticism.
The Spurs should look past upperclassmen like Jalen Brunson, Aaron Holiday and Jerome Robinson for higher-upside, developmental projects like Lonnie Walker, Anfernee Simons, Troy Brown, Dzanan Musa or Jontay Porter. No prospect at No. 18 is likely to contribute a great deal next season, anyway.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Trading Karl-Anthony Towns
With rumors swirling about a disconnect between Karl-Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves, teams have reportedly starting inquiring about his availability, per ESPN's Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe.
Unless the ultimate Godfather offer is made, the Wolves would be foolish to move Towns, who's still 22 years old and just averaged 21.3 points and 12.3 rebounds on 54.5 percent shooting, going 42.1 percent from three and 85.8 percent from the line.
Not even the Phoenix Suns' No. 1 pick should be enticing.
Towns is ultimately too young, talented and productive to trade for any package or player that isn't already one of the best in the league. If Minnesota wants to make a roster change, Andrew Wiggins is the player to shop.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Staying Silent
The Oklahoma City Thunder have been relatively cold in the draft. And assuming their goal is to re-sign Paul George, this team will have a lot of money committed to him, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams, and that's not including Carmelo Anthony for the 2018-19 season.
The Thunder could use some young players to contribute on rookie deals. And right now, they don't have a first-round pick.
It may be difficult to acquire one unless they make Terrance Ferguson or Andre Roberson available, which seems unlikely. But with two picks in the 50s or cash considerations (the Golden State Warriors used that last year to get Jordan Bell at No. 38), the Thunder should be be aggressive in trying to land a top-40 pick.
Utah Jazz: Thinking Win Now with Their Draft Pick
There is a general perception that playoff teams looking to win now should favor an NBA-ready prospect. The Utah Jazz don't need to at No. 21. What happened with Donovan Mitchell was rare. Rookies aren't typically ready to contribute in the playoffs.
The Jazz should be looking a few years ahead, particularly since outside of Mitchell, they don't have any exciting, sure-thing prospects in the pipeline. Tony Bradley only played 29 total minutes in 2017-18, and though Dante Exum flashed glimpses after returning from shoulder surgery, it's difficult to ignore his injury history. There's also the chance another team throws big money at him in restricted free agency.
Utah shouldn't be worried about Simons, Musa, Brown or Trent being a few years away. The Jazz should be looking for veterans in free agency to plug holes and help next year. They'll want to focus on long-term upside in the draft.
New Orleans Pelicans: Not Thinking Wings
The New Orleans Pelicans traded their first-round pick and won't select until No. 51. And looking down the roster, it's tough to ignore that hole on their wing.
They might as well take a stab at a small forward late in the second round or attempt to trade for or buy a second pick in the 30s or 40s.
Rodions Kurucs, Justin Jackson and Isaac Bonga were each on our first-round board at one point. All three should be there in the 40s if the Pelicans can add another pick.
Otherwise, Kevin Hervey, Kenrich Williams and Kostas Antetokounmpo could be targets late in the draft.
Indiana Pacers: Not Focusing on Guards
Though Darren Collison has been a model of consistency, he'll be entering the final year of his contract and turning 31 years old this summer. Cory Joseph and Lance Stephenson (team option) have one season left as well.
The Pacers should be thinking about finding ball-handlers or guards to develop once Collison slows down, particularly since there could be a handful of intriguing ones to choose from at No. 23.
Holiday and Simons are the most intriguing who are projected in that range. But France's Elie Okobo could be a sleeper option, having just exploded for 44 points on Wednesday and shown continuous improvement with his playmaking and shot-making.
Thomas, Brown, DiVincenzo and Jerome Robinson are other combos who can work on and off the ball from the backcourt.
Portland Trail Blazers: Not Thinking Forwards
The Portland Trail Blazers have one of the top backcourts in the league and young talent at center. They're relatively weak in between in terms of star power, youth and upside.
Evan Turner, Moe Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu are no doubt serviceable, but they're also upgradable, particularly for a team looking to compete in the Western Conference playoffs.
They should be looking at forwards like Keita Bates-Diop, who can play the 3 or 4, shoot threes and rebound.
Chandler Hutchison is another versatile forward worth looking into, as is Zhaire Smith, Musa, Jacob Evans and Melvin Frazier.
Los Angeles Lakers: Ignoring Shooting
The Los Angeles Lakers ranked 29th in three-point field-goal percentage, and that was with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who they could lose in free agency.
It wouldn't hurt to favor a prospect who'll enter the league with a proven jumper, assuming that didn't mean passing on someone who the team thought was the clear best player available.
With Lonzo Ball running the show, surrounding him with shooters will only enhance his effectiveness as a passer.
Thomas shot at least 39 percent from deep in each of his three years at Creighton. Holiday shot 40 percent or better every season at UCLA. Trent shot 40.2 percent and made 97 triples as a freshman at Duke. DiVincenzo, Robinson, Landry Shamet and Jalen Brunson are all late first-round options who shot at least 40 percent from three last season as well.
Boston Celtics: Trading Their Pick
The Boston Celtics don't need advice on drafting. From Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart, they've nailed their picks in recent years despite being questioned after making them.
Boston has built a contender in part by acquiring contributors who are producing on rookie contracts. Tatum, Brown, Rozier and Smart are making less than $18 million combined this season.
Playoff teams drafting late in the first round often receive calls from others trying to add a pick. The Celtics shouldn't answer. General manager Danny Ainge must continue to stockpile young assets by taking his best player available at No. 27.
Just take one look at the previous four No. 27 overall picks: Kyle Kuzma, Pascal Siakam, Larry Nance Jr. and Bogdan Bogdanovic.
Golden State Warriors: Focusing on Needs
A handful of Golden State Warriors are entering free agency, including Nick Young, Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, Kevon Looney and David West, and they're all unrestricted.
In terms of searching for depth, the Warriors could use bigs, guards and wings. They shouldn't focus on any one position at No. 28.
Instead, they should rank their 28 top prospects and take the best one who falls to them. Whoever it is likely won't play much right away, regardless. Golden State already has plenty of win-now players. Management must use the draft to prepare for the future.
Toronto Raptors: Panic and Try to Make a Splash
The Toronto Raptors have to feel disappointed after the Cleveland Cavaliers swept them out of the playoffs for the second straight season. The front office may be itching to get involved or make a move on draft night since the Raptors don't have any picks.
But they shouldn't forget about their 59 regular-season wins, like they seemingly did when they fired head coach Dwane Casey only days after their postseason exit. This isn't the time to try to make a splash by trading a core veteran.
Toronto should hang tight with its star players and young supporting cast that continues to improve. Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam, Delon Wright and OG Anunoby are each playing significant roles while they're still on their rookie deals.
Houston Rockets: Trading Their 2nd-Round Pick
The Western Conference finalist Houston Rockets won't select in the first round, and they may receive offers for the No. 46 pick from weaker teams who need young prospects more than them.
The Rockets shouldn't budge.
They'd benefit from finding a backup to produce on a minimal contract and take regular-season minutes away from Chris Paul and Eric Gordon.
Since 2012, a handful of serviceable role players have been drafted at No. 46, including Jordan Clarkson, Norman Powell, Sterling Brown and Darius Miller. Houston should have upperclassmen like Devonte' Graham, Jevon Carter, Grayson Allen, Shake Milton or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk highlighted as potential targets.