Every Projected Lottery Team's Biggest Need in the 2020 NBA Draft
NBA lottery teams could enter the draft with an approach to focus strictly on the best player available or to find a fit for their rosters.
It's a divisive subject since each of these losing teams has specific holes but a greater need for a star player.
We highlighted the following franchises' weaknesses and addressed what type of prospects from the projected 2020 class could help fix them.
Golden State Warriors
Biggest need: Frontcourt upgrade
After spending the season playing rookies and scouting 2020 lottery picks, the Golden State Warriors' mindset will shift right back to winning a championship in 2020-21. Changes to the roster are coming, but over the next four months, general manager Bob Myers will think about which prospect best complements a core featuring Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Draymond Green.
The Warriors front office is presumably thinking hard about James Wiseman, given his physical tools (7'1", 240 lbs, 7'6" wingspan) and athleticism, the upside they're perceived to create and the team's hole at center. He fits the roster on paper, though unless Golden State picks outside the top three, he wouldn't be my choice. His skill level, feel and energy aren't convincing enough for a top pick in today's NBA.
USC's Onyeka Okongwu is the center I'd choose over Wiseman, given his superior defensive activity, motor and rapidly improving skills. Dayton's Obi Toppin may be more of a trade-down target, but he'll deserve consideration for his offensive strengths and fit. The nation's leader in dunks would give the Warriors a needed frontcourt scorer and easy-basket machine with improving shooting range.
If Golden State picks outside the top three and doesn't see a clear-cut best prospect, Myers could look at Auburn's Isaac Okoro, a defensive wing stopper and possible Andre Iguodala replacement.
If Golden State picks in the top three, Myers may decide on a different approach, ignoring needs and focusing only on the No. 1 long-term prospect. Curry will turn 32 in March, Thompson is 30 and coming off ACL surgery, and Wiggins' impact remains unproven. Myers could think about this draft pick as his next franchise player once the team's stars begin to wear down. Whomever Myers drafts won't be high in the offensive pecking order over the next season or two.
In that case, Golden State can consider LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards, potential star guards who could be ready to lift the Warriors when Curry and Thompson age into their 30s. In the meantime, Ball would take pressure off Curry by absorbing ball-handling and playmaking reps to set up teammates and move the rock. Edwards could jump right in as a rookie with his transition offense, perimeter shot-making and defensive tools.
Israel's Deni Avdija, a 6'8" combo forward, could be a top-three prospect and fit in any lineup for his scoring and passing versatility. By June, he may have a case as the draft's most well-rounded player.
France's Killian Hayes is climbing up the board and into my top five as well. Similarly to Ball, he is a playmaker first, and while he lacks Ball's 6'7" size and athletic ability, the 6'5" Hayes is a far more efficient scorer.
Biggest need: Franchise cornerstone or defensive anchor
It's difficult to assess the Cleveland Cavaliers' biggest need in February, and there may not be clarity about the team's identity by March. The front office must answer and deal with a number of questions: Are Darius Garland and Collin Sexton a suitable pairing? Which of the draft's point guards are clearly superior to Garland? And is Andre Drummond in the long-term plans?
Where the Cavaliers pick will factor into general manager Koby Altman's strategy. More than anything, Cleveland needs a star, and if Altman thinks there is one in the draft, he should take him, even if it's another guard or center.
That may mean considering LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards despite having Garland and Sexton. Both stand out as superior long-term prospects. It could also mean drafting James Wiseman or Onyeka Okongwu, even if Altman isn't sure about Drummond's future.
Ball is No. 1 on my board, so if the Cavaliers could get him, I'd say they should—and then worry later about whether to move Garland or Sexton to a bench role or different team via trade.
In terms of finding the best fit for the roster, Deni Avdija stands out for shot-making and passing from the wing as well as his defensive IQ and versatility.
Okongwu is the sleeper option for his defensive upside in rim protection and pick-and-roll coverage, though there is still encouraging scoring potential tied to his elite finishing, post and short face-up games and mid-range touch. The Cavaliers have the league's worst defensive efficiency rating, ranking last in both opponent field goals made and field-goal percentage inside six feet. Okongwu ranks in the 95th percentile in points per possession given up to opponents around the basket.
Biggest need: Another shot-creator next to Trae Young
Youth has played a role in the Atlanta Hawks' disappointing record. Their acquisition of Clint Capela will give the lineup a veteran and defensive presence around the basket, where they give up 21.7 field goals per game, the second-most in the league. But the Hawks could also use another shot-creator.
Trae Young has the NBA's fifth-highest usage rate as a sophomore. The Hawks are too reliant on his creation and tough shot-making. One of the league's elite passers, Young would be able to focus more on setting up teammates if the lineup had an additional wing to create at a higher level than Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish and De'Andre Hunter.
Even John Collins lacks ability to make things happen one-on-one. A combined 79.9 percent of his offensive possessions come from rolls, spot-ups, cuts, transition and putbacks, per Synergy Sports Technology.
Atlanta could plug this hole with Georgia's Anthony Edwards, who ranks in the 86th percentile out of isolation and the 91st percentile as a pick-and-roll passer (points per possession). He can generate offense from nothing with a special skill package for separating into blow-by drives, step-backs and pull-up threes.
LaMelo Ball wouldn't fit as cleanly, but he's also in the mix for the No. 1 pick, and he'd take pressure off Young with his ball-handling and playmaking. Young is shooting 46.4 percent off the catch in the half court (98th percentile on spot-ups), which is also an encouraging stat when considering his possible fit with Ball.
Deni Avdija would also work based on his long-term potential and offensive versatility as a scorer and passer.
A sleeper option for Atlanta is North Carolina's Cole Anthony, who is starting to lose appeal as a lead decision-maker but continues to pump in 19.5 points per game and show he can create and make shots from all over. He also possesses a strong enough mix of size (6'3", 190 lbs), length (6'3½" wingspan) and athleticism for defending slightly taller 2-guards.
Biggest need: Two-way forwards
For the foreseeable future, the Minnesota Timberwolves will be built around Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell, star offensive players. The front office must plug the holes with the right pieces. Ideally, those role players will shoot and defend.
The team ranks 29th in three-point percentage and 18th in defensive efficiency. Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie on the wings won't be enough to elevate the core.
Anthony Edwards figures to be a target for Minnesota, mostly because of his star potential in a class lacking obvious stars. But also because of his shot-making and defensive tools.
Compared to former Timberwolf Andrew Wiggins during his one year at Kansas, Edwards already has 17 more threes and 21 more assists in nine fewer games. He'll enter the league a sharper shooter and passer. And though Edwards' defensive effort and basketball IQ need work, Minnesota's coaching staff would have exciting tools (6'5", 225 lbs) and quickness to work with for development.
Deni Avdija also jumps out as a fit, assuming his shooting will continue to improve. His identity is built around versatility, but he's making 38.7 percent of his threes in the Euroleague and Israeli BSL. And at 6'8", he possesses an encouraging mix of quickness, toughness and anticipation.
Isaac Okoro will also deserve serious consideration, even though his jumper isn't on par with Edwards' or Avdija's. Arguably the draft's top defender, he is converting 60.2 percent of his twos and consistently impacting games with smart plays and hustle.
Florida State three-and-D specialist Devin Vassell would be a sleeper option and puzzle-piece fit, though it may make more sense for Minnesota to trade down depending on where it winds up in the lottery. The breakout sophomore is hitting 41.8 percent of his threes while registering a 2.8 steal percentage and 4.6 block percentage.
New York Knicks
Biggest need: Franchise point guard
Unsurprisingly, the New York Knicks rank in the bottom three in assists per game, secondary assists and assist points created. Talent is the obvious answer for the team's biggest need, but when they're on the clock, the Knicks will be hoping for the best player available to be a point guard.
They've actually shied away from drafting one over the years, except in 2017 with Frank Ntilikina. Acquiring previous lottery picks—Dennis Smith Jr., Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Burke—in hopes that they'd thrive with new scenery hasn't worked. The team's other options for finding a point guard this summer include offering Fred VanVleet a monster contract or attempting at trading for backups with upside, such as Dennis Schroder or Aaron Holiday.
Otherwise, expected president Leon Rose or general manager Scott Perry will need to find a point guard in the draft. And there should be plenty to choose from.
LaMelo Ball stands out as target No. 1. Playmaking is his bread and butter, and given his 6'7" size, passing skills and production overseas, it's nearly a lock to carry over. But there is also untapped scoring potential tied to his dribble creativity, advanced floater and layup package and confident shot-making.
Tyrese Haliburton, a limited athlete, doesn't offer the same scoring upside, but he's an equally gifted distributor and a better decision-maker and shooter.
Cole Anthony will presumably be a major talking point inside the New York front office given his genes as well as his polarizing play at North Carolina, where he's averaging 19.5 points per game on 35.9 percent shooting with 57 assists to 53 turnovers. He's a brand name with star potential, but his inefficiency and shoot-before-dish approach may turn off some within the Knicks organization.
Killian Hayes is the sleeper option who's been similarly productive in Europe as an 18-year-old scorer and passer compared to the top NCAA options (18.8 points and 8.7 assists per 40 minutes, 60.5 true shooting percentage). But he's also been more efficient than everyone except Haliburton.
Biggest need: Franchise cornerstone or cornerstone point guard
The Detroit Pistons won't be worrying about filling needs in the 2020 draft. It wouldn't hurt to find a point guard, but Reggie Jackson's departure shouldn't lead to any extra pressure to select one.
There isn't a sure-thing cornerstone starter on the roster, including Blake Griffin, who turns 31 in March and is no longer on the same timeline to win as the franchise's core pieces of Sekou Doumbouya, Luke Kennard and Svi Mykhailiuk.
Best player available should be the only criteria for a team that traded Andre Drummond and could easily plummet to the NBA's bottom and become one of the three teams with a 14 percent chance of winning the lottery.
LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards jump out as obvious guard targets. Killian Hayes, 18, is right behind them following his efficient, breakout season running a team in Germany and the Euroleague.
Cole Anthony would give Detroit a new lead scorer right away. And given how weak the Pistons are offensively across the lineup (excluding Griffin), they could favor Anthony's ability to create offense and make shots.
Or Detroit could target a replacement for Drummond in anchors James Wiseman or Onyeka Okongwu. Whomever the Pistons draft will, naturally, fill a need.
Biggest need: Offensive efficiency
Staying healthy is a need for the Chicago Bulls. It's also worth having a conversation about whether this mix of talent is worth going all-in on given the team's lack of success over the past few seasons plus the fact that Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen need new contracts for 2021-22.
Though Porter has played only nine games, and Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. have been out since January, the Bulls have had a bottom-five offense since 2017-18. They need to find a prospect who excels at making the game easier for others or scores with efficiency.
There will be plenty of debate about LaMelo Ball's fit in Chicago if the Bulls steal a top-three pick. He could be best in the class at setting up teammates for good looks off transition, ball screens and penetration. But he's also most effective with the ball in his hands, as is Zach LaVine, and LaMelo isn't likely to convert shots at a good rate over his first few years.
On paper, no guard fits better than Tyrese Haliburton, who was averaging 6.5 assists per game while shooting 59.2 percent from two, 41.9 percent from three and 82.2 percent on free-throws before a wrist injury. With 6'5" size to play 2-guard, he also generates 1.4 points per possession as a spot-up player (99th percentile), making him a versatile fit next to LaVine.
I have Killian Hayes as the better prospect in a vacuum, however, being that he's 18, ranks third in the EuroCup in assists and has more scoring potential tied to his expanding shot-creation and wiggle off the dribble. Early, the Bulls could let him play to his strengths as a playmaker while he works on his jumper.
If Chicago is hesitant about adding another rookie guard, the Bulls, 24th in the league in three-point percentage, should look at wings with shot-making potential. Deni Avdija has it, though it may take longer to reach. Otherwise, he's been an efficient scorer overseas, playing on and off the ball. Sleeper or trade-down options include Florida State's Devin Vassell or Vanderbilt's Aaron Nesmith, who shot 52.2 percent on 8.2 three-point attempts per game before a foot injury.
Though Carter is still a key part of the future in Chicago, the Bulls could consider Onyeka Okongwu if he's available. The USC center has blossomed into an efficient post player (95th percentile) and finisher (65.4 percent). The Bulls are also tied for 28th in blocks per game and rank 26th in defensive field-goal percentage inside six feet. Okongwu's aggressiveness, athleticism and strength should help increase the team's rim protection and easy baskets.
Biggest need: Franchise cornerstone or defensive star
If the Charlotte Hornets land one of the top few picks, they shouldn't worry about needs. The roster lacks upside, and its long-term keepers are interchangeable and accommodating.
If the Hornets see a star at the top of the draft, even if it's another guard such as LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards, they shouldn't hesitate because of Terry Rozier and Devonte' Graham. Rozier will only have two seasons remaining on his deal after this one, and in that time, the Hornets will presumably still be rebuilding. Ball or Edwards could blow up in NBA season No. 3 to replace Rozier.
Otherwise, Charlotte should be thinking defense, either for the perimeter or interior. P.J. Washington and Miles Bridges won't move the needle for the team's 24th-ranked defensive efficiency.
The Hornets would presumably favor a rim protector such as James Wiseman or Onyeka Okongwu. Wiseman isn't as instinctive, but at 7'1" with a 7'6" wingspan, he might not need to be. Okongwu's measurables aren't as impressive, but he's blocking 2.9 shots per game, tapping into his exceptional mix of quick feet, bounce and energy.
As long as Washington continues to make strides as a shooter, Wiseman or Okongwu should fit alongside him at the 5.
Biggest need: Franchise cornerstone or defensive star
The point guard debate is bound to come up during the Washington Wizards' predraft process. It's a tough call with John Wall missing the season because of an Achilles injury, uncertainty over his effectiveness post-injury and over $132.9 million owed to him until 2022-23.
Assuming he's peaked and it's only downhill from here, the Wizards should be thinking about taking the best player available—even if it's another lead ball-handler.
Ideally, the best player available to the Wizards will specialize in defense. They rank 29th in defensive efficiency, and though Rui Hachimura's future appears promising, he is a one-way player who will need defensive support around him.
Onyeka Okongwu would give the Wizards a needed rim protector at the 5. Isaac Okoro could be their lockdown stopper on the wing.
Tyrese Haliburton (2.5 steals per game) could be the top defensive guard worth considering. A pass-first facilitator who can catch and shoot, he'd bring a different skill set compared to Wall.
Otherwise, Cole Anthony makes sense, either as the long-term replacement starter or a microwave scorer to use off the bench until Wall wears down. He'd benefit from the attention Bradley Beal draws as well as the two-time All-Star's playmaking skills, as Anthony needs to improve his own.
Biggest need: Winning players with intangibles
The Phoenix Suns offense has jumped to No. 16 from No. 28 a year ago. Spread credit to Ricky Rubio's arrival, Kelly Oubre Jr.'s career season, new coach Monty Williams, general manager James Jones and star player Devin Booker. Phoenix's defensive efficiency has also risen to No. 16 from No. 29—yet the team still entered the All-Star break with a losing record.
The Suns should be looking for winning players in the draft—not necessarily flashy names or stat lines.
Isaac Okoro jumps out as a high-intangible forward who could help unlock the talent on the roster. An efficient scorer and plus passer with obvious defensive toughness, he is the Marcus Smart or Draymond Green type the Suns are missing. The fact that he's missed Auburn's last two games with a hamstring injury and that the Tigers lost both to unranked opponents speaks to his impact.
Another interesting option could be Tyrese Haliburton, a special passer and expert decision-maker who'd been shooting 41.9 percent from three before injuring his wrist. The Suns' pick-and-roll ball-handlers also generate just 0.8 points per possession, the sixth-fewest in the league. Phoenix could use Haliburton to set up teammates, but the 6'5" guard also ranks in the 99th percentile out of spot-ups and should be able to work off the ball.
Memphis' Precious Achiuwa could also be a backup target for his mix of 6'9" size, wing-like mobility, high effort and defensive versatility, which translates to 15.4 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals per game.
Biggest need: Defensive star
Injuries to De'Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes have kept the Sacramento Kings from building momentum and chemistry. Still, at full strength, the lineup needs an additional defensive presence, either around the perimeter or basket.
Isaac Okoro would be the ultimate target but may require a top-five pick. He'd give the lineup an interchangeable forward and versatile defender who makes winning plays over flashy stat lines.
If the Kings pick later in the lottery, Florida State's Devin Vassell and Arizona's Josh Green are wings to think about, with Vassell a textbook three-and-D small forward and Green an elite-level athlete who uses his quickness and explosiveness for transition scoring and perimeter defense.
Onyeka Okongwu could protect the rim next to Bagley, and Sacramento could move Holmes to an energizer bench role.
New Orleans Pelicans
Biggest need: Shooting and defense
For the 2020 draft, the New Orleans Pelicans will be thinking about how to optimize Zion Williamson and a lineup with him, Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball.
Whomever they consider should add value defensively since it doesn't appear Williamson will early on; the Pelicans are tied for 21st in defensive efficiency. The frontcourt player alongside him should help protect the rim or keep opponents from getting there.
But playing Williamson next to a shooting big man could make the game even easier for him than it already looks.
Ideally, the Pelicans will be able to draft a stretch forward or center who can guard the perimeter or protect the rim. There just aren't many prospects who check those boxes. The 6'8" Deni Avdija would be a solid fit as a small-ball 4 who can spot up from three and defend 3s and 4s.
Maryland's Jalen Smith should be rising with his breakout play in 2020. He's on pace to become one of five players (since at least 1992-93) to average at least 15 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and one three-pointer per game.
Aleksej Pokusevski may be a few years away, but scouts see a sleeper after the 7'0" center averaged 1.5 threes, 4.0 blocks and 3.7 assists per game at the U18 European Championships in the summer. After playing in Greece's second division, he resurfaced for Olympiacos in the Euroleague on Thursday.
San Antonio Spurs
Biggest need: Best player available or playmaker
Next season will be contract years for DeMar DeRozan (player option) and LaMarcus Aldridge, who'll turn 35 in July. The San Antonio Spurs may have no choice but to think about rebuilding, which would put them in best-player-available mode come draft time.
Dejounte Murray looks like a long-term piece, but he has his flaws, though he can also be used in different ways. Otherwise, San Antonio has a handful of promising young role players in Derrick White, Luka Samanic, Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker IV. But there still aren't any obvious trajectories or certainties regarding their outlooks and upsides.
Needs and positions won't matter to the Spurs late in the lottery, as they'll presumably just be hoping for a player to slip. Someone usually does—Tyler Herro in 2019, Michael Porter Jr. in 2018, Donovan Mitchell and Bam Adebayo in 2017, Domantas Sabonis in 2016, Devin Booker in 2015, Zach LaVine in 2014 and Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2013.
The Spurs should be waiting to scoop up the best player available. If none stand out and needs come into play, Killian Hayes, Tyrese Haliburton and Nico Mannion could be interesting for their playmaking, which Murray only offers so much of.
San Antonio could also look to add to its wing collection and draft three-and-D specialist Devin Vassell, sharpshooter Aaron Nesmith or combo forward Jaden McDaniels, who has special talent with unique skills and a need for discipline, something coach Gregg Popovich could provide.
Portland Trail Blazers
Biggest need: Passing and defense
The Portland Trail Blazers must figure out what changes or additions can prevent them from wasting another season or more of Damian Lillard's prime. Jusuf Nurkic was healthy for most of last year's 53-win campaign, but his absence isn't why Portland is 26th in defensive efficiency.
The Blazers also rank last in the NBA in assists, potential assists and assist points created. It wouldn't hurt for Portland to add playmaking wings, and maybe there is too much pressure on Lillard and CJ McCollum to combine for 50 points per game.
The eventual (but uncertain) returns of Nurkic and Rodney Hood will help. In the meantime, Portland should be looking for forwards who can pass and defend. Carmelo Anthony doesn't add much in either department. But Isaac Okoro does and could help right away. He pops as an obvious target to select or trade up for. He'd give the lineup a versatile pressure defender plus all the intangibles—high IQ, toughness, unselfishness, effort—a team would want in a role player.
Devin Vassell would bring needed three-and-D skills to a wing spot. Josh Green projects as one of the draft's quickest athletes and defenders who has owned a supporting role after winning the GEICO Nationals with IMG Academy.