Every Team's Biggest Need in 2020 NBA Draft

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 17, 2020

Every Team's Biggest Need in 2020 NBA Draft

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    Everyone who looks at the 2020 NBA draft board will see something different.

    That's just as well since the actual participants in the selection process are mostly all shopping for different things.

    Sure, they'll all say they follow the best-player-available principle, and that's probably true to some degree. But team needs help shape draft boards. In some cases, they might determine them entirely.

    Whether clubs consider their roster construction or not, we know that all 30 of them have at least one imperfection they could address. By examining everything from statistical production to contract situations, we have identified each team's biggest need ahead of the 2020 draft.

Atlanta Hawks: Shot-Creator

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    The Atlanta Hawks offense can produce pyrotechnics when following Trae Young's lead. It turns out having a scoring guard with limitless shooting range, yo-yo handles and uncanny court vision is kind of a big deal.

    But the non-Young portion of this offense should never be digested on an empty stomach. This unit barely functions without him (111.1 offensive rating with him, 95.5 when he sits).

    That speaks to some clear depth concerns, but it also highlights the need for a second initiator. From John Collins and Kevin Huerter to De'Andre Hunter and Clint Capela, nearly everyone else on this roster is best off the catch.

    This group needs another self-sufficient scorer. Anthony Edwards would be a dream get, but if he's off the board once Atlanta is on the clock, the Hawks might consider grabbing LaMelo Ball and figuring out how to disperse the touches down the road.

Boston Celtics: Glass-Cleaner

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    You know the broken record that keeps spinning about how the Boston Celtics should upgrade their center spot? Well, surprise, surprise: Doing nothing didn't actually solve the issue.

    The Shamrocks might be stronger in the middle than initially expected—Robert Williams III could be all kinds of fun in the future—but the 5 remains the soft spot on this roster. It might get even lighter this summer as Enes Kanter holds a $5 million player option for next season.

    Boston grades out fine on the glass (11th in rebounding percentage), but an uptick on the defensive boards (14th) would make this unit better prepared to close out possessions. When swingman Jayson Tatum is vying for the team lead in rebounds (7.1, trailing only Kanter's 7.7), that indicates a shortcoming somewhere else.

    The C's should have three first-rounders in this drafttheir own, the Memphis Grizzlies' (top-six protected) and the Milwaukee Bucks' (top-seven protected)so they'll have options to address this void. Washington's Isaiah Stewart and Arizona's Zeke Nnaji could be worth a mid-to-late first-round investment.

Brooklyn Nets: Sharpshooter

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    It's possible the top two snipers on next season's Brooklyn Nets are Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. That speaks to their transcendent talents, but it also does nothing to help keep the floor spaced for their attacks.

    The 5 spot can't scratch that itch, regardless of whether Jarrett Allen or DeAndre Jordan is manning the middle. Caris LeVert is enjoying a career campaign from distance (38.1 percent), but he won't be much help if he reverts back to his previous form (32.9 percent his first three seasons). Joe Harris could be a huge help, but he's an unrestricted free agent, and his bank account is about to burst.

    Even if Harris opts for another go-round, which he says is his preference, the Nets should consider doubling down on sharpshooters. Nothing allows an offensive star to shine brighter than the kind of three-point specialists who demand their own level of defensive attention.

    The Nets own the Philadelphia 76ers' first-rounder (lottery protected), so they'll get at least one crack at adding a marksman. If Villanova's Saddiq Bey is available, he offers significant three-and-D potential.

Charlotte Hornets: Star Potential

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    The post-Kemba Walker era for the Charlotte Hornets is both better than expected and exactly what many imagined. We'll explain.

    On the plus side, Devonte' Graham is the runaway winner of the least-expected-18-point-scorer award. Terry Rozier transformed from maybe the offseason's biggest overpay to arguably justifying his three-year, $56.7 million pact. Miles Bridges' aerial antics keep the highlight reels buzzing. PJ Washington typically touches most categories on the stat sheet.

    So, where's the problem?

    Well, we can't help but ask a different question: Where's the future star? Graham is a 36.0 percent shooter since the start of December. Rozier lands outside the top 300 in real plus-minus (335th to be exact, per ESPN). Bridges and Washington could have trouble breaking through their glue-guy ceilings.

    The Hornets should swing big for upside, and at this stage of their rebuild, team needs shouldn't even enter the equation. No matter how the draft board is built in Buzz City, the best player available is the right choice for this club.

Chicago Bulls: Wing Depth

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    Otto Porter Jr. has made 14 appearances this season. He played 56 games last year. Yet, he's the most stable option in the Chicago Bulls' wing collectionand it's not at all close.

    Looking at this roster, it's not the disaster the club's 22-43 record would have you think. But when injuries ravage the rotation, the healthy players underperform and the wing spots are woefully thin, well, here you are.

    The Bulls' biggest need might be a franchise player, but if that player exists in this drafta massive ifhe won't land in their draft range without some major lottery luck. While we'd still advise swinging for the fences, Chicago needs to ensure this selection connects.

    Guards dominate the top of most mock drafts, but a pair of lottery-level forwards should catch Chicago's eye: Israel's Deni Avdija and Auburn's Isaac Okoro. The former offers substantial versatility on offense, while the latter will arrive with advanced defensive instincts. Either could be a need-filler right where the Bulls need the biggest lift.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Defense

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    The Cleveland Cavaliers are brutal on defense. They're so generous, in fact, they're almost worse than—wait for it—last season's Cavs.

    That's atrocious. Last season's squad had the Association's worst defense ever. This year's group is all of two spots ahead.

    And it's not like you can hang this deficiency on any single player, either. Collin Sexton (423rd), Kevin Porter Jr. (482nd) and Darius Garland (489th) all rank outside the top 400 in defensive real plus-minus. That same trio might also be Cleveland's most important core for its post-LeBron James rebuild.

    Stoppers of all sizes are worth considering, including Memphis center James Wiseman, especially if the Cavs decide Andre Drummond isn't part of their long-term plans.

Dallas Mavericks: Win-Now Depth

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    What did Mark Cuban do to get in the good graces of the basketball gods? Between the 2018 draft-night deal for Luka Doncic and the Jan. 2019 blockbuster move for Kristaps Porzingis, the Dallas Mavericks effectively traded their way into title contention.

    With both players on the right side of 25, it feels like their championship window could be open indefinitely.  But with the most efficient offense in NBA history, Dallas should narrow its focus to the near future. Since there are already two stars on the roster, this team can afford to bypass big-upside swings and opt for solid contact on a usable depth piece instead.

    The Mavs can go almost any direction here.

    They could use a third scorer and outside gunner if they think Tim Hardaway Jr. ($19 million player option) is headed elsewhere. They could also chase a perimeter stopper—they were often mentioned in the Andre Iguodala sweepstakes—or search for more stability at center given Willie Cauley-Stein's $2.3 million player option and Dwight Powell's ruptured Achilles.

    That's assuming they actually stay in the draft, of course. Given their proximity to the championship hunt, maybe they even package their pickstheir own first and the Golden State Warriors' second-rounderfor a more proven commodity. As long as they exit the draft with at least one rotation player for next season, they will have done their job.

Denver Nuggets: Frontcourt Reinforcements

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    The Denver Nuggets' rainy-day funds are drying up.

    With Jamal Murray's max extension kicking in next season, the Nuggets will have $91.4 million tied up between him, Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris and Will Barton alone. If everything goes according to plan, they'll have to shell out major money to Michael Porter Jr. before some of these colossal contracts come off the books, too.

    That has already created some difficult decisions, like the deadline deal that shipped Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez out of town. It won't get any easier this summer when Denver is likely forced to choose between Paul Millsap (unrestricted free agent) and Jerami Grant ($9.3 million player option). Perimeter stopper Torrey Craig is ticketed for restricted free agency, too.

    The Nuggets can't afford to keep everyone, so they'll be seeking out a cost-effective replacement during the annual talent grab. The ideal option is probably a forward with some defensive versatility, potentially putting Arizona's Josh Green or Florida State's Patrick Williams in the crosshairs.

Detroit Pistons: (Re)Building Blocks

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    Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson are gone. Blake Griffin is a frighteningly expensive question mark. Derrick Rose is a 31-year-old who has already missed double-digit games for the ninth consecutive season.

    Some teams get trapped fighting the current without a paddle. The Detroit Pistons don't even have a boat right now.

    "It's not fun," Pistons head coach Dwane Casey said, per John Niyo of the Detroit News. "It's painful. It's stressful. As a coach, you want to go out there and win every game. But at the end of the night, after you get the frustration out of your system, reality sets in and you understand what you're fighting with."

    Pistons fans should keep both eyes glued to the future since an overhaul of this magnitude can take years to come together. But hey, at least the club picked something other than a dreary existence in the NBA's midsection.

    The draft is the first shot at laying the foundation for whatever is next. As long as Detroit doesn't select the next Darko Milicic—the franchise's only top-five pick since Grant Hill in 1994—it will start putting pieces in place for this massive reconstruction effort.

Golden State Warriors: Size

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    The Golden State Warriors went from annual championship chases to racing for the bottom. But assuming Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are all good to go for next season, this club should shift right back into contention mode.

    Life in this light-years world is pretty sweet, right?

    With the expectation to compete at the highest level, Golden State could dangle its first-round pickperhaps packaged with second-rounders from the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazzfor a win-now mega-trade. But if the right player isn't available (or falls outside the price range), then the Dubs could target a potential starter at the center spot.

    Marquese Chriss has only a partial guarantee for next season. Kevon Looney has a roster spot, but who knows what he can contribute since he can't shake his nagging injury issues. While the Warriors' best basketball has often come without a traditional center, they might be thinking big on draft night with either Wiseman or Dayton's Obi Toppin.

Houston Rockets: A Pick

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    The Houston Rockets live by the "let if fly" mentality, so naturally, they have already taken their shot with regard to the 2020 draft.

    They moved their first-round pick in the four-team deadline deal that brought Robert Covington to Space City. Their second-rounder was gone well before that. While they technically own the Memphis Grizzlies' second-rounder, they only collect on that debt if the selection lands at selection No. 56 or later (and that ain't happening).

    That doesn't guarantee a quiet draft night, of course. Teams are always wheeling and dealing during the event, and Houston is as active as anyone.

    If the Rockets can get back into the draftthey need cheap contributors as much as anyone with James Harden and Russell Westbrook collecting major coin—we'll boldly predict they'll target a shooter. After all, the top three teams all-time in three-point attempts are last season's Rockets, this season's Rockets and the 2017-18 Rockets.

Indiana Pacers: Three-Point Sniper

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    Barring a trade, the Indiana Pacers are probably throwing a dart on draft night. That's because their first-round pick is likely ticketed to the Milwaukee Bucks (lottery protected), leaving only their second-rounder in hand (provided its Nos. 45-60 pick protection keeps it away from the Nets).

    Since the success rate dwindles that late in the draft, why not target a specialist? If a player arrives with an NBA-ready skill, it's easier to picture him working out over someone with a handful of good-not-great attributes.

    Plus, this offense could use more breathing room.

    Indiana ranks 29th in three-pointers (10.0 per game) and 30th in long-range attempts (27.5). Justin Holiday and Doug McDermott do the heaviest lifting, sharing the team lead with 1.9 makes per night. Holiday is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and McDermott will be next year. This issue could worsen before it improves if not addressed this offseason.

    This is such a late selection that it's probably not worth projecting which shooters would still be available, so just expect the Pacers to hover around any perimeter-oriented wings on the board.

Los Angeles Clippers: Frontcourt Depth

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    The Los Angeles Clippers already coughed up their first-rounder in the deadline deal for Marcus Morris Sr. They still have their second, but it won't come until the mid- or late 50s.

    Maybe that eliminates the possibility of finding a rotation player. Still, Los Angeles will take its shot on a frontcourt player to either strengthen what it has or perhaps replace what it might lose.

    Morris and Montrezl Harrell are both heading into unrestricted free agency. JaMychal Green could join them by declining his $5 million player option. Between Rodney McGruder's disappointing first season with the Clips and rookie Mfiondu Kabengele's need for more seasoning, there aren't great in-house options to replace any of the upcoming free agents.

    Again, adding a late second-rounder probably doesn't change that, but maybe the Clippers can strike gold. If they could deepen the wing or bulk up the 5 spot, they'll have quietly aced their draft.

Los Angeles Lakers: Playmaker

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    When the Los Angeles Lakers self-assessed near the midseason point, they saw an opportunity for improvement in the backcourt.

    "Whatever they can pull together, they're going to try to get help at the point guard spot," a league executive told Heavy.com's Sean Deveney.

    Reinforcements never arrived, though, leaving the Lakers overly reliant on LeBron James to handle all their playmaking duties. The 35-year-old has responded with a league-leading (and career-best) 10.6 assists per game, but the only other players dropping even two dimes per night are Rajon Rondo and Anthony Davis.

    Considering Rondo has the rotation's worst net rating differential (plus-1.4 with him, plus-9.5 without), L.A. needs an alternative.

    While the Lakers could take the best-player-available route—or perhaps target a center depending on their plans with Dwight Howard (free agent) and JaVale McGee ($4.2 million player option)—snagging a table-setter offers the highest impact. It not only increases the offense's effectiveness, but it could also ease the burden on the aging King.

    Arizona's Nico Mannion would be a great get if he slides down the board, and Duke's Tre Jones is another natural target.

Memphis Grizzlies: Two-Way Wing

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    The Memphis Grizzlies' trajectory looks like the initial ascent of a roller coaster—only minus the imminent drop. Their under-25 nucleus of Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke and Dillon Brooks is both playoff-ready now and potentially championship-level down the road.

    But the puzzle looks incomplete on the wing. As fun as Josh Jackson's redemption tour has been, it says plenty about this position group that he could walk out of the G League and into a 20-minutes-per-night role in Memphis. And while we'd like to share in Beale Street's belief in Justise Winslow, he's only played 11 games this season—and made just 18 appearances in 2016-17.

    Maybe one of those players answers the call. But at this point, Memphis should throw as much as possible at the wall and see what sticks.

    Options are slim on draft night since the Grizzlies owe their first-rounder to the Celtics and don't have their second-rounder. But Memphis does have the Phoenix Suns' second-rounder, which could land in the late 30s. That might be in the range of Louisville's Jordan Nwora, Florida's Scottie Lewis or Syracuse's Elijah Hughes.

Miami Heat: Scoring Forward

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    The best offensive possessions for the Miami Heat see the ball flying between their abundance of playmakers and landing in prime scoring position with an open sniper or an unattended cutter. But the worst ones occur when ball movement can't break down a defense and players are forced to freelance.

    Only nine teams average fewer isolation points per game than Miami's 4.8. The Heat have five players who average 10-plus minutes and have run at least 10 isolation possessions; only Goran Dragic (a 33-year-old free-agent-to-be) ranks above the 68th percentile.

    Jimmy Butler is the default closer for this club, but he's hitting an anemic 34.0 percent of his jump shots. Bam Adebayo is the other All-Star, but he's a pass-first offensive player who has struggled to expand his range. Kendrick Nunn doesn't hesitate to call his own number, but he's only in the 33rd percentile of isolation scorers.

    Miami needs another shot-creator, especially if it plans to move on from Dragic. A stretch forward might top the wish list since the Heat couldn't close the deal for Danilo Gallinari at the deadline. That won't be easy to find with a mid-20s pick, but maybe Villanova's Saddiq Bey finds his way to South Beach.

Milwaukee Bucks: Backcourt Shooting

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    The Milwaukee Bucks are like your friend who has everything. Wish lists are tough to form, and they require some nit-picking in the process.

    But all rosters can be improved, even one speeding toward an .800-plus winning percentage. The Bucks are good-to-great in a lot of different areas, but their backcourt shooting could be better.

    Eric Bledsoe has never been a spacer. Wesley Matthews can be streaky from deep, and he's only back next season if he exercises his $2.7 million player option. George Hill is a splasher, but the Bucks probably shouldn't bank on another 48.0 percent success rate. Donte DiVincenzo might be more good than great, which matters when Milwaukee already isn't getting spacing from Giannis Antetokounmpo or (this season) Brook Lopez.

    There is no such thing as too much shooting in a Mike Budenholzer offense, and even if there were, the Bucks would be in no danger of bumping into that territory. They should spend the Indiana Pacers' first-rounder (acquired in the Malcolm Brogdon sign-and-trade) on a marksman, maybe by betting big on Texas Tech's Jahmi'us Ramsey.

MInnesota Timberwolves: Defensive Versatility

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    The Karl-Anthony Towns-D'Angelo Russell connection ensures the Minnesota Timberwolves will soon be intimately familiar with fire.

    They'll turn the offensive end into a fireworks extravaganza, but the defensive side might spark nightly dumpster fires.

    Minnesota needs as many malleable stoppers between those two as possible. They have a couple in Josh Okogie and Jarrett Culver—maybe Malik Beasley turns the corner one of these days, too—but that's not nearly enough to plug the many leaks this group will encounter.

    Auburn's Isaac Okoro makes a lot of sense for this roster, provided the draft value lines up. The Wolves might find themselves selecting too early to take him, but that could create a trade-down scenario in which they add a defensive Swiss Army knife and collect another asset.

New Orleans Pelicans: Three-Point Threats

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    Remember Zion Williamson's 4-of-4 perimeter showing in his NBA debut? Well, he's just 2-of-9 from distance since.

    This isn't meant to pile on Zion, by the way. Considering everything he's doing for the New Orleans Pelicans, highlighting his lack of three-point volume is like staring at a Pablo Picasso masterpiece and complaining about the signature.

    But when the Pels already aren't getting shooting from the 5 spot—no matter if Derrick Favors or Jaxson Hayes mans the middle—it's worth noting how little Williamson emphasizes that part of his game.

    Having two non-spacers is tough to work around, but what if New Orleans has even fewer?

    Jrue Holiday is an average outside shooter. Prior to this season, you wouldn't have even characterized Brandon Ingram or Lonzo Ball as mediocre. New Orleans could lose two spacing specialists this summer—E'Twaun Moore will be a free agent, and Darius Miller's contract is nonguaranteed—and 35-year-old JJ Redick only has so much left in the tank.

    Since this roster offers positional versatility at most spots, shooters of all sizes could be on the radar. The Pels could gamble on a stretch big like Olympiacos' Aleksej Pokusevski, or perhaps they'll lock in on a wing shooter like Florida State's Devin Vassell or Vanderbilt's Aaron Nesmith.

New York Knicks: Franchise Point Guard

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    This must feel like Groundhog Day for New York Knicks fans. They seemingly have a perennial itch for point guard upgrades, and this current crop of Elfrid Payton, Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Ntilikina isn't cutting it.

    "In a league dominated by electrifying, tantalizing point guard play, the Knicks lack an answer at the most important position, and are torched by the great and the pretty-good alike," Kristian Winfield wrote for the New York Daily News. "... It's a point guard league, and the Knicks frequently find themselves on the receiving end of all that point guard talent."

    But maybe the stars are finally aligning for this forlorn franchise. They'll have an early selection (tied for fifth-worst in winning percentage), and this draft class is strongest at the point guard spot.

    LaMelo Ball would be fascinating in the Empire State. North Carolina's Cole Anthony might be a big-time scorer. Ratiopharm Ulm's Killian Hayes and Iowa State's Tyrese Haliburton are natural table-setters. The Knicks have options to shape this position however they see fit.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Wing Scoring

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    Is the Oklahoma City Thunder's three-point guard lineup secretly the NBA's cheat code? Over the 401 minutes Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder have played together, OKC has blitzed opponents by a whopping 28.6 points per 100 possessions.

    Could this be how basketball looks in the future? Anything is possible. But this feels more like head coach Billy Donovan simply discovered this roster's greatest strength. It won't stay that way forever. Paul turns 35 in May. Schroder is unsigned past next season. This is a temporary twist for a franchise still plotting its long-term post-Russell Westbrook plans.

    Assuming OKC eventually veers back to a more traditional setup—there's a chance the three-guard lineup goes horribly wrong in the postseason—it will need wings who present some level of scoring threat. The closest player to that description now is rookie Luguentz Dort, who owns a two-way contract, averages 6.2 points per game and has a 41.4/30.1/77.8 shooting slash.

    The Thunder need more offensive oomph than Dort, Hamidou Diallo, Abdel Nader, Darius Bazley and Terrance Ferguson can offer. They won't draft until late in the first round—they own the Nuggets' pick, but their own goes to the Philadelphia 76ers—where they might be drawn to Louisville's Jordan Nwora or Kansas' Ochai Agbaji.

Orlando Magic: Offense

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    The Orlando Magic have raced to fill their roster with length, athleticism and defensive versatility. Somewhere along the line, they should have added point production to their target list.

    This is an offensively challenged club from top to bottom, and the situation will only worsen if Evan Fournier declines his $17.2 million player option and takes his 18.8 points per game elsewhere. The Magic rank 24th in offensive efficiency, and that might be the unit's best stat. Orlando is 25th in three-point percentage and 27th in both field-goal percentage and points per game.

    Clearly, the Magic are banking their future success on defense, and that's working to some extent. They have the Association's 10th-best defensive rating and allow the fourth-fewest points per game.

    But the stoppers aren't enough to carry this squad, and it's too unbalanced to compete for anything of substance. The Magic must seek out more scoring on draft night, preferably along the wings. If Barcelona's Leandro Bolmaro is on the board, they might spend seconds on the clock before making their selection.

Philadelphia 76ers: Cheap Depth

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    What would you do with $131 million? Next season, the Sixers will spend it on the pictured quintet. And if Josh Richardson exercises his $11.6 million player option the following year, it will be even costlier for the 2021-22 campaign.

    We're free to debate whether it's money well spent. Philly's 13th-place ranking in net efficiency would suggest a resounding "No!" But this specific lineup of Richardson, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris and Al Horford owns a plus-8.5 net rating together. That's a really-good-to-great mark by any measure, so maybe the issue isn't this costly core, but rather how it's surrounded.

    Granted, there aren't many funds to work with, but that's where draft night must offer some relief. This roster is screaming for more contributors making rookie-scale money, especially if the switch never flips for 2018's No. 16 pick, Zhaire Smith.

    Positional needs shouldn't factor much into this discussion. The Sixers could use extra help at point guard or the wings, but as long as their draft pick can play (and shoot), that's the important part. Philly doesn't have enough avenues to improvement that it can afford to botch this one.

Phoenix Suns: Playmaker

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    The Phoenix Suns are sort of competitive, which surely sounds awful to most fan bases but might be a bit relieving for the diehards in the desert. The playoff drought is still approaching a full decade of existence, but the Suns are seeing progress where they need it the most (namely, from Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton).

    Ricky Rubio's arrival perked up what was the league's worst position group, and it's not hyperbolic to label his impact as enormous. Phoenix has fared 10.3 points better per 100 possessions with him than without; Booker has the rotation's next-biggest net rating differential at plus-6.6.

    That shows what competent point guard play can do for an offense, but the 29-year-old Rubio looks like only a stopgap solution. Booker (23) and Ayton (21) are still ascending, and they could use a floor general who better fits that timeline, especially since that youngster could grow behind Rubio for now and fill a third-playmaker void.

    Phoenix can only access the elite prospects by hitting the lottery jackpot, meaning it's more likely selecting from the second tier. Maybe that still leaves Cole Anthony or Killian Hayes in play. If not, Tyrese Haliburton and Nico Mannion are worth consideration.

Portland Trail Blazers: Wing Stopper

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    The Portland Trail Blazers of yesteryear filled their wings with defensively versatile forwards who splashed a few triples in between perimeter cold spells. Now, the Blazers have capable scorers in those spots, but the defense is a disaster.

    Want to know why Portland can't gain any traction in the Western Conference standings? Injuries are the obvious answer, and they've surely played a part. But the simple fact is it's hard to play winning basketball when you have the NBA's fourth-worst defense.

    "Our only chance in making up all this ground that we got to make up is to defend at a high level," Damian Lillard said, per Jamie Goldberg of the Oregonian. "We always find a way offensively. Somehow, we just get it done offensively, but it's not going to happen if we don't come with it defensively."

    Maybe Portland can make enough defensive stops to fight its way to the eighth seed, but roster improvements are needed for this team to reach its more significant goals. Portland should be stopper shopping at the draft, and Washington's Jaden McDaniels should hold obvious appeal.

Sacramento Kings: Wing Depth

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    Drafting for depth might be the least exciting way to handle a lottery pick. But remember, the Sacramento Kings thought they were past the point of needing more sizzle. This was supposed to be a leap year into the playoffs, and while that probably isn't materializing, there's enough young talent to think the postseason drought will snap sooner than later.

    So, rather than taking a home-run hack at the draft board, the Kings should focus on making contact. Maybe their single finds the gap and becomes an extra-base hit. Even if it doesn't, Sacramento can shore up a weakness behind Harrison Barnes on the wing.

    Kent Bazemore is a placeholder with a huge expiring salary. Justin James has given no indication he can handle a rotation role. Oh, and a major opening could develop if someone gives Bogdan Bogdanovic an offer sheet that exceeds Sacramento's comfort zone, or if Buddy Hield decides the reserve life isn't for him and demands a trade.

    For myriad reasons, then, the Kings need more points of optimism in between De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III (if he ever gets healthy). They'll surely take a long look at the Jaden McDaniels, Devin Vassell, Josh Green cluster of mid-first-round wings.

San Antonio Spurs: Scoring

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    If DeMar DeRozan and the San Antonio Spurs can't agree on an extension, the scoring swingman plans to decline his $27.7 million player option for next season, per Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes (h/t Paul Garcia of Project Spurs).

    That's a good-and-bad news development for the Alamo City. The good news is there are probably better ways for a likely lottery team to spend $27.7 million than on a 30-year-old non-shooting scorer. The bad news is there are no obvious internal candidates to replace his team-leading marks of 22.2 points and 5.6 assists per game.

    No matter what DeRozan decides, the Spurs must consider the state of their future offense. Their top-three scorers are on the wrong side of 30: DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills. All three could be off the roster by 2021, along with another double-digit-scoring 30-something, Rudy Gay.

    Because there's so little decided with San Antonio's future, the franchise can opt for the best-available scorer. Whether that's a big man like Obi Toppin or Aleksej Pokusevski or a perimeter player like RJ Hampton or Leandro Bolmaro, the Spurs can take the point production now and figure out where it fits later.

Toronto Raptors: Size

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    Big changes could be coming to the Toronto Raptors for the second straight season. One year after witnessing the departures of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green in free agency, the Raptors will now see Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet all hit the open market.

    It's tough to tell what will happen with VanVleet, who the Raptors presumably want to keep. He could be the most sought-after unrestricted free agent. It's easier to predict some adjustments to the frontcourt collection, especially since Chris Boucher is also up for grabs as a restricted free agent.

    Toronto will be in the market for a big man—and maybe more than one. It will have choices near the end of the opening round.

    Maryland's Jalen Smith offers an interesting mix of shot-blocking and three-point shooting. Washington's Isaiah Stewart and Arizona's Zeke Nnaji are interior energizers. Duke's Vernon Carey Jr. plays a throwback brand of basketball, but he can supply boards and close-range buckets for cheap.

Utah Jazz: Future Floor General

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    The Utah Jazz have all their building blocks in place, which is both exciting and nerve-racking.

    That means this core should have what it needs to contend for the crown. Mike Conley's individual numbers may not jump off the page, but when he's out there with Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O'Neale, Utah steamrolls opponents by 9.7 points per 100 possessions.

    But when you're this close to the mountaintop, the margin for error is gone and the potential for upgrades is minimal. The Jazz will only get so many cracks at improving their roster, especially if they retain unrestricted free agent (and offensive jolt) Jordan Clarkson. Grabbing a point guard who increases the depth now and perhaps grows into a starting role later is a calculated and cost-effective way to gain a minor upgrade.

    With Emmanuel Mudiay ticketed for unrestricted free agency, the backup lead-guard gig is open. The Jazz could target any number of players to fill it, including Tre Jones, Nico Mannion, ASVEL's Theo Maledon and Alabama's Kira Lewis Jr.

Washington Wizards: Interior Anchor

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    The Washington Wizards have lost 16 more games than they've won. Their defense is one of the worst we've ever seen. They still owe another three seasons of supermax money to John Wall, who hasn't suited up since Dec. 2018, turns 30 years old this September and is attempting to come back from a torn Achilles.

    This team probably isn't in a spot where it should fret over prospects' positions and potential fits. That said, there's a non-zero chance the Wizards have an above-average (or better) backcourt in Wall and Bradley Beal next season, and the guards could lead them to a postseason spot. That might make addressing a need at this draft worthwhile, provided the pick isn't too much of a reach.

    Washington needs more muscle in the middle. Thomas Bryant can score in a multitude of ways, but he's unreliable as a rebounder, isn't much of a shot-blocker and has had trouble shaking the injury bug. Ian Mahinmi was overpaid throughout his tenure in the District, and his $15.5 million salary mercifully comes off the books this summer. Moritz Wagner has 30 career blocks in 80 games; he's not on this team for defense.

    If the value allows it, the Wizards should pounce on an athletic post player. James Wiseman would be a dream get, but USC's Onyeka Okongwu isn't a bad consolation prize at all. His length and athleticism scream major potential as an above-the-rim finisher and defensive anchor.


    All stats, unless otherwise noted, courtesy of NBA.com and Basketball Reference and accurate through games played March 10.

    Zach Buckley covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @ZachBuckleyNBA.