The line between rebuilding teams and teams who find themselves at the bottom of the standings has never been blurrier. The Golden State Warriors surely aren't rebuilding—Klay Thompson has missed the entirety of the season and Stephen Curry has missed most of it. Next season, they'll be right back in the playoff hunt.
And are the Minnesota Timberwolves really in a full rebuild? Most true rebuilding teams would love for a Big Two of Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell.
There are teams in the lottery that are very obviously rebuilding, though, and even in a weak draft, there are prospects capable of filling their needs. So let's play matchmaker below.
New York Knicks: A Lead Ball-Handler
The Knicks may be the easiest team on this list. They desperately need a lead facilitator to run the offense, allowing a player like RJ Barrett to focus on scoring the rock. Elfrid Payton and Dennis Smith Jr. aren't long-term solutions, while Frank Ntilikina's future is as a defensive-minded combo guard.
That makes LaMelo Ball a natural fit in New York. The 6'7" younger brother of Lonzo Ball averaged 17.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.7 threes and 1.7 steals in Australia's NBL this year, and he would offer the Knicks both a playmaker and a guard capable of creating his own offense and getting to the basket.
He's also grown up in the spotlight, so playing in Madison Square Garden—and the scrutiny that accompanies being a draft pick in New York City—wouldn't be a major adjustment. And Ball is a better facilitator than Anthony Edwards, another talented guard who is better suited to playing the 2 at the NBA level.
It's an obvious fit. Whether the Knicks see it that way and actually end up with Ball remains to be seen.
Atlanta Hawks: Secondary Creation and Scoring
The Hawks have the makings of a solid young core. Trae Young is a superstar in the making, John Collins and Clint Capela give them a solid frontcourt, and they have young depth on the wing in De'Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Kevin Huerter.
But the Hawks are currently 7.3 points worse per 100 possessions when Young sits than when he plays, per NBA.com. That's a major shift, and it speaks to the team lacking a quality secondary creator and shot-creator.
The obvious pick for the Hawks, then, would be to pair them with a shooting guard like Edwards, who can lead an offense but is better suited to being an off-ball scorer. He would give them instant offense, a major plus on nights when Young is being shut down, and would give them an option to run the offense when Young sits.
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But unless Atlanta lands a top-three pick, Edwards will be off the board. In that case, international prospect Deni Avdija could be the perfect consolation prize. The talented forward has made strides as a perimeter shooter—always in demand in the modern game—and is also a solid passer and capable of playing on the ball.
Mike Schmitz @Mike_Schmitz
A few highlights from Deni Avdija's 21-point, 8-rebound, 2-assist game for Israel in a win over Romania. The 19-year-old is one of the draft's most well-rounded prospects given his ability to pass, handle, and shoot at 6-9. Film Breakdown from Tel Aviv: https://t.co/aZuzWHDZTH https://t.co/RETCL9f0PF
He doesn't carry the hype of an Edwards, but he'd be a perfect fit in Atlanta.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Wings, Wings and More Wings
The Cavs are covered in the backcourt, with intriguing young players like Collin Sexton, Kevin Porter Jr. and Darius Garland. If Andre Drummond opts into his $28.7 million player option for next year, center is covered for at least one more season.
But outside of Cedi Osman, the Cavs don't have any young wings worth getting excited about. It's a position they should address in this year's draft.
They'll have options. The aforementioned Avdija would be a good fit. Auburn's Isaac Okoro is an excellent two-way player with a very high ceiling if his offense ever catches up to his defense. Tyrese Haliburton's major limitation—he isn't much of a pick-and-roll ball-handler—would be a moot point in Cleveland, while his defense, secondary creation and scoring ability would all be valued.
Jonathan Wasserman @NBADraftWass
Deni Avdija's defense was key in Maccabi's win over Anadolu Efes. Guarded everyone + big stops on PG Shane Larkin, C Tibor Pleiss Avdija's touches are limited in Euroleague but doesn't affect his defensive effort/focus. Quick feet, stays attached thru screens, alert off the ball https://t.co/BwRYqQB8tH
Ultimately, the Cavaliers should take the best player available. But from a pure team-needs perspective, adding a wing makes a lot of sense.
Detroit Pistons: Upgrades at Guard
The Pistons have a star in Blake Griffin and not much help around him. Namely, the Pistons need a point guard of the future, though adding talent at the position in general should be a priority.
So if they somehow sneak into the top three, players like Ball or Edwards would make a ton of sense. If they drop further than that, however, international player Killian Hayes, North Carolina's Cole Anthony, Kentucky's Tyrese Maxey, the NBL's RJ Hampton or Haliburton would all be logical additions.
The Pistons are lacking in young talent, save Luke Kennard (and perhaps Bruce Brown and Svi Mykhailiuk, if they continue to develop). In what promises to be a guard-heavy lottery, the Pistons should be able to upgrade. Getting Griffin a solid pick-and-roll partner is of the utmost importance.
Chicago Bulls: Best Player Available
The Bulls are an interesting team with plenty of talent. Zach LaVine can fill it up, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. make for an interesting frontcourt, and Coby White has flashed serious potential at point guard. Add in Otto Porter Jr. on the wing, and the Bulls have some legitimate talent.
Injuries have hurt them this year, and another season to jell—and for young players to develop—could have the Bulls in the postseason hunt next year. So really, the approach for Chicago should be to take the best player available.
But if need comes into play, a player who can play off the ball, hit perimeter shots and play some defense would be ideal. White looks like the point guard of the future, so Ball may be surplus to requirements. Edwards is basically a younger—albeit perhaps more talented—version of LaVine.
Auburn's Isaac Okoro would be an interesting option. He would give the Bulls a high-energy, defensively stout option off the bench, capable of contributing offensively as a spot-up shooter or cutter. He would also give the Bulls more mental toughness and grit. He isn't the flashiest addition, but he would be a great fit in Chicago.