The Western Conference has emerged in the past few seasons as the NBA’s power base, but there are also a good amount of teams looking to rebuild, or in the process of rebuilding, including the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz. Smart drafting has helped a lot of Western Conference teams get to where they are, so expect these picks to be used very judiciously as teams try to stay on top. Here is a look at the Western Conference team needs, and possible choices. Click here for yesterday’s analysis of Eastern Conference team needs.
Picks: Round 1 - None; Round 2 – No. 34, No. 51
Needs: Big men, perimeter scoring and defense, young talent
Signing Dirk Nowitzki will be the Mavericks’ priority, but at number 34, they will have a chance at adding a scorer who could help them immediately off the bench. DeAndre Daniels may not have the body yet to handle the NBA, but he has a lot of talent and can learn from a veteran Mavericks’ team. They can also look at some big men to help, including Johnny O’Bryant, Dwight Powell, Patric Young, or Khem Birch. At number 51, they could have a shot at scorers such as Jabari Brown or Markel Brown, or an athletic big like Baylor’s Cory Jefferson.
Picks: Round 1 – No. 11; Round 2 – No. 41, No. 56
Denver returns most of their players from last season, and the needs aren’t very glaring. They are one of the teams I’d target to take one of the International players in their range – Dario Saric or Jusuf Nurkic – and wait for them to develop a few more years overseas. Either could fit a need in the frontcourt long-term for Denver. If they choose to go in a different direction, they can look at one of the young wings available – Rodney Hood, Gary Harris, possibly Nik Stauskas or James Young. At #41, they can still find their draft-and-stash player, including Vasilije Micic, Damien Inglis, or big man Artem Klimenko.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors’ focus may be on acquiring Kevin Love, but re-signing Andrew Bogut will also be a priority. I don’t expect them to add a pick in this draft at this time, unless it’s from a larger deal.
Picks: Round 1 – No. 25; Round 2 – No. 42
The Rockets took a big step forward with the addition of Dwight Howard, and now they just need to look to add some more pieces around Howard, James Harden and Terrence Jones. If they re-sign restricted free agent Chandler Parsons, the priority would then be to add an established player. Alternatively, if they are looking for talent in the draft, they can find some players who could fit in easily, like PJ Hairston or Jordan Adams on the wing, or an athletic big, such as Jerami Grant, who could then spend time with the Rockets’ D-League team to continue his development. In the 2nd round, Houston may elect to think long-term and look at an International option such as Nikola Jokic or Artem Klimenko who can help in a few years. If they want to add some help now, big men like Patric Young or Johnny O’Bryant could be available and would help on the boards.
Picks: Round 1 – No. 28; Round 2 - None
Needs: Frontcourt depth
The Clippers return most of the players from one of the West’s top teams, so any value they can get at number 28 will be a bonus. Adding some depth behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan could help, though they might not find what they want late in the first round. Jerami Grant is the kind of athletic big who seems like he would fit in well with the Clippers’ system. They can look at the best available player at any position, including point guards Jordan Clarkson or Shabazz Napier, or an athletic wing like KJ McDaniels, who would be a steal that low.
Los Angeles Lakers
Picks: Round 1 – No. 7; Round 2 - None
Needs: Pretty much everything
The Lakers are in full rebuild mode, though they still have the end of Kobe Bryant’s career to get through before they can take the next step. At number 7, the Lakers need to just take the best available player, and they could have a choice between power forwards Julius Randle or Aaron Gordon, or they could look to add their point guard of the future in Marcus Smart or Elfrid Payton. I don’t know if it’s possible, but do the Lakers take Joel Embiid if he falls to them? I think they have to go for it.
Picks: Round 1 – No. 22; Round 2 - None
Needs: Perimeter shooting, frontcourt depth
Memphis’ biggest priority is seeing if Zach Randolph exercises his option to stay with the team. If not, the Grizzlies could be looking for a long-term replacement with their pick, though the options are slim. They have a better chance of finding help for their shooting woes with players such as James Young, PJ Hairston, or maybe even reaching for Cleanthony Early, who would fit in on the defensive side also.
Picks: Round 1 – No. 13; Round 2 – No. 40, No. 44, No. 53
Needs: Trade Kevin Love, three-point shooting
The Timberwolves would love to unload Love now, though they are unlikely to get what they want this early in the process. Assuming he will still be with the team, at least early in the year, the priority for the Timberwolves should be adding shooting, especially from deep. Like other teams who are looking for the same, the names are familiar – Rodney Hood, Nik Stauskas, Gary Harris, James Young, maybe a long-term project in Zach LaVine. They can look at different options with their three second-round picks, maybe adding depth on the wings or in the frontcourt. They could get some help immediately with a player like Patric Young or Johnny O’Bryant, or hope that a player like Jarnell Stokes falls to them. I would also expect them to use at least one second-round selection on a draft-and-stash player.
New Orleans Pelicans
Picks: Round 1 - None; Round 2 - None
Needs: Frontcourt depth
The Pelicans gave up their first-round pick this year in the deal for Jrue Holiday last year. They could use some depth in the frontcourt, especially behind Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson, as well as true center besides Jeff Withey. I don’t expect to see the Pelicans involved on draft day.
Picks: Round 1 – No. 21, No. 29; Round 2 - None
Needs: Backcourt depth, Perimeter shooting
The Thunder return most of the main contributors from last year and just need to add some more role players for their expected long season. They can look to add a point guard to play behind Russell Westbrook that also allows Reggie Jackson to shift to the 2 spot. Look for the Thunder to be interested in players such as Shabazz Napier or Jordan Clarkson. They may also look at Kyle Anderson at number 21, thinking that his ability to create plays from anywhere on the floor will benefit Kevin Durant. At number 29, they could look for an International player such as Clint Capela or Walter Tavares to bring on in a few more years.
Picks: Round 1 – No. 14, No. 18, No. 27; Round 2 – No. 50
Needs: Wing scorers and defenders
Phoenix shocked the NBA by being in the playoff hunt until the very end while in rebuild mode. The key question for them is if they are willing to pay up to keep Eric Bledsoe. If not, the need for scoring will become more important. They should have plenty of options at numbers 14 and 18, including wings such as Gary Harris, Zach LaVine, James Young, or Rodney Hood, as well as forwards TJ Warren or Adreian Payne. They may also consider looking to draft and International player such as Dario Saric, to bring over in a few years after the young core develops. Number 27 will give them a chance to take a risk on a less developed player, such as Jerami Grant, or some instant help in KJ McDaniels or Jordan Adams.
Portland Trail Blazers
Picks: Round 1 - None; Round 2 - None
Needs: Bench depth
Portland made big strides this year in becoming a regular contender in the West, but they need to add more quality role players on the bench. They may be interested in acquiring a second round pick if there is a player they are really big on available.
Picks: Round 1 – No. 8; Round 2 - None
Needs: Point guard, Shooters to stretch the floor
The Kings have some key players in place with DeMarcus Cousins, Ben McLemore and Rudy Gay, but they need to decide whether to re-sign Isaiah Thomas, or there will be a big need at point guard. They may have a shot at Marcus Smart at number 8, or if he’s gone, Elfrid Payton may be an option. They may choose to add a shooter such as Doug McDermott or Rodney Hood, or look to add some rebounding next to Cousins in Aaron Gordon or Julius Randle if they are available. They can go in a lot of directions, but should come out better no matter what.
San Antonio Spurs
Picks: Round 1 – No. 30; Round 2 – No. 58, No.60
Needs: Bench depth
The NBA Champions will have their key players all back next season, but they can use some depth with an eye towards the future. One possibility would be to take Spencer Dinwiddie, and help him in his rehab from a knee injury, hopefully able to slot him in at either guard spot. They could look for an athletic forward to add to their bench with KJ McDaniels, Jerami Grant, Glenn Robinson III, or Cleanthony Early. Not many teams are better than the Spurs at the draft-and-stash game, so with two end of the second round selections, expect at least one to be a player they can keep overseas, while the other selections could be the best player on their board still available.
Picks: Round 1 – No. 5, No. 23; Round 2 – No. 35
Needs: Scorers, frontcourt depth
At number 5, the Jazz will have to wait to see the fallout in the spots above them, but they could have a shot at players such as Marcus Smart, Dante Exum, Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle, or possibly Joel Embiid. The rumors are hot that they are looking to trade number 5 as part of a package to get the number 1 pick, likely targeting Jabari Parker. At number 23, the Jazz can add a proven scorer such as PJ Hairston, or Jordan Adams. They can address the frontcourt at number 35, by looking at player such as Khem Birch, Jarnell Stokes, Cameron Bairstow, or Dwight Powell.