Needs: PG, rebounding, outside shooting
Picks: 6, 32
Phoenix, as has become expected of quite possibly the worst run franchise in the NBA, finished at the bottom of the conference this past season. Despite their awful record, they landed the 6th pick in a draft that is particularly thin in terms of top-tier talent. On the bright side, Devin Booker is one of the best young players in the game right now and scored over 26 per game last season. Last season’s #1 overall pick, DeAndre Ayton, averaged a double-double, and the team will have cap space to work with this season. However, as would be expected from a team with their record over the last five seasons, they have a number of holes to fill. The obvious need for the team is at the point guard position. Booker actually led the team in assists last year at 6.8 per contest. They traded for Tyler Johnson to help at the position, but he’s not a true point guard and will almost assuredly exercise his option for over 19 million for next season. The Suns were also dead last in rebounding last season, while coming in at 28th in three point field goals made.
So, how do they fix this roster and get it closer to competing for something other than the number one draft pick each year? The first step is nailing the draft. If they can land one of the top point guards, they could fill their biggest need. Darius Garland of Vanderbilt and Coby White of North Carolina could both find themselves available for the Suns at 6. If one of those players is there, look for the Suns to gobble them up. And there’s even a possibility they will look to make a deal to move up.. An alternative to this, although it would be highly unlikely, would be to target a young point guard on an NBA team (Lonzo Ball for instance) and package the #6 pick and Johnson to a team targeting next season’s free agent market (with Josh Jackson potentially thrown in to sweeten the deal) and go all in on free agency this season. The team has been linked to Julius Randle, who could really help the team fix their lack of rebounding while also giving them a player in the frontcourt that is able to and willing to move the ball and create some flexibility on offense as he shot 34% from three last season. They could also target a veteran point guard such as Ricky Rubio or Goran Dragic for a reunion. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a run at restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon of the Bucks.
Needs: Efficient scorers, shot blocking
Picks: 40, 47, 60
The Kings took a surprising step forward this past season, finishing only one spot outside of the playoffs. They still have plenty of progress that they need to make to get back to where they want to be as a franchise, but their young core looks like it could grow into a very solid squad over the next few years. Now it’s up to the front office to not only ride this momentum, but to build off of it. This is a team that doesn’t have the benefit of the draft to build the roster, but they do have approximately 39 million dollars to spend on the free agent market. With De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Marvin Bagley in the fold, they have a young core and they added Harrison Barnes to that at the trade deadline last season. Now, they need to identify players that would be willing to join the franchise this offseason and fill the needs they have. More than anything, the Kings need to become more efficient offensively. Last season, they had the most 2 point field goal attempts and the 4th most makes from that range, but were 26th in field goal percentage on those shots. It would really help them to be able to find somebody comfortable scoring inside the arc. They were 4th in three point field goal percentage, so becoming better inside the arc could lead to a more balanced attack.
Some players they might decide to target in free agency are Nikola Vucevic of the Magic, Tobias Harris of the 76ers, Randle of the Pelicans, Marcus Morris of the Celtics, and they may even make a run at Klay Thompson of the Warriors. While it’s unlikely they they’d be able to nab Thompson, any of the other options would help to give their roster another dimension. The Kings will be coached by Luke Walton this upcoming season, so expect them to look a little bit different in terms of the schemes they run regardless of who they add this offseason. Ultimately, after over-achieving this past season, next season they will be looking to break into the playoffs.
Los Angeles Clippers
Picks: 48, 56
The Clippers only have 8 players under contract for next season, and only one of those players, Danilo Gallinari, is set to make more than 8 million (and he’s a free agent after next season). Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lou Williams, Landry Shamet, and Jerome Robinson are all expected to return to the Clippers, meaning the Clips can concentrate on building out their front court this offseason. The salary cap will be set at approximately 109 million, and the Clippers have just over 49 million on the books, so they have roughly all of the money in the world to create the team however they see fit. DeMarcus Cousins is a very real possibility for them, and they will be making runs at all of the biggest free agents: Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson. I could even see them throwing money at Kemba Walker and playing him in a backcourt with SGA. It’s actually hard to predict what the Clippers will do this offseason simply because there are so many options available to them and so many combinations and permutations that could realistically come to fruition in LA. But the most likely scaenario appears to be adding Kawhi Leonard and then building the team around him. With the richest owner in sports and the top eye for talent on the staff in Jerry West, things could turn around very quickly in Clipperland, and Los Angeles may have a new top dog for the forseeable future.
Los Angeles Lakers
Needs: Three point shooting, reliable players
The Lakers had a sort of hodge-podge roster last season. They added LeBron James to the fold, and then surrounded him with young players in Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma, as well as “eccentric” players like Michael Beasley, JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, and Rajon Rondo. James also battled injury most of the season, and the end result was James not only breaking his streak of Finals appearances, but also his streak of playoff appearances. Unfortunately for the Lakers, their draft pick will fall outside the top 3, meaning they won’t get one of the premier players from the class. They should still manage to add a good player in the draft though, however. Options for the Lakers on draft night could include DeAndre Hunter of Virginia, Coby White of North Carolina, Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech. If they decided to move Lonzo Ball in a trade, they could also target Darius Garland.
However, that’s only one part of the Lakers rebuilding this roster. James’ best teams have surrounded him with veterans that were reliable. They may not have had the most talented role players, but you knew what to expect from them night in and night out. The Lakers will have cap space to spend this offseason, and will likely take a run at Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant, as well as Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, and Kemba Walker at guard. They very well could target DeMarcus Cousins as well. They cannot afford to strike out on all of the players that were just mentioned. If they land one or two of them, they could find themselves a playoff team again. If they miss out on all of the big names, they will likely end up handing out bad contracts that won’t net them much in terms of short term wins, and with LeBron nearing the end of his career, that’s likely their focus right now. unfortunately for Laker fans, the Lakeshow has the feel of a sinking ship and better hope that Anthony Davis finds his way into a Laker uniform in the near future.
Golden State Warriors
Needs: Resign Klay Thompson, small forward, center
Picks: 28, 58
Once again, Golden State will be coming off a Finals appearance. They had one of the most loaded rosters in NBA history last season, but next season they could look significantly different. Kevin Durant is expected to leave town, although he could always surprise the world and re-up with the team. However, the Warriors can’t count on that. They also may lose DeMarcus Cousins, who signed on for cheap when he couldn’t find another deal in free agency last season. That isn’t likely to happen this offseason, especially after his game two Finals performance. In addition, Klay Thompson is a free agent and could potentially look to move out from under Steph Curry’s shadow. Golden State cannot let Thompson leave, or they will have a very hard time replacing him. The good news is that Thompson has given every indication that he will stay, despite losing out on 30 million due to the writers that left him off of the All NBA teams. If the doomsday scenario played out and they were to lose Klay, KD, and Cousins, the Warriors would take a major step backwards. They would obviously prefer to keep Durant in town as well, although that is expected to be a bit tougher. If they can find a way to make it happen, the team will continue their era of dominance. If not, they will need to find a replacement at the “3” spot, as Andre Iguodala is nearing the end of his career and no other player coming off of GSW’s bench was good for more than 7 points per contest. In addition, if Cousins leaves as expected, and Andrew Bogut isn’t around, Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell will have to take on much bigger roles that neither is really ready for at this stage.
Because of the track record of the club over the last few seasons, it’s likely that they will be able to get a few veteran free agents to join them on the cheap, although it’s always a bit difficult to predict just who those type of additions will be, but we do know that they will have the 28th pick in the draft. With that pick, the Warriors could target players such as Belmont’s Dylan Windler, Georgia’s Nicolas Claxton, or Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford.