2017 NBA Draft Team Needs: Central Division
I have said this on numerous occasions: this is easily the hardest NBA Draft to study and nail down. After the top ten picks of the first round, the draft falls into complete uncertainty where 50 different players could go in the next 20 picks. Not a single team is leaking information yet and all we are left to work with is our own opinions. As OTG’s NBA Draft Lead Writer, I will do just that.
The regular season has concluded and the playoffs are well underway so going through these teams to figure out what their specific needs are should be, at this point, pretty self-explanatory. We take a look at what all 30 teams’ needs are and how they can be met by this year’s draft.
Detroit Pistons (37-45) 5th in Central: Guard Depth
The Pistons are one of those teams where fans and analysts don’t understand why they’re not so much better than they are. It seems like they are everyone’s dark horse team and they never pull through. I’m sorry that I have to break the news, but here is your answer. The Pistons cannot run their offensive scheme around Andre Drummond. Drummond is a big guy who can’t score the basketball unless it’s on second chance points or wide open layups. He can’t hit a mid-range shot, he can’t finish in traffic, and he can’t hit free throws. He CAN’T score. This is a team that has talent with guys like Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, Reggie Jackson, etc. They just need guys that can actually score. I know that another big that can run the floor and protect the rim is a need as well, which is why Gonzaga big man Zach Collins is tied to them, but the Pistons really need guys in the backcourt that can score the basketball from every area of the floor. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a free agent and could still come back, but the price could be steep for him so Detroit definitely needs scorers that they can have for a couple of years under contract . Kentucky guard Malik Monk would be an incredible fit, but with the Pistons having the third worst lottery odds, he more than likely won’t be there by the time they make their selection, so Louisville Donovan Mitchell or Duke’s Luke Kennard would be good options.
Chicago Bulls (41-41) 4th in Central: A Future Center
The Bulls are pretty hard to read. They have a checklist of needs which is a big reason why they should’ve pushed to trade Jimmy Butler and start over. Going forward, there is not much talent left on this roster. Rajon Rondo is not a guy the Bulls can hang onto for long term success and Dwyane Wade is slowly, but surely breaking down due to age. The Bulls could easily go with a best player available type approach, but their main focus should be finishing the job in anchoring down the frontcourt. Nikola Mirotic is a nice piece that they should hold onto. Bobby Portis has starter written all over him, but the Bulls need a legitimate NBA center for the future. Robin Lopez is solid, but he isn’t a long term solution for the future; we are starting to see a digression with him. The time has come to move on from the old formula and create a new one in Chicago. That new formula may include replacing head coach Fred Hoiberg, but only time will tell. Texas center Jarrett Allen has been linked to the Bulls quite a bit and I can see why. I don’t necessarily see him as a high upside type center, but he is a relatively safe bet to become a productive NBA player.
Indiana Pacers (42-40) 3rd in Central: Big Man Depth
I went into the 2016-17 season absolutely in love with the Indiana Pacers’ roster. They assembled a starting lineup that was so sexy at the time, I had them slated as the four seed out of the East. Paul George regained his form, Myles Turner became a future star center, Jeff Teague was coming off some of the best years of his career, and the Pacers added other quality pieces such as Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson. This team was loaded to start last year, but they underperformed and I couldn’t figure it out until about playoff time. This team is desperate for legitimate backup big men, especially at the power forward position. Lavoy Allen is not cutting it and Rakeem Christmas may never be more than an energy rebounding guy off the bench. The Pacers could seriously use a guy who can play on both ends of the floor and possibly stretch the floor. The Pacers run a very traditional scheme so they need something that can shake teams up a little bit and cause matchup problems. International forward Isaiah Hartenstein, Cal standout Ivan Rabb, Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan, Wake Forest’s John Collins, and Baylor forward Johnathan Motley are all legitimate options at their draft spot.
Milwaukee Bucks (42-40) 2nd in Central: Legitimate Frontcourt Identity
I think it is pretty obvious that the Greg Monroe project hasn’t really worked. They have been trying to build a perennial paint presence for quite some time now after going for guys like John Henson and Thon Maker who are legitimate pieces, but both have question marks. One thing this team needs is a legitimate identity where they know what they’re getting. Thon Maker is an outrageously skilled player who the Bucks like a lot and whose role will increase over time, but they need a prospect that can step in from day one and be a big guy that they can rely on in the starting lineup. The Bucks are in a perfect position to go for a starting caliber big man given that this draft is loaded with them. Guys like John Collins and Jarrett Allen would be solid picks at their spot, but the best fit for this team has to be Kentucky center Bam Adebayo. He still remains the best true center on my board because he has legitimate NBA potential from day one. A spitting image of Dwight Howard who can rebound and defend with the best in the draft with a developing offensive game is exactly what the Bucks need. That would allow Jabari Parker to play to his strengths and possibly tap into his superstar potential while also giving Giannis Antetokounmpo more freedom and familiarity within the offense.
Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31) 1st in Central: Rim Protection
Before you start yelling at me, let me tell you that I am aware that this team has no picks in the draft and could very well not by the time the draft is over. However, if there is a possibility they do get into the draft, rim protection is by far the direst need for them. With that being said, this is also the draft to try to tap into to get that specific need given its overwhelming amount of talent in the paint. Cleveland showed some struggles defensively late down the stretch, especially in the painted area. Tristan Thompson is a decent defender, but excels more as an offensive rebounder. Kevin Love is getting better on the defensive end, but doesn’t offer much as a rim protector. The team has tried desperately to find a rim protector through the waiver wire and have seemingly succeeded, but ran into bad luck. Andrew Bogut barely lasted a minute in a Cavs uniform, Larry Sanders coming out of retirement didn’t really work out, and Edy Tavares is a fantastic rim protector, but his skills have yet to translate to the NBA level. This team needs a reliable big guy that they can rotate in on defensive sets to simply keep the ball from reaching rim height. If somehow they see a prospect like UCLA’s Ike Anigbogu slide into the second round where it wouldn’t take much to get him, they should jump all over the opportunity. He showed incredible presence in the paint for the Bruins and is easily a fringe first round talent. Whether it’s through the draft or through free agency, this is an area that the LeBron boys need to address.