2017 NBA Draft Team Needs: Southeast 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.
Orlando Magic (29-53) 5th in Southeast: A Scoring Wing
The Orlando Magic are just one of those teams that has stacked up some quality young talent but hasn’t found their way yet. However, we can see that change given that they have two picks in the first round in this year’s draft. Before everyone begins thinking that cleaning house and starting over is the best road to go down, let me enlighten you on some of the progress they have seen with their young talent. Elfrid Payton is a very good young point guard who is fantastic at distributing the ball and playing max-effort defense. Evan Fournier and Mario Hezonja already look like a dangerous future combination with their scoring ability and upside. Nikola Vucevic has established himself as a legitimate producing big man and Aaron Gordon, despite the injuries, has improved his game every year and is starting to find his identity at the NBA level. That is more quality young talent than most teams have in this league, but the Magic still need a future star at the wing that can primarily play the small forward position. Someone who can make shots from all over the floor, has good size and athleticism, and to be able to take over games. With the Magic projected to select sixth in the draft, this is definitely possible. The perfect fit for them would be Duke’s Jayson Tatum with his ability to score and make plays on offense. He is an extremely skilled offensive anchor and has the potential to be a perennial all-star. Putting him alongside Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, and Terrence Ross would give the Magic a legitimate group of wings with an overwhelming amount of promise.
Charlotte Hornets (36-46) 4th in Southeast: A True Center
Size seems to be really undervalued in the NBA, but the impact it can have on the game is too serious to ignore. The Hornets have found a go-to man in Kemba Walker, who is quick on his feet and is finding his shot by the year. Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeremy Lamb, etc., have established themselves as nice NBA wings that can make a difference in multiple ways, but this team desperately lacks a guy who can station himself in the middle of the paint and give them some size down low. Cody Zeller is a decent player, but I see him as more of a role player and platoon big and Frank Kaminsky is a very solid big guy, but he doesn’t play the role of a traditional center with his ability to stretch the floor and inability to rebound or protect the rim. Charlotte needs someone who can crash the boards and keep the ball from touching the rim. They will presumably fall into the latter part of the top ten or just outside of it and with the frontcourt depth in this class, they should be able to find a true future center that can develop. Creighton’s Justin Patton makes too much sense for this team. He’s shown the ability to win and produce at a high level on top of having a great skillset. He is a great athlete who can get up and block shots as well as rebound and score efficiently inside. This guy is a center prospect with one of the higher upsides to become a solid NBA all-star, but is also a safe bet to become a legitimate producer at the very least. Zach Collins from Gonzaga would also be a good option for them as he is labeled as one of the best rim protectors in this draft class.
Miami Heat (41-41) 3rd in Southeast: Power Forward
Ever since the unfortunate absence of Chris Bosh, Miami has had a glaring need at power forward and the lack of an adequate replacement for Bosh at this position has plagued them drastically. Hassan Whiteside has developed into one of the better centers in the league with his ability to do everything you would want a big man to do, but they need to find a compliment to him. The Heat have struck gold with wing talent in the past couple of seasons with the likes of Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, and Justise Winslow who are all players that can all contribute in the short-term and solid upside. They have a great point guard in Goran Dragic who has expressed his commitment to Miami. The Heat are a couple of pieces and a couple of developmental years from being a legitimate threat in the East. With that being said, this team lacks consistent scoring and is in a position to find it in this year’s draft sitting at the back end of the lottery. They could benefit from the services of UCLA’s T.J. Leaf who is a player who can start right away at the four spot and give them some efficient scoring. Another option is to trade out of their pick and move back in the first round and accumulate more assets. For what the Heat need, they don’t necessarily need to find it in the top half of the first round. Players like Baylor’s Johnathan Motley, Cal’s Ivan Rabb, Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan, and Syracuse’s Tyler Lydon would all fit well in Miami’s system where most of the frontcourt pressure will be focused on Whiteside giving them the opportunity to effectively use their respective offensive games. We’ll see how Miami addresses this issue in the draft, but the Heat have done a fine job in recovering from the post-LeBron James and Dwyane Wade era.
Atlanta Hawks (43-39) 2nd in Southeast: Starting Caliber Shooting Guard
Looking at this team barebones, it is extremely difficult to find exactly what they need. They are remarkably deep and have young players that have yet to fully develop. This could be one of those cases where we have to wait until free agency to truly assess what this team needs. Paul Millsap could be gone this summer despite head coach Mike Budenholzer’s optimism that he’ll stay so this need could change sooner rather than later. However, assuming that Millsap returns, this team could really use a scoring backcourt mate for Dennis Schroder. Schroder has claimed his spot as the team’s starting point guard and rightfully so. His athleticism, defense, and ability to finish at the rim have earned him the rights to start for Atlanta. However, ever since Kyle Korver was shipped off to Cleveland, the Hawks have had trouble finding the guy to step up into the starting shooting guard role. Tim Hardaway Jr. is a very good player who is often underappreciated, but he would be best suited in a sixth man spark off the bench type of role on top of being a free agent this summer. Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore are solid role players, but not starters and Taurean Prince and DeAndre Bembry have secured spots at small forward. The Hawks need to find an athletic scorer to pair with another athletic scorer. Prospects like Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell or Duke’s Luke Kennard would be great options for this team, but another player that I like fitting in that system is Florida State guard Dwayne Bacon. He has great size and can score at will from all over the floor. Mike Budenholzer would be able to exploit his offensive abilities in a system that moves off of screens and distributes the ball at a high rate. The Hawks have the 19th selection in the first round and should easily be able to find what they’re looking for from their position.
Washington Wizards (49-33) 1st in Southeast: Big Man Depth
The Wizards don’t have a pick until the 52nd pick in the second round and I would be surprised if they try to move up. John Wall has officially established himself as a star in this league and is getting better every year. Bradley Beal has come around quite a bit as a player developing a great all-around game with the ability to not only shoot the lights out of the building, but can defend pretty well as well. Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre make for a good combination at the wing with a good amount of upside as well as having an established intimidating NBA big in Marcin Gortat. This team has definitely accumulated some talent over the years, but it isn’t enough. The spot they need most help is behind their front lines in that frontcourt. Markieff Morris and Marcin Gortat are their frontcourt. The talent level drops significantly from that point. Ian Mahinmi is a big-bodied physical center, but he lacks a legitimate skillset so the Wizards need someone who can come off the bench and contribute at a higher level than what they are getting from the current roster. With Washington picking so late in the draft, their best value may come from overseas with a guy like Jonathan Jeanne or Anzejs Pasecniks who are both bigs with great size and upside, but it might be a number of years before they come over from overseas and play in the NBA. The best-case scenario would be drafting a player like Oregon’s Jordan Bell or Louisville’s Omer Yurtseven, assuming either falls to Washington’s spot in the draft. Each player has the potential to make an impact right away. The Wizards are on their way up, but they need to find more talent up front to alleviate the pressure on their starting unit.