2017 NBA Draft Team Needs: Pacific 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.
Phoenix Suns (24-58 — 5th in Pacific): Versatile Wings
It gets hard to see sometimes, but the Suns are building a nice young core to work with. After a couple of draft-day trades last year they ended up with both Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, who both have bright futures as bigs in this league. Devin Booker has proven that he can be a premier scorer at this level with his ability to shoot the lights out on a nightly basis, the point guard position looks good with both Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, and T.J. Warren is a solid scoring wing (although he struggles shooting the ball and defending at a high level). Phoenix’s primary focus should be to find a two-way wing with high upside and, sitting in the fourth spot of the draft, they should be able to do just that. Assuming that Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball go with the first two overall picks, Phoenix should most likely have whoever is left between Kansas forward Josh Jackson and Duke’s Jayson Tatum — who both fit well in their system. Josh Jackson is a player who is a bit raw in some areas and definitely needs to develop his offensive game, but he is already a top tier talent on defense and even better in transition. He has great athleticism and basketball IQ which make him valuable in those areas. He should be able to contribute well on offense as well, but he won’t be a volume scorer right away. Jackson can get streaky shooting the ball, but that can be coached. Jayson Tatum is a much more polished player on offense who can score at a high level right away. He does a great job finding ways to put the ball in the basket as a 6’8” wing with range and touch (shot 51/34/85 for Duke this season, averaging 16.8 points over 29 games) and has the upside of a perennial all-star. His defense is slightly lacking, but as he grows into his body he should be able to improve in that area as well.
Los Angeles Lakers (26-56 — 4th in Pacific): Playmaking Point Guard
Lakers fans, I have two words for you: Lonzo Ball. After the Lakers landed the number two overall pick in this year’s draft, it seems all too possible that LaVar Ball’s wishes will come true. It is reportedly being said that Lonzo will only work out for the Lakers and it is now possible that that will be all that is necessary. It is possible that Markelle Fultz or Josh Jackson could be the pick here as well, but all signs are pointing to Ball being the selection if he is available. Magic Johnson is enamored by what this kid brings to the table and I don’t blame him. The Lakers need a playmaking point guard, but more importantly, they need a culture change. Lonzo Ball is the only player in this draft that can do that which is a big reason why he is the number one overall player on my board. His biggest strength is easily his ability to run an offense. He can orchestrate plays and distribute the ball as well as anybody in this class. Not only that, but he can score and make plays on offense at a high rate as well. Despite the fact that his shooting motion is funky, he can still stroke it from outside very well (shot 41% from three at UCLA on 5.4 attempts per game) leading us to believe that he’ll be able to carry that over to Los Angeles. Ball being inserted at point guard allows D’Angelo Russell to move to shooting guard giving him the opportunity to play to his strengths. He isn’t a fantastic defender, but he isn’t necessarily weak in that area. He does a fine job at creating turnovers and can also act as combo guard due to his size and quickness. There are a number of basketball analysts out there that believe that the activity of his father will spike his game downward and become a distraction wherever he goes. With that being said, Lonzo stated that LaVar has been doing the same thing his whole life so he doesn’t expect it to affect him. At this point in time, the public has teased the ZO2s for their price tag, but after a strong season in L.A., expect those to be flying off the shelves.
Sacramento Kings (32-50 — 3rd in Pacific): Overall Talent
The Kings have fallen into a position this draft that is almost impossible to screw up like they have in previous years. They were awarded the fifth and tenth overall picks in a draft that is loaded with top-level talent. After trading their franchise cornerstone DeMarcus Cousins last year, they were able to acquire some serious assets including their second of two first round picks and the sixth overall pick last year in Buddy Hield. Given that they have struggled finding true talent in the draft in recent history, they just need to find players who have good upside that can help them in the future. Point guard is definitely a position of need moving forward. They need someone to pair with Buddy Hield so Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox could be a great fit here. A player who defends tenaciously, passes the ball extremely well, and plays the game with the aggression of a ticked off bumblebee is exactly the kind of player they need in their backcourt to move forward. Fox’s offensive game needs polish as he is not a great shooter, but he can finish at the rim and blow by defenders with his athleticism. He shows a lot of similarities to Russell Westbrook and definitely has similar potential. Sacramento could also afford to get some more talent in the paint so a prospect like Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen would be a great fit. He is a spitting image of Pau Gasol with his ability to stretch the floor, rebound, and remain consistent. Markkanen’s only issue is his defense. As a seven-footer, he should be able to protect the rim better, but the Kings don’t necessarily need rim protection. With defensive big guys like Willie Cauley-Stein, Georgios Papagiannis, and Skal Labissiere, the need for defense down low is far from glaring. Markkanen could become a great scorer and contributor from day one with his raw skillset. If the Kings can find a way to snag talent within the top ten, we might actually start to see a change in direction for a team that has been dysfunctional for quite some time now.
Los Angeles Clippers (51-31 — 2nd in Pacific): Small Forward
The Clippers are left without any selections in this year’s class, but the need at small forward is too big to ignore. It has plagued this team for years and the mild success that they have had hasn’t gone further because of this very need. Wesley Johnson, Jared Dudley, Paul Pierce, Luc Mbah a Moute, Alan Anderson, etc. are just some of the names that we have seen fill that starting three hole and it just hasn’t worked out. The dysfunction in Los Angeles is starting to increase astronomically because they realize their lack of success. Blake Griffin could officially be out of Lob City and Chris Paul could find himself a new home in free agency as well (if he decides to pass up his chance at a Super Max deal). With that being said, the Clippers would be stupid to let those guys go so, assuming they remain in L.A., it is possible for them to trade into the back end of the draft to try and grab some extra talent. Rodions Kurucs from Latvia sticks out as a guy that could fit their needs. It is unknown if he’ll come to the NBA right away, but if he does, you are getting a Gordon Hayward type skillset. A good athlete with a high basketball IQ who can shoot the ball well with high upside. He has traditional size for the position at 6’8” and could find himself as a good contributor right out of the gate. He is raw, but the talent and upside is definitely there.
Golden State Warriors (67-15 — 1st in Pacific): Scoring Wing
The real answer to this question is nothing. The Warriors literally have every aspect of the game almost set on their roster. Even the young players like Kevon Looney, Patrick McCaw, Damian Jones, and James Michael McAdoo have solid NBA level talent. The Warriors don’t have a pick in this draft either and it is very unlikely that they trade into it, but if they did, they could look to grab another wing that can shoot. Andre Iguodala and Matt Barnes don’t exactly light it up from outside so another wing that can shoot should help them. An overseas player like Aleksandar Vezenkov from Bulgaria is a possibility with his combination of size and shooting or even a player like Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey could fit for the same reason. I don’t see the Warriors trying to climb into the draft with a team that is as talented as theirs, but who knows, maybe they’ll get greedy and try to coax another scoring wing into taking the ‘hardest road.’