- Mike Guido
2017 NBA Draft Team Needs: Southwest 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.
Dallas Mavericks (33-49), Pick #9: Overall Young Talent
The Mavericks hold the ninth pick and will probably choose between two of this year's top ten players regardless of their fit with the team. A team like Dallas is entering a serious rebuild so fit may not matter immediately. In the past couple of seasons, the Mavs have done their best to remain competitive by adding pieces in multiple areas, but with the aging of Dirk Nowitzki, the team can no longer rely on him as an offensive anchor despite his lasting ability to shoot the ball at an alarmingly high level. Nowitzki is at the end of his career and they could be looking for a successor, but if the right talent is there then that need can be handled elsewhere. Dallas could easily find themselves as sellers in the future because of talented pieces like Wesley Matthews, Devin Harris, and even their recent acquisition Harrison Barnes who all warrant decent returns. With a coach like Rick Carlisle, any top ten talent they select will have a great opportunity to be successful in this league. It has been reported that the Mavs may be interested in going overseas for a potential star once again as they are reportedly intrigued by French point guard Frank Ntilikina. The chances of him being the first international player taken are almost certain, but there are plenty of basketball people who don’t see much upside in his game. Ntilikina was ranked as the third point guard on my last board with his ability to shoot the ball, defend, and his IQ as a passer. The kid is also only 18 years old so the upside is there. NC State’s Dennis Smith and Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen are also great options at their draft spot.
New Orleans Pelicans (34-48), Pick #40: Non-Big Talent
The Pelicans made the bold move of acquiring DeMarcus Cousins from the Kings at last season’s trade deadline, but it left them scarce for immediate assets. They sacrificed Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, and their first round pick in the deal so they don’t have a selection until the 40th overall pick in the draft. By that time in the draft, the players that fit their needs will more than likely be off the board so it is possible that even that late in the draft, they could go with a best player available approach. With Jrue Holiday being a free agent this summer, the talent in the backcourt is almost nonexistent. New Orleans desperately needs somebody who can relieve some pressure from the inside. Anthony Davis and Boogie have established themselves as stars in this league so the need for that type of player isn’t necessarily dire, but they need to find players that can assist in making plays from the perimeter. They could look at prospects such as Duke guard Frank Jackson, Kansas guard Frank Mason, or even a player like Xavier’s Edmond Sumner. All of them proved that they can be factors at the NBA level and it is very possible that they will be available in that range. We saw the most out of Frank Mason this season with his ability to give spark to an offense with his quickness and offensive skillset. Questions about his size, versatility, and defensive prowess will affect his stock, but he definitely fits in New Orleans because they need that kind of playmaking in their backcourt. Edmond Sumner is a player that flashed his skill publicly during the tournament. He’s a big point guard that does a lot of things well and may be able to step in right away and produce. His upside is not that high nor is his floor, but he would be a safe bet for some surefire talent at possibly both guard spots.
Memphis Grizzlies (43-39), No Picks: Perimeter Scoring
The Grizzlies are the second of three teams in this division without a first round pick so they are in a tough position to find young talent. On top of that, this may be a draft that Memphis needs to tap into. Zach Randolph is getting older and is starting to see regression in his game, so much so that he lost the starting job to JaMychal Green at the start of the year. The need for his successor, however, is not necessarily immediate because Deyonta Davis fell to them in the second round last year. Davis was labeled as a lottery talent last year and offers a lot of upside so they may decide to give him some opportunities in the coming years. The need they could afford to fill this summer would be in the perimeter scoring department. Aside from Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons, who are both not known as volume scorers, they are limp outside. Tony Allen and Vince Carter are both free agents so the overall talent on the wing is weakening. Memphis doesn’t have a pick in this draft, but if the right player is there, they could trade in and snag him without surrendering too much. Players like Oregon’s Dillon Brooks, Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame, and Kansas State’s Wesley Iwundu are all players that have proven scoring ability and overall skillsets that head coach David Fizdale could work with. The biggest problem for the Grizzlies was their pace and scoring ability. If they don’t fix that need, their constant flow of coming up short in the West may continue.
Houston Rockets (55-27), Picks #43/#45: Defensive Frontcourt Depth
The Rockets don’t have a pick in the first round, but have two in the second so they could still fill their needs late in the draft. Mike D’Antoni could very well win Coach of the Year by simply letting James Harden run the point and having the offense run through him in that fashion. Harden put up MVP type numbers this season and proved that he was more than just a poor man’s Kobe Bryant. They could afford to grab another ball distributing point guard to ease the pressure off of Harden a little bit, but this team’s biggest need is defense down low. Once Nenê went down in the playoffs, there was a noticeable difference in the tenacity of their post defense. As good of a player as Clint Capela is on the defensive end, his frame is still a bit slim so the strength factor underneath lacks. Ryan Anderson doesn’t provide defense as a stretch four and Montrezl Harrell is a great energy player off of the bench, but he doesn’t provide enough hard-nosed defensive instincts to play consistent minutes yet. If a player like UNC’s Tony Bradley or French prospect Jonathan Jeanne fall to their spots, Houston should jump all over them. Bradley has immediate defensive upside that could help Houston from the start. Jeanne is a player that has great size and upside at his position. The talent at that spot would be way too good to pass up. We’ll see what direction they decide to go in during the draft given the current talent on the roster, but if they have an opportunity to bolster their post defense, they should leap at the chance.
San Antonio Spurs (61-21), Picks #29/#59: Young Scoring Guards
Father time is undefeated and show no signs of letting up. The Spurs are officially an aging team and as talented and well-coached as they are, they are getting slow and old which prevents them from keeping up with quicker teams. Kawhi Leonard has established himself as a perennial superstar, LaMarcus Aldridge is one of the better low-post scorers in the league, and young players like Kyle Anderson and Dejounte Murray showed great promise this past season. However, with that being said, both Patty Mills and Jonathan Simmons will be set for big paydays this summer and the Spurs will be left looking for more reliable young talent. Manu Ginobili may have also played his last game in the league so that’s another piece they may be set to lose. With that being said, the Spurs are probably the best in the league at finding and creating championship level talent. We all know that Gregg Popovich is the best in the business so it seems like whoever they pick up is going to turn into a stud and it won’t even matter the fit. They select 29th in the draft so they can grab good talent in the back end of the first round. Grabbing a player like Florida State’s Dwayne Bacon would be the perfect fit in the Spurs system. A player that can score at will in multiple ways could find a big role immediately for San Antonio. Another player that has been tied to them quite a bit is Villanova’s Josh Hart. His draft stock took a significant dive after the NCAA Tournament when Villanova took that big second round loss to Wisconsin. His lack of consistency was exposed and he didn’t show an overwhelming skillset, but he is exactly the type of player that Popovich can mold into a contributor. It seems as if the Spurs never run out of options despite however many pieces they lose every year.