NBA Draft Team Needs: Northwest Division
Updated: Nov 6
The 2020 NBA Draft is upon us. The NBA's version of Christmas morning will take place over several hours on November 18th as teams take their chances on new, young players to help them build for the present and future.
And just like how every kid doesn't want the same new toy, not every team needs the same players. Each team has a specific set of holes on its roster, and will approach its draft pick(s) accordingly. Some will be looking for immediate help, some for long-term upside, and many a combination of both.
While our own Joe Makar takes care of the Eastern Conference teams, I'll be outlining what holes need to be filled on western Conference rosters. Up first for my half is the Northwest division, which had four teams make the playoffs last season.
The Nuggets are in one of the best positions of anyone. Coming off a trip to the Conference Finals, they have two young cornerstones and a bunch of good role players around them. As long as they retain one of Jerami Grant or Paul Millsap (preferably the former), they have at least one switchable body to cover the likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and the like.
One isn't enough though. You can never have too many wing/forward types in this day and age. A cheaper facsimile of Grant would be an ideal addition to this roster.
Adding another bulky wing would fill this need naturally. Grant's archetype can slide to the 5 when necessary, especially in a playoff setting where traditional centers get played off the floor.
A minutes-eater will still be necessary for the regular season though. Mason Plumlee is a free agent this fall, and there's no telling how that situation plays out. Someone in the PJ Tucker mold would kill two birds with one stone, though they don't exactly grow on trees.
Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the best centers in the game. His ability to destroy mismatches, fire away at an elite clip from 3, and make plays for others is truly unique for a big man.
But he's not without his warts. He has never commandeered an above-average or even average defense, much of which has been attested to effort. Getting a workhorse as his frontcourt friend may be just what the doctor ordered; not only to the Wolves need gritty defenders around Towns and D'Angelo Russell, but a guy like that could get Towns engaged like never before.
Defensive-minded point guard
Those who stan for Russell will balk at this need, arguing that Their newly-acquired pillar is a point guard. But nothing Russell has done in his career supports that claim; he spent most of his All-Star season in Brooklyn next to another ball handler, and no other team he's governed has been successful.
Every team could use a Patrick Beverley clone, but the Timberwolves could use one more than most. Someone who can settle down the offense while also taking tough assignments on defense would be a great fit in Minnesota.
Oklahoma City Thunder
What does a team that has it all really need? The Thunder have a great veteran to dangle in Chris Paul, enough future draft picks to supply this entire division, and a young pillar in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. They're positioned excellently for the impending rebuild; so what do you give the man who has it all?
More. More youngsters with upside, more draft picks, and more valuable pieces to flip. OKC was in asset accumulation mode when they traded Russell Westbrook and Paul George last summer, and now they can do the same this offseason with Paul and Steven Adams.
Portland Trail Blazers
Losing Al-Faroq Aminu and Moe Harkless last summer stung more than expected. Not only did Rodney Hood miss the entire season with an Achilles tear, but Zach Collins didn't take the leap necessary to play him at the 4 with confidence. As a result, Carmelo Anthony and Mario Hezonja soaked up a lot of time at both forward spots.
That can't happen again. A legitimate wing defender (or four) needs to be added for Portland to stand a chance in the playoffs. Anything less than that would be a waste of Damian Lillard's prime.
Backup point guard
Speaking of Lillard, he needs some relief every now and then. Portland's starting backcourt is strong with him and C.J. McCollum, but the bench has a void at the helm. Anfernee Simons hasn't been a plus playmaker to this point, and Gary Trent Jr. can only do it in spurts.
Two methods exist to satisfy this need. Portland can use one of its cap exceptions to nab a veteran, or it can try to poach a cost-controlled playmaker in the draft.
Backup point guard
Utah shares a similar need with Portland, but the key difference is that Utah can satisfy it in house. Jordan Clarkson, a midseason acquisition in 2019-20, was great once he joined the Jazz, averaging 22.7 points per-36 minutes in a sixth man role.
If Clarkson is out of Utah's price range, it'll have to scour the bargain bin like many other teams. Utah only owns one pick in this draft—23rd overall—so Clarkson's situation will weigh heavily over them for the next two weeks.
A backup ball handler is especially important, but Utah consolidated a lot of stuff in general to get Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic last offseason. Now the front office can focus on the supporting cast.
Another Royce O'Neale type would be nice, as would a ditto of PJ Tucker. An assortment of viable wings and forwards is what every playoff contender needs, and Utah is right in the thick of it.