NBA Draft Team Needs: Pacific Division
Updated: Nov 6, 2020
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. The Northwest needs dropped on Monday, and now I'll be focusing on the Pacific division, arguably the most pivotal group of the draft.
Golden State Warriors
Golden State's pick is where the fun begins. In possession of 2nd overall, but also in the midst of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green's primes, the franchise has a crucial choice to make: build around them in the short term, or prepare for the next era of Warriors basketball?
The Warriors won three titles, five conference titles and 322 regular season games over five years without much investment in bigs. Draymond Green always shifted to the 5 when it mattered most, and the best assembly of shooters in league history took care of the rest.
That won't fly anymore. Kevin Durant is gone, and Curry isn't getting any younger. A defense-oriented big will be a priority for the Warriors this offseason, and the No. 2 pick may be used to check that box. Onyeka Okongwu and James Wiseman are the highest mocked bigs in this year's draft if Golden State keeps the pick.
Another pillar of the Warriors' success was its top-heaviness. Curry, Durant, Green, Thompson and Iguodala were more than enough when it mattered most, but everything after them was pretty shaky.
That talent won't be as overwhelming as in years' past, so focusing on role players will be important. Along with 2nd overall, Golden State also owns 48th and 51st. Those can be used to either find a young, cost-controlled role player like Eric Paschall, or flipped for a known quantity.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers treated the 2019-20 regular season like a chore in the same way established championship contenders do. The problem was that they hadn't accomplished anything yet, and that lack of cohesion got exposed in the playoffs. What can they do to shore up the rotation so that never happens again?
Every team could use an extra ball handler, and the Clippers are not immune to that diagnosis. Lou Williams was once again mitigated as the playoffs wore on, and Kawhi Leonard as a primary playmaker has its limits.
The other weak link of LAC's rotation was the frontcourt, where Montrezl Harrell suffered the same fate as Williams. The organization will likely let him go as an unrestricted free agent, and focus on a more versatile fit with their rotation. Someone who can shoot 3s well enough to be a 4 and protect the rim enough at the 5 (Serge Ibaka comes to mind) would be an ideal get.
LAC isn't exactly a big player in this draft though; they only own a second rounder, which sits at 57th overall. They're more likely to trade that pick for a proven player.
Los Angeles Lakers
The reigning champions have the hard part figured out: the superstars. LeBron James is still killing it out there, and Anthony Davis expects to sign a supermax deal this fall. The model for what works around them is already known; it's just a matter of who goes into battle with them.
Guards, guards and more guards
Alex Caruso and Rajon Rondo were the Lakers' main ball handlers after James last season. The results were great because they knew exactly what to do behind and alongside James: shoot when open, and move the ball when not.
Should the Lakers keep the 28th overall pick, a young table-setter would be a great hedge between short-term success and long-term projection as James ages. Caruso and [insert ring-chasing guard] can be good mentors for him early, and he'll probably be productive right away in a defined role.
The Lakers' best lineup puts Davis at the 5, but he doesn't like playing it for long stretches. And considering how well they did regardless of his position, it's fair—no, mandatory—to appease him.
JaVale McGee is the only other center on the roster right now. His backup might end up being a re-signed Dwight Howard, but on the off-chance it isn't, buying a second rounder might be the way to go. Think the Jordan Bell trade in 2017; Golden State traded cash for the right to select a player who helped them immediately.
It's a shame the Suns didn't make the playoffs in the Orlando Bubble; they went 8-0 in the seeding games, making them champions by the transitive property. How they build on a promising 2019-20 season remains to be seen: are they star hunting, or looking for more role players around Devin Booker?
Long-term point guard
Phoenix has taken a lot of swings at lead playmakers in the draft, but it took an established veteran to really get them going. It makes sense that a real point guard would make a team markedly better.
But there's a future after Ricky Rubio's contract. This three-year deal takes him right through his prime, and the Suns now have a chance to groom their lead ball handler of the future underneath him.
The fun part is that Phoenix could approach this issue all sorts of ways. They could trade up for LaMelo Ball or Killian Hayes, trade down for Kira Lewis or Devon Dotson, or trade out for someone else's young point guard. It's anybody's guess.
Bench depth in general is a need with the fun Suns, but Ayton's backup will be especially important if Aron Baynes leaves in free agency. Baynes was especially helpful for stabilizing the bench units, soaking up minutes on defense without compromising the offense.
10th overall isn't a great spot to fill this hole—unless Okongwu falls. He could play next to and behind Ayton, shoring up the defense in the starting lineup while also being a fulcrum for the bench unit. Trading down would also open up opportunities to nab guys like Xavier Tillman or Jalen Smith, shoring up a necessity at a cheaper cost.
Sacramento is trying to compete...I think. De'Aaron Fox is the only young building block under contract, and he's due for a max extension in a few weeks/months. Bogdan Bogdanovic needs to be re-signed, but everything after those two is fair game.
Sorry, but not sorry. Fox can't be the only high level player on a competitive team. He needs some help, and Marvin Bagley hasn't provided much yet. Harrison Barnes is no better than the fourth best player on a good team, but he's paid like a second option.
12th overall isn't exactly prime pickings for a star, but the Kings also have three second rounders. A package to move up could be in order; a certain aforementioned team might be looking to move down from 10.
The short term product just needs some roster balance. Plenty of guys on their roster can occupy the 4 and 5, and Cory Joseph can man the backup 1 spot. It's the 2 and 3 that need some work, even if Bogdanovic is retained and Buddy Hield isn't traded.
A good wing should be available at 12. Guys like Aaron Nesmith, Patrick Williams and Saddiq Bey come to mind. Any of those three could be plugged in right away and play quality minutes.