Draft Night Decisions
The first move each NBA team should make from their war room.
by Jake Fischer / @JakeLFischer
For months, the basketball world has been labeling this upcoming 2013 NBA Draft as weak. But this Draft could very well be exciting like no other. With few franchise-altering players in this class, teams have been working diligently to gain any advantage over their opponents. Ultimately, many teams have concluded that they don’t have the slightest clue what will happen once David Stern opens the NBA Draft. In the immortal words of Kevin Garnett, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!”
With that level of uncertainty comes the possibility that multiple teams will be swapping picks on Draft night. Chad Ford reported so this week via Twitter, and multiple NBA scouts told SLAMonline that several trades could occur once picks get into the 20s.
With Draft night chaos a possibility, somebody needs to help these teams figure out what moves to make. The following is a list of moves each NBA team should make from their respective war rooms. Keep in mind these moves are the first move each team should make the second the clock strikes 7 p.m. in Brooklyn, and the night “resets” with each team as we go down the list. Without further ado, the teams are listed in alphabetical order:
Atlanta Hawks – The Hawks have clearly put all of their eggs in the Dwight Howard/Chris Paul basket once free agency begins on July 1. With that, they need to focus on adding young, inexpensive talent so they fill roster spots around a nucleus of D12, CP3, Al Horford, Lou Williams and maybe Jeff Teague to backup Paul. It just so happens the Hawks have picks at Nos. 17, 18, 37 and 40. They’d be wise to keep all four picks and focus on adding a shooter, a rebounder and they should also pick an international player who they could stash and develop as well. Their move should be to pick a shooter like Reggie Bullock or Serge Karasev at No. 17 if available.
Boston Celtics – The Big Three era in Beantown was built through the Draft. They first drafted Paul Pierce in ’98, added Rajon Rondo in a Draft night deal with the Phoenix Suns in ’06 and then of course brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in separate trades during the 2007 NBA Draft. Now, with Doc Rivers headed to Hollywood, it’s time to blow up this team just like they built it: on Draft night. On July 1, Pierce suddenly becomes an expiring contract, increasing his trade value. And even though KG still has two years left on his deal at around $12 million per year, he probably has more value as a defender and leader. The Cs would be smart to try to package KG and the 16th pick to Dallas for the 13th pick, Shawn Marion’s expiring deal—that Mark Cuban is desperate to get rid of—and Vince Carter’s expiring as well to fill the defensive void in the paint they’ve had since Tyson Chandler left for MSG. So, it’s a win-win for both teams.
Brooklyn Nets – The Nets can celebrate the hiring of Jason Kidd all they want—and you have to commend them for spicing things up—but they failed to advance past the first round and are way over the salary cap. Plus, they already have a minimum of 10 players under contract for ’13-14, not including CJ Watson’s player option and Kris Joseph’s team option. So, the Nets will have to build through the Draft like many other major-market teams. They could potentially trade MarShon Brooks to Minnesota, who has expressed interest, to get up to No. 9, but that seems pretty unlikely. They’d be better suited to look for a backup point guard like Isaiah Canaan or Nate Wolters and maybe even Dennis Schroeder at No. 22, if he’s still on the board. They could also go for a defensive-minded big like Gorgui Dieng or Rudy Gobert, but anything else would be go wasted away on the bench just like Brooks has.
Charlotte Bobcats – Michael Jordan now has his third coach in three years since Larry Brown left the Cats. And they’ve paired their unproven coach with a bunch of offensive-minded players outside of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. With that in mind, the Bobcats must come away with either Victor Oladipo or Nerlens Noel at No. 4. One of them will most likely be available at the spot.
Chicago Bulls – What is the best kind of player to surround Derrick Rose with? Someone who can knock down threes, set screens and rebound. That’s why parting ways with Loul Deng isn’t the best option for the Bulls despite his large salary. Especially considering that his deal is expiring, why not keep him one more year and make a run at the Eastern Conference crown against a Miami team that is probably going to take a step back next season? In that case, the Bulls should stand pat where they are, look at a wing who can play defense an shoot a little at No. 20 (either Tim Hardaway Jr, Reggie Bullock, Jamaal Franklin or Allen Crabbe) and look to bolster their frontcourt depth at No. 39 with a blue-collar guy like Trevor Mbakwe, Colton Iverson, Dewayne Dedmon or Jack Cooley.
Cleveland Cavaliers – Many have reported that the Cavs want a solid young player to be the focal point of a package that they receive in return for the No. 1 overall pick in the Draft, if they choose to deal it instead of taking Nerlens Noel or Alex Len. Bringing in a proven young player might be the better move. While Portland and LaMarcus Aldridge are considered the best option, why not look to a team that has a better pick in the lottery this year. The Cavs could really benefit in swapping the No. 1 pick to the Kings for DeMarcus Cousins. The No. 1 pick, No. 19, Mareese Speights and CJ Miles would work salary wise to get the No. 7, DeMarcus Cousins and Jimmer Fredette.
Dallas Mavericks – The Mavericks need young talent. Ever since Dallas won the title in ’11, they’ve been selling assets left and right instead of retaining/adding and building around Dirk Nowitzki. Now, Marc Cuban has a 35-year-old Dirk surrounded by a bunch of expiring contracts with no truly promising young players on the roster. Unfortunately for Mavs fans, they’re not getting Dwight Howard or Chris Paul because Dallas can’t add both guys and there’s a long shot that either are leaving LA unless they can play together. Their fans also know all too well that Roddy Beaubois’ breakout year is never coming, so the Mavs really need to look at nabbing a point guard at No. 13 or trading back to gain an asset and a later first round pick. If Michael Carter-Williams doesn’t go to Detroit at No. 8, he should be the guy for the Mavs in the lottery. If not, Shane Larkin is an option, but it would serve them better to trade down to a team like the Brooklyn in order to grab an asset like Brooks and a later pick to select a guy like Dennis Schroeder, Nate Wolters, Isaiah Canaan or Eric Green.
Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets’ first move this offseason should be to let Andre Iguodala walk, but that’s a discussion for another day. The Nuggets are pretty set in with their core financially, committing roughly $30 million to JaVale McGee, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari through ’15-16. They also have Wilson Chandler on the payroll at around $6.5 million though ’15-16 as well and will probably extend Kenneth Faried following next season. They have their identity, so even though they’re expected to trade their pick, why not pick an international guy with tons of potential at No. 27 and stash him overseas for a few years? Lucas Nogueira, the 20-year-old big from Brazil, could be available then and would be a nice 7-footer to develop for one or two years while they wait and see how McGee progresses.
Detroit Pistons – The Pistons should be thinking only two things: either draft Otto Porter or Michael Carter-Williams. Unless something monumental happens, Porter probably won’t last past the Kings at No. 7, so MCW is the more realistic choice. He’s a big 6-6 true point guard and can run an offense better than Brandon Knight. He’s probably the best point guard in this Draft to pair with a young, blossoming front line in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.
Golden State Warriors – The Warriors already have 11 players under contract for next season, not including Carl Landry’s impending player option, so they’re capped out for the time being before the contracts of Andrew Bogut, Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins and Brandon Rush’s contracts come off the books in the summer of 2014. They don’t have any picks in this Draft, so they would be wise to buy a second rounder in order to fill a roster spot for cheap.
Houston Rockets – The Rockets have been masterful in drafting in the second round in recent years. That could have been because of new Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, but Rockets GM Daryl Morey is a pretty good guy to have at the helm in a difficult Draft like this. The Rockets have the No. 34 pick in the Draft, so expect them to go for a solid, versatile rotation guy and prepare for a chase at Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. The Rockets would be smart to take an athletic wing who can really defend like Glen Rice Jr or Tony Snell.
Indiana Pacers – As it was evident in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers really need a backup point guard for George Hill or a guy who can come in and push Hill to the 2-spot in some lineups. At No. 23 there aren’t phenomenal options at the point, so they could package Danny Granger to move up, but that’s not their best option. As a team that’s full of long, athletic and versatile players, the Pacers should grab Ricky Ledo at No. 23, a 6-7 shooting guard who can handle and make plays like a 1.
Los Angeles Clippers – Now that Doc Rivers is aboard, the Clips’ primary goal this offseason is to get CP3 back in the Staples Center. But, they can’t be dealt with until July 1, so on Draft night, Don Sterling’s first move should be to deal DeAndre Jordan. During all of the Doc/KG trade talk with the Celtics, the Clippers basically publicly announced that Jordan is expendable and replaceable by an almost-retired, overpaid center. When you think about it, Jordan is most likely more valuable than any center in this Draft class. It would probably make more sense to shop Jordan to the teams that miss out on Howard once DH12 signs, but they could use Jordan to move up in the Draft as well. Finding a suitor is tough at the top of the Draft, but they could package Jordan and the No. 25 pick to Dallas for the No. 13 pick and Shawn Marion’s expiring, ultimately freeing up cap room for next summer and adding a solid perimeter defender too.
Los Angeles Lakers – The Lakers need to get young and save money fast. They have about $60 million tied up in just Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash and if they sign Dwight Howard at over $20 million per year, they’ll be nearly $22 million over the cap in just four players with taxes galore on the horizon. That’s why the Lakers should deal Pau Gasol on draft night to both save money and get younger. But, the options are thin. They could swap Gasol and the No. 38 pick to Cleveland for Anderson Varejao, Alonzo Gee and the No. 19 pick. It’s pretty much a win-win for both teams.
Memphis Grizzlies – The Grizzlies might have the most intriguing position in the Draft next to Cleveland with pick Nos. 41, 55 and 60. They could probably benefit from just keeping those picks, but would be best to try and move a package to get into the end of the first round. The Grizz desperately need someone to backup Mike Conely, and the end of the first has plenty of options. Denver has been rumored to want to trade away the No. 27 pick, so Memphis could swap No. 41, 55 for No. 27 and be in prime position to draft a potentially quality backup in Isaiah Canaan, Nate Wolters, Erick Green or maybe even reach for Ray McCallum. Even though second rounders aren’t that valuable, many teams in the late first are trying to avoid having to pay automatic money to a first rounder in what they believe to be a weak Draft.
Miami Heat – The Heat don’t have a pick in this Draft after giving so many away as compensation from the 2010. It couldn’t come at a worst time, as they need to bolster their roster if they want a legitimate shot at a three-peat. But the Heat would be smart to hang back, listen to a few calls and take it easy on Draft night. They should focus on free agency and preparing for their potential implosion in 2014.
Minnesota Timberwolves – With Brandon Roy calling it quits, the TWolves could really use another non-point guard perimeter player who can score and isn’t named Alexey Shved or JJ Barea. Minnesota would be wise in picking Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at No. 9. He should be available at that spot.
Milwaukee Bucks – It seems like the Bucks might be willing to part with all three of Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and JJ Redick. But their first move on Draft night should be to unanimously agree to re-sign Jennings the second free agency begins on July 1. For their actual first move, the Bucks would be smart to stay put at No. 15 and pick up who they believe is the best available wing. That’s probably going to be either Shabazz Muhammad or Sergey Karasev.
New Orleans Pelicans – Greivis Vasquez was a great starting point guard on his contract last season, but it was for a 27-55 team. As he showed in his Memphis days, Vasquez can be a very formidable backup and that’s probably his best-suited role in the L. Plus, Austin Rivers isn’t really a great starting option in this League, either. The Hornets—er, Pelicans—should draft the best available point guard at No. 6 to develop with a solid young frontcourt of Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson and hopefully a healthy Eric Gordon. That probably will be Trey Burke.
New York Knicks – The Knicks are in a similar capped-out situation to their cross-town rivals, and also need to add to their roster through the Draft. Whether they decide to bring back JR Smith, Chris Copeland or Prigioni or not, James Dolan’s best move would be drafting an athletic young big guy who can provide some energy. That would sure be a change of pace from the old, beaten up frontcourt they had last season. They’ve been rumored to want to trade their No. 24 pick, but they would be best off staying their and drafting one of Gorgui Dieng or Tony Mitchell.
Orlando Magic – The rebuild continues down in Disneyland. But the Magic are still paying a huge salary bill with Gilbert Arenas’ amnestied deal still on the payroll for one more season and Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and Glen Davis making over $30 million combined next season. On top of all that, Orlando is waiting to see if Hedo Turkoglu will pick up his $12 million player option—he probably will. With that, the Magic could try to deal away a big contract, but they will suddenly find themselves $30 million under the cap in the summer of 2014. So, trading to save cash isn’t necessary. They would be smart to hang onto No. 2 and draft Nerlens Noel if Cleveland takes either Otto Porter or Alex Len, which is highly likely. If Noel goes No. 1, their move should be to grab Porter.
Oklahoma City Thunder – The Thunder are in a unique position picking in the lottery after making the Western Conference Semifinals. Thanks, Toronto! At No. 12, the Thunder really need to focus on an escape route from Kendrick Perkins whose contract doesn’t end until 2015. While No. 12 could be considered a reach and nobody is expecting him to go that high, Lucas Nogueira would be a great guy to pick and stash overseas while they await the Perkins’ deal to come off the books or hope he plays well enough to deal him at the deadline this March.
Philadelphia 76ers – Outside of a big 7-foot center with knee problems, the Sixers desperately needed two things last season in their starting lineup on the offensive end: a shooter and someone who can create his own shot. Considering CJ McCollum can do both of those things and probably backup Jrue Holiday as well, new GM Sam Hinkie & Co. need to do anything they can to trade up to get McCollum. Dealing Evan Turner and the No. 11 pick to Detroit for the No. 8 pick and Will Bynum—who’s been rumored to be on his way out of the Palace of Auburn Hills—could get that done.
Phoenix Suns – The Suns head into this offseason already having over a $53 million payroll for what resembles a grown up fifth grade basketball team. Basically, the Suns have a roster full of role players all trying to play together, with one kid who thinks he’s a star, hogs the ball and chucks up ill-advised shots in Michael Beasley. They need to add someone who will work hard, dig in defensively and create a solid role that the franchise can use as a cornerstone to build around. Victor Oladipo is that player and, if he’s available at No. 5, which is very realistic, they should snatch him up before Stern even finishes saying the word “clock.”
Portland Trail Blazers – The Blazers have Myers Leonard developing and preparing for an eventual starting role, but it wouldn’t hurt to add another big guy to compete with him for that spot this year or next and get the best out of both players a la Utah with Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Portland shouldn’t let Steven Adams fall past them at No. 10. They need as great a chance and complimenting LaMarcus Aldridge with a solid center during his prime as they can get.
San Antonio Spurs – At No. 28, many are predicting the Spurs take a shot-making big guy like Mike Muscala. But, they’d be better off going for one of those end-of-first-round caliber point guards. Isaiah Canaan would probably be their best option. He can score off the pick and roll similar to what Tony Parker does—we all know Tony’s the best at that—and Pop wouldn’t have to change his offense when Parker is out of the game. That really depleted their offensive efficiency in the Finals.
Sacramento Kings – The Kings should unanimously decide to not draft Shabazz Muhammad at all costs. But they should also look to draft for need. What they need is a point guard, despite most mock drafts having them select whomever of Noel, Len or Bennett fall into their lap at No. 7. After New Orleans most likely takes Burke at No. 6, the Kings would be wise to select either Michael Carter-Williams or CJ McCollum, whomever they view as better.
Toronto Raptors – New GM Masai Ujiri has inherited a team that will be paying Rudy Gay, Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Landry Fields around $51 million each of the next two seasons with the cap estimated to be around $58.5 million for this upcoming year. Long story short, they need to build through the Draft, because they don’t have a lot of prospects through free agency any time soon. They already have a quality young center in Jonas Valanciunas, so what’s missing from that crop? A knock-down shooter. Since OKC has Toronto’s 12th pick, the Raps will have to trade an asset to get into the late first round or early second round to get a shooter and playmaker like Ricky Ledo or Erick Green. Teams like the Knicks, Cavs and Nuggets are rumored to be willing to part ways with their picks in that area. Moving Kyle Lowry, a serviceable point guard at a semi-reasonable $6.2 million team option to the Cavs for the 31st or 33rd pick to backup Kyrie Irving will work pretty well for both teams.
Utah Jazz – It’s no secret the Jazz need a point guard to run the show for with their young and blossoming frontcourt of Gordon Hayward, Enes Kantor and Derrick Favors. They should focus on getting the best available point guard at No. 14, which will probably be Shane Larkin, assuming neither McCollum nor Carter-Williams drops to them.
Washington Wizards – The Wizards need to draft Otto Porter. If he doesn’t go No. 1, he’ll probably be available when the Wiz are on the clock at No. 3. He’s a perfect fit to grow old with John Wall and Bradley Beal and he’s a DC kid from Georgetown. It makes perfect sense.