1. Phoenix Suns – Not Exploring All Options
All indications are that the Suns will be taking DeAndre Ayton with the first overall pick, but being set on doing so would be a mistake. I’m willing to bet some pretty big money that at least one team wants to trade up into the number one spot. This means Phoenix will get some calls on draft day. It’s quite possible the Suns are offered a deal that’s better than the first overall pick. DeAndre Ayton is no sure thing. He has his question marks. Maybe the Suns are offered a proven veteran player in their prime. That’s something to think about because you’d know what you’re getting in that player. If Phoenix really believes DeAndre Ayton has the potential to get this team to where it wants to go, they should stick with him, but they’d be foolish to not listen to offers several teams around the league will make.
2. Sacramento Kings – Passing on the Best Player Available
2006 was the last time this team was in the playoffs. They used to have a very good talent in DeMarcus Cousins, but they were never able to put enough talent around him. What they have now is mostly a bunch of role players. They have a couple guys who have the potential to be stars, but are at least a few seasons away from that. I don’t see the remaining guys on their roster ever becoming something more than a role player. A roster full of role players isn’t how you win in the NBA. You need talent. This pick has to be the best available player, whoever the Kings think that may be. Right now it looks like Marvin Bagley. If that’s who they think is the second best player in the draft, they need to take him. The Kings must ignore all their needs and get the best player available, even if it does create a log jam at a certain position.
3. Atlanta Hawks – Passing on the Best Player Available
Atlanta has some nice pieces in place, but they’re a long way from contending again. This is pretty much the same situation as the Kings. A couple players who seem to have bright futures, but the overall roster needs a talent upgrade. It was rumored earlier in the draft process the Hawks were going to pass on Luka Doncic if he was available here, but now the rumors are that they’re targeting him. I think they have to take him if he’s on the board. He’s considered the second best player by just about everyone for a reason. The Hawks should take him if he’s available. It doesn’t matter who the Hawks already have at what position, they just need the best possible talent at this point.
4. Memphis Grizzlies – Focusing on Their Best Players
Who are the Grizzlies best players? Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. When the Grizzlies are on the clock to make their pick, thoughts of Conley and Gasol need to be thrown out the window. For this team, it should’t matter what position they draft, as long as they get the best player they can. If they think Trae Young is the best available player here, but pass on him because they have Mike Conley, that’s a mistake. If they think Mohamed Bamba is the best available player, but pass on him because they have Gasol, that’s a mistake. The Grizzlies need to draft the best player, regardless of having Conley and Gasol around.
5. Dallas Mavericks – Not Drafting the Best Available Big Man
Rumors are the Mavericks want to draft Luka Doncic and are contemplating moving up to get him. I don’t think that’s the best idea for this team. This team needs a big man. They ranked second to last in blocks per game and 27th in rebounds per game last season. If Mohamed Bamba is available here, they have to take him. If Bamba isn’t on the board, they should consider taking Wendell Carter Jr. That may seem like a reach at number five. If they think it’s a reach, they should try trading down a couple spots. Getting the best available big man should be the priority for Dallas in this draft.
6. Orlando Magic – Drafting Another Defender Who Can’t Shoot
Orlando’s recent picks have all been promising defenders who are terrible shooters. Orlando has enough of those players, now they need some shooting. There’s a reason why Trae Young has been mocked to the Magic in pretty much every mock draft I’ve seen. This Magic team is just plain bad at shooting. If you can’t shoot, your defense isn’t really helping you. Orlando needs to find a balance of defense and shooting, not just one or the other. The Warriors are the perfect example of this. They shoot lights out, they defend, and they win. It will take more than one shooter to get that kind of balance for the Magic, but getting a shooter or two in this draft would be a nice start.
7. Chicago Bulls – Drafting a Contributor Over Potential
This Bulls team looks to have a bright future. They were better than expected this past season, but obviously still not that good. They have players with some promise. Now what they need is time for those players to develop. Chicago could go for a player like Mikal Bridges, who can contribute right away, but because this team needs time to develop and grow into their potential, a contributor isn’t what they need. This team needs a potential star who can develop with these other young players. They may not be good now, but if their players grow into their potential, they’ll be back soon.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers – Failing to Make a Trade That Could Get LeBron to Stay
In last year’s draft we saw the Timberwolves move the 7th pick for Jimmy Butler. The Cavs should be trying to do something similar this year. The player who seems to be available right now is Kawhi Leonard. Would acquiring Kawhi get LeBron to stay in Cleveland? It would certainly help their chances. If not Kawhi Leonard, maybe the Cavs go after a guy like Kemba Walker. I’d say getting Kawhi is more likely to keep LeBron around than Walker, but the Cavs have to do something. Cleveland knows they’re probably going to be a bad team without LeBron, so they have to do everything in their power to get him back.
9. New York Knicks – Not Drafting a 3 and D Player
At this point in the draft, the biggest stars should be off the board, but that doesn’t mean teams can’t still find contributing players. New York needs to improve on both sides of the ball, so they should be targeting a 3 and D player who can help them improve both offensively and defensively. Who that player is depends on who’s available after the first eight picks. Maybe trading down is the best option so they don’t reach for a guy, or maybe they’ll have to trade up. Regardless of where they pick, their priority should be getting a player who can contribute on both sides of the ball.
10. Philadelphia 76ers – Failing to Draft a Shooter
The 76ers are an up and coming team who has another lottery pick. They should use this pick wisely. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid are the two stars of this team right now. The problem for these two stars is they can’t shoot well. Both Simmons and Embiid need a lot of work on their shooting. Embiid is much better inside, so he should stick to that, but we all know he won’t. I’ve seen him jack up way too many three point shots like he’s trying to be J.J. Redick or something. Speaking of J.J. Redick, he may not be back with this team next season. With the risk of losing their best shooter, the 76ers have to find another shooter to step in. If Redick does return, then they add an additional shooter who can be a weapon, especially with the way Ben Simmons can pass the ball.
11. Charlotte Hornets – Not Shopping Kemba Walker
After trading Dwight Howard this morning, the Hornets really don’t have any other star players to help Kemba Walker. By trading Howard, the Hornets just made themselves a worse team. Unless they honestly believe they’re better without him, this trade likely means the Hornets are going into rebuild mode. If that’s the case, the Hornets should look to move Kemba Walker for either some solid young players or some draft picks. I could see a team like the Cavaliers being willing to make a trade for Kemba. Maybe the Clippers? 76ers? I think a few teams will be interested, and the Hornets should take advantage of that so they can have a better start to their rebuild.
12 and 13. Los Angeles Clippers – Trading Up, But Not Trading Up Far Enough
I believe the Clippers will look to trade up in this draft, but not trading up far enough would be a mistake. When you get past the top six or so picks in this draft, the chances of landing a star player drop significantly. If the Clippers were to trade up to pick eight, I think that’s a mistake. If this team wants to trade up, they should look to trade up into the top five or six picks to ensure they can land a star in this draft class. This team can’t just make any trade to move up, it has to be a smart trade. With two lottery picks, there’s a good chance the Clippers will be able to get the deal they’re looking for.
14. Denver Nuggets – Ignoring Defense
The Nuggets almost made the playoffs last season, but just missed out. One of the biggest reasons why this team missed the playoffs is because they had one of the worst defense’s in the league. Getting a player in this draft who has elite defensive potential has to be a top priority. They need a defender who can stop the opponents best player. This would have significantly helped them last season as they made their playoff run that fell just short. It would be preferable if the player they drafted was an elite defender right now, but even getting a player with elite defensive potential would be good for this team. Denver can’t ignore their defense if they want to make another playoff run.