2020 NBA Draft: Eastern Conference Needs
The 2020 NBA Draft is imminent and, like everything else in 2020, the usual protocols and preconceptions will all be put aside.
In a regular draft year, teams look for upside. They want to bring in the next young superstar, the next ‘face of the NBA’. This season, with the combination of the incredibly short offseason, a slew of teams at the top of the draft board who are very much not in rebuilding mode, and what is generally regarded as a deep – if lacking in true top-end talent – talent pool, we may see teams motivated by different forces, acting in ways that we’re not used to.
Usually, as we get towards the back end of the lottery teams start to draft for fit; to fill a need. There is every chance we’ll see that from the #1 pick on down in 2020.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the Eastern Conference sides will likely be reaching for with their picks.
(For the purposes of this piece, we’re assuming that teams make their picks as allocated, although there are sure to be a myriad of trades on the night. We’re also going to focus on 1st and high 2nd round picks)
Picks: 6, 50
Needs: depth, defense, immediate contributors
Right off the bat, we assess a team that has a strong chance to trade their pick. Above all else, Atlanta wants to contend for the playoffs next season. With all the young talent drafted in over the past few seasons, led by Trae Young and the mercurial if snake-bit John Collins, another rookie might not be what the doctor ordered in Atlanta.
If the Hawks keep their pick, expect them to look at upgrading the wing rotation. They’re set at the point and the power positions but those young wings all bring their own question marks. Expect Atlanta to take a few more bites at the 3-D apple, although should Obi Toppin or Onyeka Okongwo be available, the chance to potentially finalise the big man rotation – or open up the possibility of trading Collins – would be tempting.
Possible picks: Devin Vassell; Isaac Okoro; Obi Toppin.
Picks: 14, 26, 30, 47
Needs: starting centre, point guard depth, wing depth
Boston is another team that should be looking to make a trade, but not for the same reasons as the Hawks. Rather, Danny Ainge has more picks than he can fit on his roster, so either a consolidation of picks to move up in the draft or, more likely, a trade for a veteran contributor are in the works.
That said, there are clear needs that these picks could solve right now for the C’s. Daniel Theis is a nice player, but he’s a lower end starting centre in this league – an upgrade would be welcomed. The downside of such a talented and highly paid core group is that strength-in-depth suffers. When Kemba Walker or Gordon Hayward sat, the C’s struggled to replace their production.
Possible picks: Precious Achiuwa; Cole Anthony; Jalen Smith (at 14). Josh Green; Nico Mannion; Kira Lewis (at 26/30).
Picks: 19, 55
Needs: stretch centre; wing defense; immediate contributors
With Kevin Durant back and Kyrie Irving presumably healthy, the Nets are in win-now mode. Despite that, it’s unlikely that they trade their pick to bring in more talent – not when they have a ready-made trade chip in Caris Levert.
The Nets have, on paper at least, built well around their superstar due, though they could do with a shooter that can handle themselves inside defensively – both Jarrett Allen and Deandre Jordan are a little similar in their styles. Look for the team to bring in capable defenders at the wing positions, as well.
Possible picks: Achiuwa, Green, Tyler Bey.
Picks: 3, 32, 56
Needs: Talent everywhere but the guard spots
Isn’t it just Charlotte’s luck that when they finally land a top-three pick, they do it in a draft without multiple elite talents and in a class dominated by smaller guards – the one area they do not need help in.
The Hornets will be praying to every deity they can think of for James Wiseman to fall to them at #3, though Okongwu is a damn good consolation prize. Despite diminutive guards in Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier being their best players, the Hornets shouldn’t exclude themselves from drafting a lead guard, though. Neither Graham nor Rozier are exactly elite and, in their rebuilding phase, overall talent should win out over positional fit.
Possible picks: Okongwu; Toppin; whoever falls to 3rd out of LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and Wiseman (at 3). Daniel Oturo; Zeke Nnaji; Paul Reed (at 32)
Picks: 4, 44
Needs: floor general, defense, rebounding
The Bulls are understandably very high on LaMelo Ball. The youngest and possibly most talented of the Ball brothers is a player that should dovetail will with either Coby White or Zach Lavine who, for all of their scoring exploits, are not setting the table for anyone but themselves.
The Bulls have a brand new front office and head coach. They’ll both want to see what their talented but injury-prone front court can do before making any rash decisions. It’s likely that the only way they deal either Lauri Marrkanen or Wendell Carter Jr is if that’s the price of moving into the top two.
Possible picks: Ball; Deni Avdija; Tyrese Haliburton.
Needs: leadership, defense, talent
If you squint hard enough, tilt your head to the side and wait for the sun to shine just right, Cleveland has talent at every position. Kevin Love, Andre Drummond, and Tristan Thompson at the power spots, Larry Nance or Cedi Osman at the small forward, the recent draftees of Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and Kevin Porter Jr at guard. Realistically though, the Cavs have needs all over the floor. Love aside – and he’s at best disinterested, right now – not one of those players are proven winners.
The Cavs therefore should be open to the best player available with their pick. A true point guard would help, as would a genuine small forward – Osman and Nance are both converts. Still, given the Cavs recent draft record, they’ll probably take a score-first lead guard like Cole Anthony.
Possible picks: Avdija; Killian Hayes; Okoro.
Take a look at the Pistons roster. Is there a long-term NBA starter for a contending team there? Maybe Christian Wood? That’s about it. The flip side of that is that Detroit’s cap sheet is essentially Blake Griffin in a Scrooge McDuck like vault whilst everybody else gets by on less than the average salary. Expect Detroit to be a player on draft night, despite holding only one pick. They’ll be in play for every high priced contract dump with draft picks the cost of doing business.
But, with things as they stand currently, Detroit has a single shot in this draft: the #7 selection. Like the Cavs, the Pistons are not beholden to any positional or skill fit. It’s all about the talent. Expect them to ideally take a lead guard to try and establish some order for the current young players and any future youngsters that step into the lineup. They’re very keen to trade up to get Ball, but likely won’t have the pieces to make the deal happen.
Possible picks: Hayes; Haliburton; Vassell.
Needs: front court versatility, an Oladipo replacement/padawan
The Pacers have very good NBA talent at every position but, with all due respect to Domantas Sabonis and the ghost of Victor Oladipo, no superstars. They have no discernible weakness, but no overwhelming strength, either. The one trait that you can’t accuse this Indiana team of, though, is versatility.
The overlap between Sabonis and Myles Turner has been broken down ad nauseum. Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon are quite similar, too, in that they are both drivers that look to collapse the defense (although Brogdon’s shooting makes him infinitely more versatile on offense that Oladipo). Even TJ Warren, for all of his scoring explosions, can really only play in one way.
The Pacers need to find rotation pieces that can either help them raise their ceiling or at least make them a little less predictable. Barring a trade of Oladipo or one of their centres, that’s not happening at pick 54.
Possible picks: They’re picking at 54! Does it matter? Oh, alright. If you insist. Lamar Stevens; Jay Scrubb; Nate Hinton.
Needs: creativity, back-up bigs
The Heat’s run to within a pair of wins of the title masked some clear roster needs. Bam Adebayo is a beast, but behind him are serviceable shooting bigs that can’t play a lick of defense. A sturdy backup – ideally one they could play alongside Bam at times – is a must. At the other end of the positional spectrum, Miami knows it can’t rely on the aging Goran Dragic forever. Tyler Herro flashed some serious playmaking potential in the bubble, but he’s a scorer at heart, as in Kendrick Nunn. Another creative presence would be welcomed with open arms.
Fortunately for Miami, there should be plenty of players fit for either role available to them. Of course, don’t discount their #20 pick being included in a trade for a certain Point God.
Possible picks: RJ Hampton; Anthony; Vernon Carey.
Needs: creativity, shooting, defensive versatility
This pick is most certainly on the trade table. In our Vendetta Mock Draft, the pick was traded (along with George Hill) to Detroit for Derrick Rose. Rose certainly fills the Bucks glaring need for late clock creativity at the offensive end.
Should Milwaukee hold the pick, look for them to take a player with similar chops to the former MVP Rose. They’ll look for somebody that isn’t a complete liability on defense whose signature skill is the ability to create a shot off the dribble. Failing that, they could do with another wing shooter or a centre to spell the Lopii as they start to age.
Possible picks: Anthony; Tyrese Maxey; Jahmius Ramsey
New York Knicks
Picks: 8, 27, 38
Needs: talent everywhere bar centre, on court leadership, shooting
Last season’s top pick, RJ Barrett, is a potential star. It’s a disgrace that the Knicks put so many hurdles in front of him. The poor guy was driving through a thicket of defenders every single time he took the play on, given the total lack of spacing around him. In this draft, the Knicks need to start righting some of their previous wrongs.
The best paths for New York in this draft is through either drafting a shooter to clear some space for Barrett’s bullocking drives or take a lead guard to reduce some of Barrett’s workload. This is the perfect draft for the Knicks to take either of those types of players.
Possible picks: Hayes; Haliburton; Williams; Devin Vassell (at 8). Tyler Bey; Desmond Bane; Leandro Bolmaro; Immanuel Quickley (at 27/38).
Picks: 15, 45
Needs: rim protection, shooting, wings
The Magic may well need a point guard in the near future but for now they’re backing in Markelle Fultz’s pedigree, so they’ll focus on a rim protecting big to eventually supplant Nik Vucevic (things are not looking good for Mo Bamba’s career) and a wing that can both shoot and create.
Pickings are slim at this part of the draft for true modern centres, but there are some options available that might work with Jonathan Isaac, once he returns from injury. There are more plentiful choices for Orlando amongst the wings.
Possible picks: Saddiq Bey; Aaron Nesmith; Smith
Picks: 21, 34, 36, 49, 58
Needs: shooting, ball handling, (if Al Horford is traded) back up centre
The more things change, eh? As it has always been through the Embiid/Simmons era, the Sixers need shooting (my Kingdom for a Redick) and a ball handling guard. For all of their magnificent talents as individuals, Embiid and Simmons stifle each other without the right supporting cast: Embiid demands a slower game but Simmons is limited in the half-court; whilst the Aussie is a hare in the open floor, but the plodding Cameroonian can’t keep up with him.
Ideally, Philly will be able to find an athletic wing who can shoot and has enough off the bounce game to attack a close out. They should have numerous options with pick 21 as well as their early second rounders.
Possible picks: Green; Nesmith; Theo Maledon (at 21). Bolmaro; Elijah Hughes; Jahmius Ramsey (at 34/36).
Picks: 29, 59
Needs: a long term centre, long term point guard, one-on-one bucket getter
For all of his development, the playoffs demonstrated just how far Pascal Siakam has to go to be a genuine first option for a contender. Ideally, general manager Masai Ujiri will find a potential scoring option, although that may be too much to ask at pick 29. Expect the Raps to focus on a longer term prospect.
Given the ages of Marc Gasol (35) and Kyle Lowry (34) and the possible free agent defection of Fred Vanvleet, the Raptors should focus on the centre and guard positions.
Possible picks: Daniel Oturu; Tyrell Terry; Lewis.
Picks: 9, 37
Needs: defense, rebounding, centre
The Wizards have needs all across their front line. Davis Bertans is a gun, but is best suited to being a dynamite bench scorer. Thomas Bryant is energetic but ineffective on defense. Rui Hachimura is the proverbial riddle wrapped in an enigma. Expect general manager Tommy Sheppard to try to fortify that front line. Of course, nobody knows more about the condition of John Wall – remember him? – then the Wizards; if they draft a point guard on draft night…..
No matter what position their eventual draft pick plays, defense is a must. As Sheppard mentioned on Zach Lowe’s recent podcast ‘we only finished 30th (on defense) because there are only 30 teams’.
Possible picks: Okongwu; Okoro; Williams.
Next time, we’ll turn our gaze to the western conference for the 2020 NBA Draft.