2020 NBA Draft
2020 NBA Draft: Western Conference Needs (Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

2020 NBA Draft: Western Conference Needs

The 2020 NBA Draft is just days away and, like everything else in this most unusual of years, it’s going to be different from other editions of the draft.

The short offseason, the apparent relative lack of top-end talent in this draft, the lack of games played by many of the prospects, and the lack of truly rebuilding teams at the top of the draft means that we’ll likely see teams make some unusual selections this time around.

We’ve already cast our eye over the East, so let’s take a look at the Western Conference.

As per the Eastern Conference article, it has to be declared that trades from the #1 pick on down could turn this draft on its head. For the purposes of this exercise, all teams are making the picks that they currently own. And as per last time, we’ll mainly focus on 1st round and early 2nd round selections.

Dallas Mavericks

Picks: 18, 31

Needs: rim runner, defense, non-Luka shot creation

Dallas possessed literally the most efficient offense in NBA history last season, yet they still need some offensive tweaks. The loss of Dwight Powell to injury hurt them, as they simply had no other lob threats to play off of Luka Doncic’s masterful playmaking. Willie Cauley-Stein might help given he should now be acclimatised to the offense, but drafting a rim runner is still an option. The offense as a whole relied perhaps a bit too heavily on Doncic’s magic for coach Rick Carlisle’s liking – a secondary playmaker from the wing position would be a godsend.

Defensively, Dallas were not exactly a sieve but they weren’t great, either. If Dallas can draft itself a legitimate 3 and D threat, look for them to do so.

Possible picks: Precious Achiuwa; Aaron Nesmith; Jalen Smith (at 18). Leandro Bolmaro; Tyler Bey; Isaiah Joe (at 31).

Denver Nuggets

Picks: 22

Needs: shooting, perimeter defense, front court depth

For all of their exploits in the Orlando bubble, Denver are still short of true contention status. Whilst Will Barton’s return will help (as would Gary Harris recovering his jump shot), the Nuggets desperately need genuine two-way players at the guard and wing positions.

It’s a secondary need, but Denver could also use some front court depth. Paul Millsap is aging in dog years and may not be retained in any case. Whichever Plumlee brother Denver has (I’ve lost track. Malcolm Plumlee? Mitchell?) didn’t cover themselves in glory in the playoffs. A long term backup (ideally one that can play alongside Nikola Jokic) is required.

Possible picks: Josh Green; Cole Anthony; Desmond Bane

Golden State Warriors

Picks: 2, 48, 51

Needs: wings, centre, back up point guard

Let’s preface this section by acknowledging that all of this could be blown up by the Warriors trading their coveted #2 overall pick. With that out of the way….

Golden State has an all-time back court returning from injury and an All-Star Swiss Army knife of a big man. What they don’t have are pieces to fit around them. Depending on your Andrew Wiggins persuasions, the Dubs may or may not need wings in the worst way. If Wiggins isn’t what the team is looking for, expect them to trade him along with the pick for an All-Star level wing. If they think Wiggins can be rehabilitated (let’s face it: this will be the single best situation he’s experienced in his basketball life, so it’s certainly possible) then a centre will be the priority. James Wiseman, COME ON DOWN!!!!!!

Possible picks: James Wiseman. That’s it – if he’s not available, they’ll trade the pick. At a stretch, they may take Deni Avdija or Obi Toppin.

Houston Rockets

Picks: N/A

Needs: for their world to stop spinning.

In 12 months the Houston Rockets have lost its springy young centre, it’s long time coach, it’s revolutionary general manager, and now might be about to lose BOTH of its superstar guards. This is a team that needs to take a lie down and get a hold of itself.

With no picks (at this stage) the Rockets will find no respite in the draft.

Possible picks: Gotta be in it to win it. The Rox are not in it.

LA Clippers

Picks: 57

Needs: centre depth, point guard, shooting

The Clippers’ implosion against Denver was mainly due to Nikola Jokic man handling Ivica Zubac and especially Montrezl Harrell. Zubac is still developing and will be a solid two-way player. Harrell, for all of his ferocious rim running, is the size of a wing – he’s a liability defensively. On a team where he’s not a focal point of the offense, what exactly is his worth?

The other reason Denver shocked the Clips was that famed stopper Patrick Beverley found the only way to slow Jamal Murray was to foul him on literally every possession. Pat Bev is a warrior who has worked for – and earned – everything the NBA has given him, so there’s no disrespect intended in saying he’s a fading force. A solid two-way lead guard should also be on the Clips menu.

Alas, they’re getting neither at pick 57.

Possible picks: Mason Jones; Udoka Azubuike; Yam Madar

Los Angeles Lakers

Picks: N/A

Needs: shooting, perimeter defense

In trading the 28th pick and Danny Green to the Thunder for Dennis Schroder, the Lakers dressed their most pressing need: secondary playmaking. However, losing Green exacerbates their other two needs. Green consistently took the best opposing wing player, and whilst the career 40% three-point bomber hit a solid 36.7% this season, there is the strong possibility of some regression to the mean. Schroder, meanwhile, shot a career-high 38.5% from beyond the arc. As a career 33.7% shooter from deep, his potential regression to the mean should worry the Lakers.

Possible picks: N/A

Memphis Grizzlies

Picks: 40

Needs: shooting, perimeter defense

The Grizzlies have a core to build around: Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr, Brandon Clarke, and Justice Winslow. Depending on your view of Dillon Brooks, they may have a fifth core piece. Either way, the Grizz still have two very pressing needs. With their only pick coming in the mid 2nd round, they’re unlikely to find a shooter of perimeter stopper who can contribute to their playoff push right away.

Possible picks: Isaiah Joe; Jay Scrubb; Jaden McDaniels

Minnesota Timberwolves

Picks: 1, 17, 33

Needs: 2-way talent

This draft has the potential to get awfully weird, awfully quickly. That could start at the top, with the Wolves trading out of the #1 pick. Minnesota have a potential top ten offense with Malik Beasley playing off what should be a delightful D’Angelo Russell-Karl Towns pick and roll combo. There is some serious Washington Wizards – losing games 138-145 type potential – here. The Wolves need defense.

The issue for general manager Gersson Rosas is the players at the top of this draft don’t really fill the needs of the team, unless they can convince themselves that Wiseman is the perfect rim running big to partner Towns in the front court. A trade is definitely on the cards.

Possible picks: Anthony Edwards; James Wiseman; LaMelo Ball (at 1). Jalen Smith; Precious Achiuwa; Saddiq Bey (at 17). Jaden McDaniels; Tyler Bey; Isaiah Stewart (at 33).

New Orleans Pelicans

Picks: 13, 39, 42, 60

Needs: stretch bigs, play making, interior defense

Zion Williamson is an all caps TRANSFORMATIVE TALENT. Yet, like Ben Simmons in Philadelphia, he needs a very specific set of teammates to maximise his talents. That’s not an easy fix for general manager David Griffin.

If Zion is an undersized centre, then the team needs an athletic power forward to cover him defensively; if he himself is a four, then a stretchy centre that can help protect the rim (Hello, Miles Turner! Part of a Jrue Holiday trade, perhaps?) is required. Whilst this draft is light on top end talent, it is full of potential rotation pieces. New Orleans has multiple bites at the apple.

In addition, with Holiday on the trade table and JJ Redick aging, a long term prospect at shooting guard would be welcomed.

Possible picks: Deni Avdija; Devin Vassell; Jalen Smith (at 13). Killian Tillie; Jordan Nwora; Isaiah Joe (at 39/42)

Oklahoma City Thunder

Picks: 25, 28, 53

Needs: talent

Schroder’s gone. Chris Paul’s gone. Time in Thunder blue surely runs short for Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams. Folks: the rebuild is on.

General manager Sam Presti has a long standing fetish for long, lean athletes that may or may not know how to play basketball. For every Westbrook, there’s ten Terrance Ferguson’s. He’ll have to break the habit of a lifetime in order to rebuild the Thunder, starting right now. There are so many potential long term rotation pieces he can claim with his late first round picks. Stars can come later – now is the time to start building the talent base.

Possible picks: These picks could end up going anywhere. Throwing darts at a board….let’s go with Aleksej Pokusevski; Isaiah Stewart; Paul Reed

Phoenix Suns

Picks: 10

Needs: Long term point guard, back up big men, defense

The Suns have pushed their chips into the centre of the table, trading for CP3. That doesn’t change their needs all that much, however. Paul is in his mid 30’s. The man he replaces – Ricky Rubio – is only 30 but has so many miles on the clock. The Suns need to find Paul’s long term successor. Cam Payne’s bubble form is probably a mirage. In a lead guard rich draft, this is the Suns chance to select their new floor general.

If they don’t see anyone they like at the tenth pick, or land an extra pick via trade, then look for the Suns to draft big men. Aron Baynes and Dario Saric are both free agents and Baynes in particular may have priced himself out of a range that is comfortable for the Suns.

Possible picks: Killian Hayes; Tyrese Haliburton; Kira Lewis Jr

Portland Trailblazers

Picks: 16, 46

Needs: wings, defense

The small forward rotation in Portland could be great. Rodney Hood comes back looking sprightly after his Achilles tear, Trevor Ariza continues to play stellar defense and knock down just enough outside jumpers and Carmelo Anthony settles into a role as the alpha of the 2nd unit. Conversely, Hood might not have the lift required for his feathery jump shot, Ariza starts to play to his age and Melo’s Indian Summer could very quickly turn to autumn.

Whilst the team would ideally find an all round talent at pick 16, defense is the Blazers biggest need. That’s not just a small forward – all over the floor the Blazers struggle defensively.

Possible picks: Patrick Williams; Aaron Nesmith; Saddiq Bey

Sacramento Kings

Picks: 12, 35, 43, 52

Needs: a plan

New general manager Monte McNair has one hell of a tangle on his hands.

His front court is a mess. Is Marvin Bagley a centre? If so, can they find a four that can space the floor and protect the basket? If Bagley’s a power forward, is Richaun Holmes the answer at centre? What, exactly, does Harrison Barnes bring to the table?

The back court is talented, but questions abound there, as well. Do the Kings look to match any offer sheet for restricted free agent Bogdan Bogdanovic? Do they move on from Buddy Hield? Do they attempt to find a way to keep both shooters, along with franchise cornerstone De’Aaron Fox, happy?

Decisions, decisions….

Possible picks: Devin Vassell; Patrick Williams; Saddiq Bey

San Antonio Spurs

Picks: 11, 41

Needs: shooting, rotation bigs, defense

This is an interesting draft for San Antonio. For the past few seasons, they’ve stockpiled athletic guards and wings with tantalising talents. Now, it’s time to focus on the front court, though it’s very likely that a solid guard prospect will slip through to them at pick 11.

The Spurs will be hoping that Obi Toppin, Deni Avdija or Onyeka Okongwu falls to them – that seems unlikely, but the potential of trades upsetting the market could create just enough chaos to benefit San Antonio.

If one of the big men don’t fall to them, look for the Spurs to take a bigger wing who can potentially play the four long term, spending a season learning the ropes from Rudy Gay.

Possible picks: Patrick Williams; Obi Toppin; Precious Achiuwa

Utah Jazz

Picks: 23

Needs: depth, perimeter defence

With Bojan Bogdanovic in the bubble, Utah could quite easily have been the Nuggets, playing their way into the conference finals. Alas, a thin Jazz lineup missing it’s 2nd leading scorer didn’t have enough to overcome Jamal Murray’s fever dream.

Utah’s top seven players from last season – Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neal, and Jordan Clarkson – could match it with any group in the NBA. Once the rotation stretched beyond that, the Jazz stank. They have to keep hold of free agent Jordan Clarkson and look to sign a solid backup big man (Derrick Favors reunion, anyone?).

As for their draft pick, look for the Jazz to take a longer term prospect and back the development machine that churned out Mitchell, Gobert, Ingles and O’Neal.

Possible picks: Robert Woodard; Paul Reed; Theo Maledon

Be sure to check out the Eastern Conference draft needs, and best of luck following the chaos of NBA draft 2020.

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