2019 NBA Team Needs - Southeast Division
Dan Servodidio and Justin Fensterman take a look at what every NBA team needs this offseason and what they may do in the NBA draft division by division.
With the NBA Draft rapidly approaching (Thursday, June 20), we thought it would be a good idea to identify each team’s needs and, based on what we saw in the playoffs, potential offseason activity and draft position, identified players they may select once on the clock. Justin Fensterman, our resident NBA guru, and Dan Servodidio, who led our college basketball analysis, have combined their efforts to give you everything you’ll need to know on Draft Day.
We start with the Southeast Division.
The Hawks have grown very much offensively through their youth. They are set with John Collins and Trae Young alone. With the emergence of Kevin Huerter , and with Kent Bazemore (who will opt-in to stick around) to go along with Taurean Prince , they are set for guard-forwards and they need a big man. Even Vince Carter might be back in Atlanta! Dewayne Dedmon will test the market a bit, but he wasn’t that impactful of a defensive big man and he may not draw teams in unless it’s for a cheaper price. That could end up benefiting the Hawks because if Dedmon doesn’t seek interest, it puts the Hawks in a better bargaining position to bring him back for cheap. Building through the draft has worked for them (I know they traded Luka Doncic for Trae Young but its worked for both teams thus far).
John Collins can help at Center, but he needs to play predominantly from the Power Forward spot. The Hawks have both the 8th and 10th picks in the first round and then 3 more picks in the second round. They could use another point guard to take a little pressure off of Young, but they don’t need it desperately and can wait until the second round to address it because Young will still be playing heavy minutes. They MUST draft a big man and they should consider using both first-round picks to fill the void.
If the Hawks are looking at taking a center with either of their lottery picks, the top two targets who should be there at #8 or #10 are Jaxson Hayes and Bruno Fernando. Hayes, 6-foot-11 and 220 pounds, was a raw talent in his one year at Texas but the athleticism and potential are clearly there as he’s still growing into his body. He’s one of the best shot-blockers in this draft (3.8 blocks per 40 last season) with the natural bounce and instincts that can translate to the next level. Fernando was a double-double machine at Maryland and the decision last year to return for his sophomore season definitely paid off. The Angolan native polished his offensive game in the paint to become a better scorer - and he intensified his defensive presence as a threatening rim-protector with energy to boot (a la Montrezl Harrell ).
The Hawks may not want to double-down on pure centers in the first round, so they could use their other pick on a scoring forward-type with tons of potential to blossom into a star. Sekou Doumbouya, an international prospect from France, is raw but promising as an 18-year-old. He’s drawn comparisons to Giannis Antetokounmpo because of his ball-handling skills, scoring versatility and plus-defending at his size (6-foot-9, 230 pounds). Playing in France’s top league, Doumbouya recently went off for a career-high 34 points in a May 18 game. Duke’s Cam Reddish has been rumored to the Hawks as well. The three-and-D winger had to play in the shadow of Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett this past season but he might have been the No. 1 scoring option on many other major college programs. Although he didn’t stand out in his one year under Coach K, Reddish has potential with a beautiful three-point stroke, a versatile 6-foot-8 frame and the defensive ability to guard NBA wings.
If the Hawks do target a guard with one of their two first-round selections, a couple of names to look out for: Coby White (UNC) if he falls to the 8th pick, Romeo Langford (Indiana), and Kevin Porter Jr. (USC).
Sitting with the 12th pick in the first round and two second-round picks, the Hornets enter the unknown entering the off-season. Their top two players from last season are unrestricted free agents and other teams have shown interest in Kemba Walker . Malik Monk ’s progress is slow. Another issue with the Hornets is veteran player options, Marvin Williams , Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo would be stupid to opt out of their contracts. Biyombo is opting in for sure and I can’t see either of the other two opting out. Being that they are stuck with those three players and Nicolas Batum , they have two specific areas to address in Point Guard and Center. If they utilize their first-round pick on an NBA-ready Point Guard, he will have Tony Parker (one of the best Point Guards of the last two decades) mentoring him and helping him transition quickly.
They could also shift focus to Center in the first round if a must-draft big man falls. Cody Zeller had a very difficult time staying healthy, Frank Kaminsky is a restricted free agent and if I were the Hornets, I would do everything I can to get out of having to keep him, and Willy Hernangomez is a one-way offensive player who provides zero defensive impact. If they go PG in the first round, they can take a shot on a big man in the second round. If Walker ends up staying and it somehow leaks and becomes official prior to the draft, they should be thinking big man all the way with their 12th overall pick.
If Kemba Walker is likely gone from Charlotte, pure point guards, unfortunately, may be tough to find at #12. North Carolina’s Coby White will surely be gone by that point but if he falls, the Hornets should look to keep him in-state as their PG of the future. White anchored one of the fastest-paced teams in the nation last year as he always looked to push the ball up the floor and help North Carolina score quick and often - 30.7% of his points in his freshman season came on transition. He’s more of a score-first point guard but he showed flashes as a distributor last year because of his elite elusiveness and quick decision-making. Assuming White is gone (he’s being mocked in the 5-9 pick range), Charlotte can look to trade back if they really want a point guard because the next-best is likely Purdue’s Carsen Edwards, who may not go until the 20s.
The top half of the lottery contains a few big men who could fall down other teams’ draft boards and the Hornets could target Oregon’s Bol Bol with their #12 pick. Bol, the son of former NBA player Manute Bol, might have the most unknown potential of anyone in this class. The 7-foot-2, 210-pound center played just nine games of his freshman season before sustaining a season-ending foot injury. That risk alone could push teams away but he was dominating the college ranks before getting hurt. Bol averaged 21 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.7 blocks and shot 57% from three-point range. The team that bets right on Bol’s talent could come away with a steal if he’s able to prove his health at the next level.
Unfortunately, the Heat won’t have much wiggle room in free agency unless Hassan Whiteside and/or Goran Dragic opt out, which is highly unlikely. The Heat are barely in this draft as they sit with the 13th pick in the first round and they have no action in the second round. After seeing the impact that Dwayne Wade made last year at Shooting Guard, the Heat could use a guard at either position. Wade was able to help facilitate the offense and after Goran Dragic ’s injury-ridden season, they could also use a point guard. They have players at other positions who are perfectly capable, but drafting a near NBA-ready PG would give them less pressure to sign Dragic when he’s a free agent next summer.
The problem with drafting a big man, despite Whiteside seeing his minutes limited last season, is that the Heat have a lot of big men under contract and they have budding Center Bam Adebayo who is looking at minutes increase and they can also rotate Kelly Olynyk in. They have a lot of options at Power Forward too. Their main focus on their lone pick should be guard-focused.
Similar to the Charlotte Hornets, an NBA-ready point guard will be tough to find at #13. Instead, the Heat could look at the best shooting guards available who can also play the point when needed. Romeo Langford saw his NBA stock drop after inefficient numbers during his lone college season at Indiana, but he’s a former top-10 high school recruit and was being mocked among the top 10 at this time last year. The inconsistent numbers (49% from the field, 27% from three) were likely due to a torn ligament in his shooting hand, but Langford can drive to the rim with the best of them - and he did so game after game in the Big Ten last year despite a below-average team around him. The 6-foot-6 combo guard played the point and the 2-guard roles last season and could be the taller guard many NBA teams are looking to lock down.
Another versatile guard the Heat could target is Kevin Porter Jr. out of USC. Although questions surround him after he was suspended last season for conduct issues, Porter has the raw talent to create his own shot and handle the ball effectively. At this best, the freshman was usually USC’s top scoring option because of his explosiveness driving to the rim and ability to manufacture his own shot attempts when defenses hounded him. He’s drawn comparisons to James Harden - not just because of his left-handed release - but also because of his unique ability to score in multiple ways from both guard positions.
The Magic sit with the 16th overall pick and a second round pick in this year’s draft and reports have said that they are prioritizing re-signing Nikola Vucevic which makes them mentally set at Center for now. If Vucevic announces that he has no interest in returning to Orlando, they may shift focus to Center as Mohamed Bamba suffered a major injury last year and they may want to fill the void Vucevic would leave behind. They should be thinking Point Guard going into this draft.
D.J. Augustin is a seasoned veteran and Jerian Grant has been a bust and they desperately need someone who will act as a floor general. They can hedge their investment in Markelle Fultz if they decide to draft a PG. Fultz was a former number one overall pick, but he is unproven and surely not a lock to be an overnight success. It will not only help take the pressure (mentally and physically) off of Fultz, but it gives them more depth. They can’t expect Fultz to come in playing 30 minutes a game right from the start. They need to draft a guard. Terrence Ross wants to re-sign with the Magic and that should make the decision easier for them to draft a Point Guard.
As mentioned earlier, the point guard depth in this draft class takes a steep decline after Coby White and finding a true distributor at #16 would be a stretch. However, the Magic could choose from a number of combo guards who showed flashes of point guard talent in college.
Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker played a ton of the point in the latter part of last season while senior Justin Robinson was hurt - plus, he has the ability to create his own shot after having played the 2-guard role for most of his college career. The 6-foot-5 sophomore has the length (6-foot-9 wingspan) to translate into the next level and will eventually be able to defend multiple positions. Alexander-Walker isn’t the best pure athlete, but his feel for the game and versatility at either guard spot could make him a value here. Other guards the Magic could target, if available, are Indiana’s Romeo Langford, USC’s Kevin Porter Jr., and Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson.
If the Magic do end up looking center or big man, Bol Bol (Oregon) could fall to them although they might want to avoid a possible repeat of the currently injured Mo Bamba. Instead, Orlando could take a shot on a relatively unknown in Goga Bitadze. The 19-year-old, 6-foot-11 international prospect from Georgia has played overseas - most recently in Serbia - but he’s one of the best pure center prospects in this draft. Bitadze is your classic Eastern European big man who’s terrific in the mid-range, a crafty ball-handler and strong in the post. The offensive upside is there but the only question is how he’ll hold up defensively in the NBA when he inevitably switches onto faster players. He could be a home run like Denver got with Nikola Jokic - or he flames out in three years.
Fensty says: The Wizards are very stuck right now because they don’t want to pay Bradley Beal and we don’t know when they’ll see John Wall take the court again as he’s dealing with an Achilles injury. They want to retain Thomas Bryant and Dwight Howard has opted in. While they can use help at every position and should consider just going best player available with their lone 9th overall pick. They have been looking for suitors for John Wall prior to his injury as well so the Wizards can start addressing their backcourt for the future. By saying that they want to bring back Bryant, I’m convinced that they think guard. They need to make a decision on Bobby Portis as well and that will impact the direction they go in the draft.
They also have a need to fill at Small Forward with both Trevor Ariza and Jeff Green being free agents. Jabari Parker has a team option and the Wizards should look to stay as far away as possible from him as he’s admitted he doesn’t try to defend. It doesn’t matter that he was a former second overall pick. Even if the price tag is cheap, they should still try to stay away from having him back.
If the Wizards really want to start rebuilding, they should use the pick as trade bait and if they’re talking to a team like the Lakers who have expressed interest in Beal and are willing to pay him handsomely, the pick is an asset that will give the Lakers a top-10 pick and the Wizards can move on and not be trapped for the next number of years because of steep contracts.
As Fensty noted, the Wizards could go anywhere with this #9 pick - including trading it away - so let’s look at the best players likely available with a focus on small forward.
DeAndre Hunter (Virginia) would be nice but he’s likely gone before the Wizards get on the clock. Sekou Doumbouya (France) and Cam Reddish (Duke) could both still be there and they are definitely intriguing, but risky options. A couple of small forward prospects we haven’t touched on yet are Nassir Little and Rui Hachimura.
Little is very interesting because although he’s an athletic freak, he simply failed to carve out a meaningful role last season on a talented North Carolina team that included upperclassmen Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson at his position. He only averaged 9.6 PPG and 4.6 RPG as a freshman, but even in limited minutes, he showed potential that earned him the McDonald’s All American Game MVP as a top-6 six high school recruit a year ago. Much like Reddish, the promise is there as a natural athlete but it’s a bit discouraging he struggled to make an impact at the college level.
Hachimura, meanwhile, has a game that’s more clearly ready for the NBA. At Gonzaga this past year, the Japanese-born Hachimura polished his offensive skills by figuring out how to use his unique athleticism better - something that was fairly raw a year ago when he considered entering the Draft early. At 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, he has the size to bang in the post with opposing bigs and the quickness and footwork to blow by them as well. The arsenal is complete when you add in a fine-tuned jumper that’s lethal from mid-range.
For a look at the rest of the NBA Divisions, click here.