2019 NBA Team Needs - Northwest 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.
Let's take a look at the Northwest Division.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: None)
The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league, but they don’t have any draft picks. They have coverage at virtually every position and it’s looking like they will exercise Paul Millsap ’s option. We can’t forget that the Nuggets drafted Michael Porter Jr. last season and he will add to their SF depth. With Trey Lyles being a restricted free agent, if the Nuggets buy a pick at the end of the first round or even in the second round, they can use it on another big man. Millsap isn’t getting any younger and there is a need to fill at back up PF. Juancho Hernangomez can play a few minutes at PF, but they really need a PF-specific back-up. If Denver doesn’t trade into the draft, they should try to hold onto Lyles.
Unfortunately, the Nuggets don’t currently have any picks in this draft but as Fensty mentioned, they could try to trade into the late-first or early-second to grab a power forward for depth purposes. This could be the type of trade that doesn’t happen until the draft is underway, but a couple targets in that range who could fit nicely as backup PF’s for Denver are Grant Williams (Tennessee), Chuma Okeke (Auburn) and Eric Paschall (Villanova).
Paschall and Williams gained plenty of experience in college and as a senior and junior, respectively, they are more NBA-ready than most bigs in this draft. Williams was a two-time SEC Player of the Year and his thick frame is ideal for a backup power forward in the league to contest for rebounds on both ends and bang in the post against opposing bigs. Paschall improved his 3-point shooting last season (34.8% from beyond the arc in 2018-19) and his versatility defensively could come in handy switching onto smaller guards in the current small-ball age of the NBA. Plus, Paschall has that winning attitude after helping ‘Nova win the national title in 2018 and redshirting for the 2016 title team as well.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 11th, 43rd)
The ‘Wolves need more help up front if they are going to move up the standings. For some reason, Dario Saric hasn’t grown much since being traded to Minnesota and it’s still hard to tell whether or not he’s ready to start. With Taj Gibson being a free agent they can look for another inside-scoring big man who might even be ready to start from the get-go. Karl-Anthony Towns plays a lot on the perimeter and a low-post inside banger of a big man will be a good compliment to Towns in their starting lineup. Derrick Rose will command more money and the ‘Wolves will have to make a decision regarding Tyus Jones . If the ‘Wolves aren’t planning on retaining either player, they should pivot from PF and look to target a back up change of pace combo-guard who can come in off the bench and lead their second unit in scoring. They can address their guard depth in the second round if they decide to go big early.
If the Timberwolves want to draft a big man who can enter the starting rotation immediately, they’ll likely have to dedicate their 11th overall pick to that position. There are naturally a lot more NBA-ready bigs in that range than they’d find in the second round and a couple that should be available to them are Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga) and PJ Washington (Kentucky). Both players can score and play defense in the inside post to allow Karl-Anthony Towns to operate more effectively from the outside and avoid foul trouble. Clarke led all of college basketball in blocked shots and FG percentage last season and would fit in well alongside another big like he did at Gonzaga with Rui Hachimura - a similar player to Towns who was better offensively from the outside while Clarke provided a different skill set inside.
If Minnesota goes big man in the first round, a few combo-guards to target with the 43rd overall pick would be Zach Norvell Jr. (Gonzaga), Terance Mann (Florida State), Jalen Lecque (Brewster Academy) or Justin Wright-Foreman (Hofstra). Each of these players can provide scoring off the bench and have the skills to create their own shots while also having experience at the point to get the whole second unit involved offensively. Lecque and Wright-Foreman are score-first point guards primarily, while Norvell and Mann played the majority of the scoring two-guard position in their college careers.
Oklahoma City Thunder
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 21st)
The Thunder have two needs in SG and PF. They should prioritize adding a big man over adding a shooting guard because both Russell Westbrook and Paul George will take a lot of shots. Patrick Patterson opted in, but he won’t make a positive impact and Nerlens Noel can’t play a lot of minutes. Steven Adams needs help in the post, especially on the defensive end. A Power Forward with good rebounding abilities would help take the pressure off of boxing out Adams. Even if this player doesn’t start, Jerami Grant plays a lot more on the perimeter and is a better defender on the perimeter than in the post. The Thunder have trouble advancing in the playoffs because they can’t stop other teams from getting in the paint and a big man can help clog up the middle. With Adams still playing effectively 30-plus minutes per game, the PF should be a priority.
With only one pick in this draft and a need at power forward, the Thunder could look to target one of these prospects with that #21 overall pick: Grant Williams (Tennessee), Goga Bitadze (Republic of Georgia), Mfiondu Kabengele (Florida State) or Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga). Each of these bigs have a wide range of draft grades and could be gone by the time OKC picks, but all four will allow Steven Adams to be more effective with more size playing alongside him.
Kabengele and Bitadze are interesting fliers in the first-round because while their talent is raw, the payoff could be huge for a potentially franchise-changing talent. Kabengele - the nephew of Dikembe Mutumbo - was the best per-minute player for Florida State last season despite not starting a single game. Instead, he was elite in his role off the bench as a shot-blocker and presence around the rim with an improved offensive game that should help his NBA team space the floor better. Bitadze, meanwhile, is your prototypical European big with a wide range of offensive moves in the post and the 3-point shooting to stretch the floor. At 6-foot-11 and 245 pounds, the Georgian international prospect has the size to body up opposing centers and allow Adams some respite in that area.
Portland Trail Blazers
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 25th)
Al-Farouq Aminu and Enes Kanter are going to try to command a lot of money and it will take the pressure off of the Blazers if they use their sole first round draft pick to draft a big man. Jusuf Nurkic got hurt and even though Zach Collins showed a lot of growth, the Blazers can use a good defensive big man to come off the bench and defend the paint against opposing second units. The big man they should target should be able to defend both the perimeter and the post. Nurkic will handle a lot of the low-post scoring and Collins will handle more of the mid and long-range shooting and they can focus on bringing in a defensive big man. They can also look to use the pick on drafting a combo-guard who can fill in for both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum if needed. They should target a player with good ball-handling skills. They have more of a need to fill out their frontcourt, but if a good guard is on the board, it wouldn’t be the worst decision to add to the second most dangerous frontcourt in the NBA.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, a ton of teams need bigs and the quality options at #25 overall could be limited. A few players they should expect to be available in the latter part of the first round are Nic Claxton (Georgia), Bruno Fernando (Maryland) and Grant Williams (Tennessee). Each of these players can provide the defensive upside to allow Jusef Nurkic and Zach Collins be more effective on offense next season. Claxton’s 7’0” frame makes him the more ideal center as a rim-protector, but he’ll only have to bulk up a little if he wants to be dominant on defense.
If most of their targeted big men are gone by 25, the Blazers could turn their focus to a combo-guard to provide depth in the backcourt. Keep an eye out for Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson or USC’s Kevin Porter Jr. landing in Portland if that’s the case. Johnson mostly played the two-guard role in his freshman year and he could be a nice scorer off the bench for an NBA team, like the Blazers, who already have two talented guards starting. Although there are questions about Porter’s work ethic and coachability, there’s no denying the talent that had him looking like the best player on USC last season despite his mid-season suspension and lack of chemistry with the rest of the team.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 23rd, 53rd)
The Jazz want to make a big signing in free agency and just in case they can’t get Tobias Harris , they should look to fill out their frontcourt depth. Rudy Gobert is not a good offensive Center and if they trade Derrick Favors , they’ll be stuck with a limited amount of depth unless they sign a big name. They can use both picks on big men. A Power Forward should be the priority as Jae Crowder (if Favors leaves) won’t be able to handle the position by himself. He’s a more effective Small Forward. They need security and for a team that prides themselves on defense, they need big men in order to do so. They could also use their first round pick on a highly skilled ball-handler if there is one available. Ricky Rubio is a free agent and they just need a playmaker who can set up Donovan Mitchell as much as possible. The PG they target doesn’t even need to be a good shooter. He needs to be able to run, keep the pace of the offense fast and be a strong passer. They should prioritize PF and PG as their areas of focus so that if they completely strike out in free agency, they have a young nucleus that can further grow the team. The Jazz are a very run and gun type of team and a quick NBA-ready floor general would be a great addition.
UPDATE: The Jazz have traded for Mike Conley thus filling their need at Point Guard. In the trade, the Jazz gave away Jae Crowder , Grayson Allen and Kyle Korver along with multiple draft picks. One of the picks Utah gave to Memphis is the 23rd overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
As Fensty pointed out, the Jazz could go either power forward or point guard with their first-round pick - so let’s focus on a couple prospects from both positions who could be there at #23 overall. The top power forwards potentially still on the board would be Grant Williams (Tennessee), Chuma Okeke (Auburn), Eric Paschall (Villanova) or Isaiah Roby (Nebraska). As for skilled ball-handling point guards, the Jazz could opt to target Carsen Edwards (Purdue), Ty Jerome (Virginia) or Talen Horton-Tucker (Iowa State).
You’ve probably heard of Edwards after his scoring barrage in the NCAA Tournament in March and nearly single-handedly leading Purdue to the Final Four with his score-first mentality from the point position. As a junior who almost left college early last year, Edwards is more ready to be a floor general in the NBA than most other point guards in this draft - and he can play very well off-the-ball too as a deep perimeter threat. Horton-Tucker, meanwhile, is raw offensively but was an effective point guard in Iowa State’s crowded backcourt last year as a freshman.