2019 NBA Team Needs - Pacific 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 Pacific Division.
Golden State Warriors
(2019 Draft Picks: 28th and 58th)
The Warriors are likely to go through some re-construction this offseason as it’s looking like Kevin Durant will opt out to become an unrestricted free agent, but that doesn’t mean that he’s done with the Warriors. There is a good chance that he changes teams but it’s not a lock. Reports are saying that the Warriors will focus on keeping Klay Thompson on the team at any cost. DeMarcus Cousins , Kevon Looney , Andrew Bogut and Jordan Bell being free agents gives the Warriors an immediate need at Center. They could try to sell Cousins on staying on a perennial contender and the Warriors will have some leverage because Cousins has been damaged goods. To avoid overpaying for Looney, the Warriors can look to draft a Center with their 28th overall pick.
The Warriors should focus more on targeting a defensive center who will clean up the glass and keep teams from getting to the basket so easily. There has to be a better answer than signing Andrew Bogut late in the season. Damian Jones is still there and is capable of starting, but getting more depth with one of their picks would be the smart play. They should also look to target a Small Forward because with the likely departure of Durant, the Warriors can use more depth than Andre Iguodala and Alfonzo McKinnie . They should look for a SF with good ball-handling skills to help run the point with the Warriors second unit.
If the Warriors look to target a defensive-minded center with their 28th overall pick, there are a few notable names who could still be available. Bruno Fernando (Maryland) and Naz Reid (LSU) both have varying draft grades and can just as easily be picked by a lottery team or fall into the second round. Fernando and Reid are energetic bigs who both showed last season in the physical Big Ten and SEC conferences, respectively, that they have the defensive versatility to protect the rim, bang with opposing centers in the paint and switch onto smaller players. Both will be projects offensively but they showed some signs of life last year in that area - Reid can slot in as a pick-and-roll big with the ability to shoot from three-point range and finish strong around the rim, while Fernando really improved on his footwork and post game from his freshman to sophomore seasons at Maryland.
If they are both gone by the time the Warriors select, some other centers they could consider with the 28th pick are Georgia’s Nic Claxton and Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford. If they do decide to go with a small forward or other position in the first round, one interesting flier to watch at the 58th overall pick is Alen Smailigic. The 18-year-old Serbian showed flashes of potential for the Warriors’ G-League affiliate this past season and the team may look to continue their investment before someone else grabs him. Smailigic is already familiar with the Warriors’ schemes and he was impressive at times despite being the youngest player in the G League.
Los Angeles Clippers
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 48th and 56th)
Even with Patrick Beverley being a free agent, the Clippers have a good amount of guard depth and must focus on drafting a big man. Montrezl Harrell is the only returning big man and Danilo Gallinari can’t fill in at PF effectively. Even if the Clippers look to re-sign Ivica Zubac , they need more help. Harrell is a better PF and they can use a Center who will clog up the middle and grab boards and block shots. They have plenty of offense and desperately need help in the middle if they are going to move up in the Western Conference.
They should use both of their draft picks on big men as Landry Shamet will be able to fill in for Beverley if he leaves and they aren’t in dire need of a guard. Lou Williams is a dual threat and they still have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who can run the point effectively. Why look to re-sign JaMychal Green who doesn’t make an impact when given more than 20 minutes of playing time. They aren’t losing out on much but detaching themselves from their current big men and they can take a chance on prospects late in the draft.
Unfortunately for the Clippers, picking at #48 and #56 overall will cause them to miss out on the majority of big men with first round grades in this class - and second-round picks are always a coin flip on whether they develop or not. A few of those center-types who could fall to the Clippers are Naz Reid (LSU), Daniel Gafford (Arkansas) and Nic Claxton (Georgia). If Los Angeles chooses to take two big men with both their picks, an interesting flier would be Missouri’s Jontay Porter.
The younger brother of Michael Porter Jr. would have likely been a first-rounder in last year’s draft before he returned to Missouri for his sophomore season. However, that decision ultimately backfired after he tore his ACL in an October 2018 scrimmage and then re-tore the same ACL in March as he tried to come back too early. These injury concerns surrounding Porter have pushed him down draft boards, but his athleticism is right up there with any of this year’s top center prospects. The 6’11” 19-year-old is an excellent passing big who can stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting and possess a high level of basketball IQ. If the Clippers - or other teams - take a chance on Porter, they’d be smart to draft a second big man because there are still durability concerns here.
Los Angeles Lakers
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: None)
The Lakers have traded their fourth overall pick, Lonzo Ball , Brandon Ingram , and Josh Hart to the Pelicans for Anthony Davis . The Lakers currently don’t have a stake in this draft and they plan to make a big splash in free agency. If they were to trade into the draft they can use backcourt help. They traded both their Point Guard and Point Forward in this trade and with Rajon Rondo being a free agent, they can use a floor general. If they buy a second round pick, they can target a bailout shooter, but they will likely wait until free agency begins because they’ve already traded a ton of assets in the Davis deal. They have virtually zero guard depth signed to the squad. The Lakers will also have to add big men to their roster in order to preserve Davis’ health. Guards are the priority, but back up big men would be helpful if the Lakers trade into the draft.
With the Lakers dealing their only draft pick away in the Anthony Davis trade, it remains to be seen if they try to re-enter the draft to take some young guard or forward depth to fill out the bench behind the stars. If LA does end up trading into the second round to take a guard, look out for Justin Wright-Foreman (Hofstra), Jaylen Nowell (Washington), Miye Oni (Yale) or Jordan Bone (Tennessee).
Wright-Foreman and Bone both played point guard in college and they would each be an interesting pair with LeBron James to take some pressure off him to be the main ball-handler. Nowell and Oni, meanwhile, are more two-guards and better three-point shooters who could simply be asked to knock down corner three’s when LeBron drives to the rim and attracts defenders. Wright-Foreman, though, is especially intriguing and there’s a chance the Lakers can grab him as an undrafted free agent as well. The Hofstra product is a score-first point guard who can create his own shots in multiple ways and would be a nice complement alongside a fellow playmaker - a luxury he definitely didn’t have in college. He reminds me a lot of the Kyrie Irving -LeBron partnership in Cleveland that allowed both to trade possessions as the main ball-handler while the other can score off the ball.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks: 6th and 32nd)
The Suns will have a big decision to make in regards to Kelly Oubre Jr. because he’s going to command more money than he’s probably worth. Luckily for the Suns T.J. Warren (when healthy) can play both forward positions effectively. The Suns should look to draft a Power Forward to help Deandre Ayton defend the paint. Tyler Johnson would be stupid to opt out and the Suns have guard depth. Mikal Bridges and Josh Jackson further solidify their depth at SF, but getting a big banger that focuses on rebounding on both sides of the ball will give them more toughness. The Suns may look to unload Jackson in the offseason.
The Suns were awful defensively and getting a blue-collared big man will compliment Ayton well because it will allow Ayton to set up at the elbow on offense and draw out bigger defenders to guard him. When Ayton utilizes his mid-range game, the Suns will get more second chance opportunities on offense if they draft one or two rugged Power Forwards to keep plays alive.
Having the 6th overall pick could be both a blessing and a curse for the Suns in this draft. On one hand, Phoenix will likely miss out on the universal “Big 3” of this class - but, more positively, the next tier of players is pretty impressive and they could land their power forward target in DeAndre Hunter. Fresh off a national title with Virginia when he hit a pair of clutch three-pointers in the championship game, Hunter is the best 3-and-D forward prospect in this class and will be able to defend multiple positions in the NBA. At 6’8” and 225 pounds, he has the size to defend power forwards in the post while also having the quickness and footwork to move with smaller wings on the perimeter. While Hunter is a solid spot-up shooter and hit 48.3% from three-point range last season, he’s still a work in progress around the rim and doesn’t much of a post game offensively.
Other power forwards the Suns could target with their 32nd overall pick are Chuma Okeke (Auburn), Grant Williams (Tennessee) and Eric Paschall (Villanova). Okeke would have no doubt been a first-rounder before tearing his ACL in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. At 6’8” and 230 pounds, his offensive game is legit as a solid 3-point shooter with a good post game to either finish around the rim or dish to other bigs in the paint and/or shooters on the perimeter. Williams and Paschall, meanwhile, have both proven themselves over multiple college seasons and look ready to contribute immediately. They are a bit undersized to play pure power forward against NBA bigs - Williams is 6’6” and Paschall is 6’7” - but both have the offensive game to score from the post and the perimeter, and defensive versatility to defend multiple positions. A reasonable comparison for both is Draymond Green , who also was viewed as undersized coming out of Michigan State but he’s transformed his game to be successful with the Warriors.
(2019 NBA Draft Picks 40th, 47th and 60th)
Willie Cauley-Stein is set to make a lot of money after the productive season he had and he and the Kings may be separating depending on what his asking price is and it’s hard to tell whether or not Marvin Bagley III would be more effective as a Center or Power Forward. The Kings should use at least one of their picks on drafting a Center (even if it’s a project). Bagley has the make up of a Center, but seeing him on the court with another big man allowed him to grow quickly in an easier role for him. Harry Giles III and Nemanja Bjelica give them more PF depth, but they need one more big man to take the pressure off of having to use any kind of “Bird Rights” on Cauley-Stein.
If the Kings are either planning on paying Cauley-Stein or handsomely for another big man, they can use a couple of picks on guards, preferably combo-guards. Buddy Hield can use some depth behind him and Bogdan Bogdanovic is a better SF than SG. The Kings should use at least one of their three draft picks on a speedy Shooting Guard who isn’t afraid to drive the lane and keep up with De’Aaron Fox. Making the Kings an even faster team will help them improve their standing out west.
Although the Kings don’t have a first-round pick, there will still be plenty of combo guards to choose from with their multiple second-round selections. One name to watch - who should be available at #40 or #47 - is Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell Jr. The redshirt sophomore is a sharpshooter from 3-point range (37% last season) and his lefty stroke is dangerous from off-the-ball movement, screens or in transition. Norvell also has ball-handling ability and he performed well in that role at Gonzaga as a nice complement to Josh Perkins in the backcourt.
A couple other combo guards who the Kings could target in the second round are Jaylen Nowell (Washington), Quinndary Weatherspoon (Mississippi State) and Justin Wright-Foreman (Hofstra). Nowell, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year, shot 44% from 3-point range last season and his ball-handling really improved in his sophomore year as he led Washington’s backcourt in possession usage. As a senior, Weatherspoon is more polished as a shooter and worked in this combo guard role a lot last year. Wright-Foreman, on the other hand, was one of the best pure scorers in the country last season and he could be the playmaking point/shooting guard the Kings look to pair with De’Aaron Fox. Wright-Foreman is an elite scorer and playmaker who can shoot it from deep (42.5%) and finish at the rim with the best of them.
For a look at the rest of the NBA Divisions, click here.