Offseason Blueprint: The Detroit Pistons are an NBA basketball team. Hopefully, they can remind fans of that in the next few years.
The playoffs continue to rage on, but there are 26 teams sitting at home with nothing to do but twiddle their thumbs, watch the Conference Finals, and wait for next season to start. For their sake, we wanted to look ahead with the next edition of the OFFSEASON BLUEPRINT series. In each, we'll preview some big decisions and make some recommendations for plans of attack along the way. Today, we're looking at the Detroit Pistons. step one: weave a new narrative Some teams are good, some teams are bad -- but almost all of them have a general direction. Are you a young team on the rise? Or a veteran team trying to squeeze out as many wins as possible? Right now, the Detroit Pistons are in a wonky grey area. They're missing an identity. When they tried to make the playoffs, they were fairly mediocre (records of 37-45, 39-43, 41-41). When injuries hit this past season, they plummeted down to 20-46. While that generally suggests a young and rebuilding team, the roster doesn't reflect that yet. Their marquee players are Blake Griffin (age 31) and Derrick Rose (age 31.) They also have a veteran coach in Dwane Casey who's more accustomed to competing than rebuilding. All in all, they feel like a confused, forgotten franchise. Fortunately, there's a new sheriff in town. The team hired a new GM in Troy Weaver, who had been Sam Presti's right-hand man in Oklahoma City. Weaver's been on the verge of a GM job for several years now, and his hire represents something of a coup for this embattled organization. Going forward, the franchise needs to hold the keys over to Weaver and allow him free reign to do whatever he wants. Back in OKC, he had experience with a variety of makeups: with a rebuilding team, with a contending team, with a rebuilding-wait-whoops-we're-accidentally-pretty-darn-good team. It's up to him to look at this roster and this payroll and determine the best path forward from here. step two: hold a garage sale for your old homeowner's property Presumably, Troy Weaver will treat this project as more of a teardown than a remodel. Mainstay center Andre Drummond is already out of the door, and the other veterans may join him on the bus out of Detroit. Unfortunately, that may be easier said than done. It makes a lot of sense to trade star PF Blake Griffin to a veteran team, but his injuries and his contract ($37M + $39M player option) would make that difficult from a logistical perspective. There's a chance that a desperate team may be willing to roll the dice on Griffin. Throughout his career, he's been one of the more misunderstood players in the league. People want to treat him as an athlete-dunker only, but he's actually a skilled ballhandler and passer. In his last healthy season in 2018-19, he averaged 24.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists, and even showcased an improved three-point shot (36.2% on 7.0 attempts per game.) If healthy, he'd be a major difference maker to a team like Portland. Still, teams aren't going to give up major assets for Blake Griffin until he proves that he is healthy. From Detroit's perspective, it makes more sense to wait to trade him. They need him to come back, put up some good stats, and then float him in offers. Right now, you'd be trading Griffin for 20 cents on the dollar. In contrast, Derrick Rose's stock may be at a high. He put up good raw numbers this year (18.1 points, 5.6 assists), and he's on a reasonable $7.5M expiring contract. He'd be a positive addition to a playoff team, best served as a Sixth Man scorer. The Pistons and their fans like Rose (and he likes playing here), but it'd be irresponsible for them to not consider trade options. If they get any decent offers, they have to pull the trigger. If the offers are weak -- R2 picks or so -- then the team can keep him around as a veteran leader and placeholder starter. step three: don't let your breakout break out As bad as the Pistons were, they had a few bright spots. Derrick Rose played better than expected. Luke Kennard looks on track to be a rising starter. And, most surprising of all, rando Christian Wood broke out as a legitimate NBA player. As a starter, Wood averaged 21.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Wood is a springy, energetic player who also has an improving range (40% from three as a starter.) You can read a longer deep dive about Christian Wood here, but to sum it up. A) His production looks legitimate, as he's been putting up numbers in virtually every stop as a pro. But B) His breakout may be poorly timed for the Pistons, because he's slated for free agency and about to get more expensive. He's a 24 year old whose best days should be ahead of him. Based purely on his stats and scouting profile, you could talk yourself into a contract closing in on $15M a year for Wood. However, players with his "pedigree" (undrafted, limited sample size) rarely get that type of contract right away. To me, paying him somewhere in the range of 3 years, $36M would be a fair deal on both sides. There's too much uncertainty to justify much more of a commitment. Of course, the Pistons should know better than any of us whether to trust Wood. Prior to this year, he had a mixed reputation in terms of his basketball IQ and work habits. If Coach Casey can sign off on Wood's character, then the team can feel more comfortable with him as a building block. If there are still red flags, perhaps it's better not to get too attached. The Pistons have more cap room than most teams this offseason, so the money shouldn't be a major deterrent to this decision. It should be entirely about Wood as a person and a player. If you believe that he's the real deal, then you keep him around. step four: find your next field general Christian Wood is a solid young player -- Luke Kennard is a solid young player -- but these aren't franchise players. They're secondary scorers and members of a supporting cast. To truly advance to the promised land, the Detroit Pistons are going to need to find transcendent talent, somehow and some way. Unfortunately, the NBA Draft Lottery didn't help. The Pistons slipped down from the # 5 slot to the # 7 pick, making it unlikely that they'll land a future star. On the bright side, the "supply and demand" may be on their side. This draft class happens to be heavy with point guards. There's LaMelo Ball (the # 1 prospect on ESPN), Killian Hayes (the # 1 prospect on The Ringer), and Tyrese Haliburton (one of the safer picks in the class.) If any of them slip down to # 7, the Pistons should strongly consider them. It usually takes a point guard a year or two to find their footing, but they can sit behind Derrick Rose for a year and then get unleashed in 2021. From a personality standpoint, Rose isn't going to mentor and educate like Aristotle, but he's capable of soaking up 25 minutes and allowing the next PG some time to develop. If those top guards are not available (and they are unlikely to be), the Pistons may have to take some chances. One name I'm intrigued by is R.J. Hampton. On face value, that'd be a "reach." Like LaMelo Ball, Hampton was a top high school prospect who went off to play in the Australian league. Unlike Ball, his NBA stock suffered as a result. While Ball put up numbers (17-8-7), Hampton put up weak stats -- 8.8 points, 2.4 assists on 41-30-68 shooting splits. As a result, Ball is now locked into top 3 pick status, and Hampton is seeing his name ranked around the 10-20 range in mock drafts. However, I'd defend Hampton to some degree. We have to consider the context here. LaMelo Ball joined a struggling team called Illawarra. With Ball, the team went 3-9 (and finished 5-23.) When you're playing on a bad team like that, you can be the "star" and jack up as many shots as you want. In contrast, Hampton joined the New Zealand Breakers, a better team that relegated him to 20.6 minutes a night and a more limited role. His raw stats may not do him justice. No doubt, Hampton has a long way to go, especially as a shooter. At the same time, he's a big lead guard (6'4" with a 6'7" wingspan) who flashes a lot of explosive scoring ability when he's getting downhill to the hoop. He's also a smart kid and allegedly a good worker. There's some legitimate "star" potential here, even if it's a narrow bull's eye. Hampton doesn't have the same athleticism as Russell Westbrook (hardly anyone does) but maybe there's a parallel here. After all, Weaver and OKC selected Westbrook after he'd been a little under the radar after playing off the ball at UCLA. To be clear, I'm not urging Detroit to take R.J. Hampton at # 7. I'm not endorsing him as a future star like Westbrook. I don't know enough to do that; I don't sit around and splice up tape of New Zealand basketball. Still, the point is, the Pistons should be looking at upside players in that vein, knowing that they're going to need to hit a home run in the future. step five: keep one hand on the detonator The Detroit Pistons only have $68M committed on the books for next season, which means they could be players in free agency even if they re-sign Christian Wood. If the team decided to go "all in" in a desperate attempt to compete, then you could maybe talk yourself into retaining Blake Griffin, handing out a big contract for Fred VanVleet, and shooting for the playoffs. That may work. But to what end...? The 7th seed? The 8th seed? Is that the end goal here? More realistically, the team should (as discussed) try to get Blake Griffin back and fully healthy in order to showcase him for a trade. After that, they'd then dive into a full rebuild. Presuming that's going to be the ultimate destination, then the Pistons may as well get a jump on that with free agency. With their remaining cap space, they can take on a toxic asset that comes attached with future picks, or take some fliers on young and promising players. Among my favorite gamblers of this offseason may include PG Kris Dunn (CHI), SG Denzel Valentine (CHI), SF Josh Jackson (MEM), and C Harry Giles (SAC.) None of them should draw huge money offers, making them reasonable purchases and lottery tickets. If the Pistons end up blowing it up, then they should play their younger players over the course of the season. That should mean a lot of Sekou Doumbouya (entering Year 2) and even some Thon Maker (entering Year 42). If that means you only win 25-30 games, that's all right. It'll only help your odds for next year's lottery. I've mentioned this before with some potential tankers (CLE, CHA, etc), but next year's draft could be quite strong. The group is headlined by point forward Cade Cunningham (heading to Oklahoma State) and scoring swingman Jalen Green (heading to the G-League), but there are about 4-5 other players who have the potential to join the # 1 pick conversation in time. The Detroit Pistons aren't likely to be bad enough to get a top 3 pick on their own, but the flattened lottery odds make it possible for the 7th or 8th worst team to leapfrog into that territory. Of course, before Weaver and the Pistons officially press the detonator and go into full-blown rebuild/tank mode, they need to have a heart to heart with Coach Casey. He's 63 years old already, and entering the third year of a five-year deal. Is he going to embrace the rebuild? Is he going to be the scapegoat if they rack up losses? They need to get on the same page, out of fairness to Casey and out of fairness to this franchise. A reasonable solution would be to promise Casey that, if he does tank like a good soldier, he'll still be retained for next season. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will chrome. previous offseason blueprints ATL, CHA, CHI, CLE, DAL, IND, GS, LAC, MIL, MIN, NYK, POR, SA, SAC, UTA
Should the Golden State Warriors gamble on a draft pick? Or cash in their chips for a proven player instead? A look at potential trade packages
Back in 1978, "The Gambler" Kenny Rogers gave all NBA general managers some sage advice. "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em." Golden State decision makers Bob Myers and Steve Kerr are clearly fans of Rogers, because they acted quickly and decisively this season. As soon as they saw the writing on the wall that a playoff push wouldn't happen this year, they made sure to rack up as many losses as possible. As a result, they'll enter the offseason with a 15-50 record, in the catbird seat with the # 1 slot in the draft heading into the lottery. When a strong team winds up with a high pick like this, there's a natural reaction: this is the Spurs and Tim Duncan all over again!" Realistically speaking, that's not what's going to happen here. After 4 years in college, Tim Duncan came into the NBA as one of the most pro-ready prospects of our lifetime. As a rookie, he averaged 22-12 with 2.5 blocks and earned All-Star status right out of the gate. He even finished 5th in MVP voting (as a rookie!). Golden State shouldn't expect that. More realistically, you're looking at a top pick that could be an "average" player as a rookie, and hopefully work their way to All-Star status in year 3 or 4. The question for Golden State is: can they afford to wait that long? Steph Curry is 32. Klay Thompson is 30 and coming off a serious injury. Draymond Green is 30 and perhaps on a decline already. Given that, the Warriors have a choice to make. Should they utilize this top 5 pick as a way to supplement their playoff roster now, with the expectation that the prospect could develop into their next franchise player down the road? Or should they cash in their draft assets for a "win now" approach? In order to answer that question, let's take a look at more of the specifics.
What kind of package can they offer?
There's no way the Golden State Warriors will trade Steph Curry or Klay Thompson, especially given how well their skill sets should age over time. In theory, they could debate trading Draymond Green (still owed 4 more years) for younger legs, but I imagine he's too important to the franchise from a culture and historical standpoint. Other than that...? All bets are off. As we peek through the Warriors' cupboard for potential assets, here's what we find: THE LOTTERY PICK. Currently slated at # 1, there's only a 14% chance it stays there. That pick could land anywhere from 1-5, with 3 or 4 being the most likely outcome. While this isn't a very strong draft, there's inherent value to a top 5 pick. I would estimate that the top 3 is especially valuable this year, with three potential bluechip prospects emerging from the pack in SG Anthony Edwards (Georgia), C James Wiseman (Memphis), and PG LaMelo Ball (facebook). Minnesota's 2021 R1 pick. This had been included in the D'Angelo Russell deal. The pick is top 3 protected, but could still be a valuable asset. Under Ryan Saunders, the Timberwolves have gone 36-70 overall. With Karl-Anthony Towns and a full season of D'Angelo Russell (not to mention another top 5 pick), the Wolves may get closer to .500 range, but there's also a good chance the pick lands in the top 10 regardless. Andrew Wiggins. Sadly, Young Mr. Wiggins would be used mostly as contract filler at this stage. He's not a bad player, but he happens to be overpaid on his current contract. He'll get $29.5M next season, $31.5M the following year, and $33.5M in the final year. He'll need to take a massive step up in efficiency to be worth that type of money. Eric Paschall. The forward from Villanova had a solid rookie year, averaging 14.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. Realistically, there may not be a huge amount of upside left in the tank for the 23 year old, but the price makes him appealing. He's only due $1.5M next season and $1.8M the following year. Kevon Looney. The 2019-20 campaign was a lost season for Looney due to injury, but he's still a potential asset on his current contract ($4.8M + $5.2M player option.) When last healthy in 2018-19, he averaged about 12-10 per 36 minutes of action. He's one of the few "middle class" contracts on the books, so he's going to be a common throw-in to trades. Damion Lee. Steph Curry's brother-in-law is a personal favorite of mine. He's worked his way up through the G-League and 10-day contracts and proven to be a legitimate rotational player. The Warriors locked him up on a team-friendly contract ($1.7M + $1.9M) that makes him a positive asset as well. Marquese Chriss. Amazingly, mega "bust" Marquese Chriss flashed some improved play for the Warriors last year. Teams will still be wary of trusting him, but his salary ($1.8M) makes him a decent throw-in and flier. Alen Smailagic. The 20-year-old Serbian only played 139 total minutes for the big league club this year, but did pretty well (15.2 PPG in 25.9 minutes) in the G-League. He's a decent flier of a prospect who at the very least can be an extra contract ($1.5M) to throw into a deal. other picks. The Warriors also own the # 48 and # 52 picks in this year's draft, and could throw in future R1 picks of their own as well. If we throw in ALL of these players (hard to do with roster constraints), we're talking about a salary package of about $40M. More likely, you can make anywhere from $30-35M work presuming you include Andrew Wiggins as a major component of the trade. Overall, I'd say the Warriors have three levels of trade packages to offer. THE GOLD PACKAGE: Would be this year's lottery pick + Wiggins (for contract purposes) + a solid young player like Pascall THE SILVER PACKAGE: Minnesota's pick next year + Wiggins (for contract purposes). THE BROWN/TURD PACKAGE: Wiggins + minor picks and assets (but no high picks.) With this package, the Warriors would be looking to acquire other "toxic" assets more than anything else.
Potential deals for the THE GOLD PACKAGE (Wiggins + this year's lottery pick)
Bradley Beal (WAS) ($29M + $34.5M + $37M player option) Look, I don't want to do this any more than you do, but the United States Congress just passed legislation (Provision BB-3) that requires every single trade post to mention Bradley Beal. For this to actually happen, a number of events would have to fall in line. The first is that Beal formally demands a trade, forcing Washington's hand. His recent extension makes that unlikely, but not unprecedented given today's NBA climate. Secondly, the Warriors would have to grab a top 3 pick -- likely # 1 or # 2. If they do that, then they would have a legitimate offer to make the Wizards for Beal: that top pick + Wiggins + maybe Eric Pascall as an additional piece. They could even throw in a future R1 pick to sweeten the pot if need be. You may question whether another shooting guard (emphasis on shooting) would even fit on Golden State, but we shouldn't overthink this one. Shooting is like peanut butter -- it goes with everything. Moreover, Klay Thompson could easily slide out to SF if need be. The defense would take a hit, but the offensive firepower would be devastating enough to make up for it. Myles Turner (IND) ($18M + $18M + $18M) + $10M in trade filler If the Warriors' pick lands in the 4-5 range, they may have to set their sights lower in trade talks, and look towards near All-Stars like Myles Turner instead. The Indiana Pacers went into this season with an unconventional two-big lineup, and it actually worked pretty well overall. That said, they've been playing without Domatas Sabonis in the bubble, and it's given scorers like T.J. Warren more room to operate. Looking ahead, perhaps the team decides they need to break up the big guys in order to maximize their spacing and spark their offense (ranked 18th pre-bubble.) And hey, maybe they decide they don't want to pay Victor Oladipo (a FA next summer) big money and lock into a core that may top out as a 4-5 seed no matter what. Acquiring a young starter like Andrew Wiggins and a top 5 pick would give them some more options and potential upside. From the Warriors' perspective, Myles Turner (or Sabonis) would give them a very good center that can play without the confines of their offense. Turner is also particularly stout on defense, and would pair with Draymond Green for a formidable duo inside. Originally, I had listed Jeremy Lamb ($10M + $10M) as the trade filler to make it work, but his ACL injury complicates that math. Presumably, the Warriors would like some healthy bodies to help a team that would be dangerously thin. They'd likely prefer Doug McDermott ($7.5M), but may have to settle for lesser white dudes like T.J. McConnell ($3.5M) and T.J. Leaf ($4.5M) instead.
Potential deals for the THE SILVER PACKAGE (Wiggins + MIN 2021 pick)
Blake Griffin (DET) ($37M + $39M player option) Blake Griffin has been in the NBA for 10+ years now, but he's still one of the more misunderstood players in the league. He still has the rep as an athlete/dunker, despite the fact that he's a highly skilled ball-handler and passer as well. When last healthy in 2018-19, he averaged 24-7-5 and helped push the Pistons into the playoffs. Griffin's (offensive) potential on this Warriors team would be terrifying. From Detroit's perspective, this would represent a reset and rebuild. They'd hand the reins of the PF spot from Griffin (31 years old) to Christian Wood (24) and go with a younger approach. Andrew Wiggins may never be the All-Star we hoped, but he still fits that timeline at 25 years old, and has proven to be more durable than Griffin (who isn't?). With this "silver package," the Pistons would also get that Minnesota draft pick to help their rebuild. There's some uncertainty to that pick, so they may prefer some type of pick swap this season instead. For example, let's say Golden State lands at # 2, and Detroit comes in at # 4. The two teams may negotiate some deal that would allow the Pistons to jump up to 2 and grab their preferred prospect. Aaron Gordon (ORL) ($18M + $16M) + Terrence Ross ($13.5M + $12.5M + $11.5M) After six seasons in the league, it may be time to give up on the idea that Aaron Gordon will develop into a go-to scorer. Instead, he may be best served as a 3rd or 4th starter who's going to be a movable piece on defense and an energy scorer on offense. That doesn't sound like what the doctor ordered in Orlando (with Jon Isaac already there), but it could fit well in Golden State. Gordon and Draymond Green would be a "small" PF-C combination, but it's a mighty switchable tandem. Terrence Ross would be included for salary and depth, although Orlando may try to push for Al-Farouq Aminu instead. Why would Orlando be interested in Andrew Wiggins? They wouldn't, necessarily, but this package would also offer them that extra Minnesota draft pick. Moreover, it would help clear some logjam in their frontcourt. Aside from Jon Isaac, they also have Nikola Vucevic, Mo Bamba, and this past year's rookie Chuma Okeke. Personally, I'm excited to see what Okeke can offer when healthy next year.
Potential deals for the THE BROWN/TURD PACKAGE (Wiggins + minor picks and assets)
Kevin Love (CLE) ($31M + $31M + $29M) Can we possibly go full circle here? Andrew Wiggins started his career by being traded for Kevin Love, so it'd be fitting for the two to swap places once again. From the Cavs' perspective, this move would be all about a rebuild. Kevin Love (31 years old, turning 32 in September) never felt like a great fit for their very young team. While Wiggins isn't an ideal building block, he's younger and easier to slide into a lineup at the wing. They'd also be getting off a contract that's naturally risky given Love's age and injury history. The Warriors had resisted adding Kevin Love before (for Klay Thompson), but his "fit" would be interesting right now. Offensively, his ability to rebound and stretch the court would make their lineup even more potent. Defensively, your hope is that Draymond Green could cover for any potential weakness he may have. Love is also a good team-first player who shouldn't have any problem fitting in and chasing another ring. Al Horford (PHI) ($27.5M + $27M + $26.5M) Another skilled big man in his 30s, Al Horford could be an option if the Warriors want to make a quick push to win now at the expense of their future. Horford is past his prime, but he's still a heady player who would fit into the offensive system and culture well. That said, Horford carries sizable risk to him given the length of his contract. He recently turned 34, so he'll be paid $20M+ into his age 35-36 seasons. It's almost guaranteed to be an albatross contract by the end, but perhaps the Warriors can talk themselves into it if they believe their window is only 1-2 more years anyway. For the Sixers, Andrew Wiggins isn't ideal either (as a mediocre shooter), but he'd at least offer them more depth at the wing. Paying a big man like Al Horford to go along with Joel Embiid never made a ton of sense in the first place. LaMarcus Aldridge (SA) ($24M) The San Antonio Spurs haven't embraced a full-on rebuild yet, but they're verging on that territory. That'd be especially easy at center, where Jakob Poeltl is more than ready to man 25-30 minutes. Given that, LaMarcus Aldridge would be an easy piece to push aside. Would the Spurs want a player like Andrew Wiggins back in return? Probably not. Still, they may have the faith that their player development system can get Wiggins to tap into his full potential. From the Warriors' perspective, this would be another push to "win now." Despite being 35 years old, Aldridge can still be an offensive weapon, as illustrated by his 18.9 points per game this season. In some ways, he could be a bootleg version of what Kevin Durant gave the Warriors -- bailing out their offense in half-court possessions when needed. Defensively, he should be able to play alongside Draymond Green as well. While LaMarcus Aldridge may not sound like a needle mover at this stage, this is a good time to remind the reader that these latter packages don't include those valuable draft picks. Julius Randle (NY) ($19M + $20M) + SG Wayne Ellington ($8M) You're not going to find more polarizing players than Julius Randle. The raw stats suggest he's a star (he neared 20-10 again with averages of 19.5 and 9.7 this season.) The advanced stats suggest he's a net negative. Still, you'd like his chances of success playing with this Golden State offense. Randle is an underrated ball-mover himself, so he may fit in well with their lineup. For his part, Wayne Ellington would be a contract filler and a potential depth play. Would the Knicks want Andrew Wiggins? Eh. He's probably a little better than Julius Randle, but he's about the same age (both 25) and would be on a more expensive, longer-term deal. Their decision here may come down to the draft. If they have a chance to take another big (be it James Wiseman or Onyeka Okongwu) they may want to jettison Julius Randle sooner than later to clear room. Kyle Anderson (MEM) ($9.5M + $10M) + Gorgui Dieng ($17M) This would certainly be the lowest profile trade option, and it would essentially be the Warriors' way of admitting that they never wanted Andrew Wiggins in the first place. I like the idea of "Slo-Mo" Kyle Anderson on the Warriors given his basketball IQ, while Gorgui Dieng may be good enough to give them 20 minutes a night. Still, the only reason the Warriors would make a trade like this would be if they viewed Wiggins as a toxic/negative asset. From the Grizzlies' perspective, this deal would represent some risk as well. This is a young and talented team that doesn't necessarily need more help on the wing. They have a full plate already with Dillon Brooks, Justice Winslow, Grayson Allen, Josh Jackson, etc. Still, it's never easy for a market like Memphis to draw in "big names," so perhaps they view Wiggins as that type of star material.
Undertaking a fairly large project here. The aim is to give each team a plausible trade, signing, and draft pick over the 2020 NBA offseason in order to boost each team's prospects in the upcoming 2020-2021 season. While I can't promise they all will be, I'll try and keep the trades as player-specific, rather than something like "Knicks trading up to draft Ball" or something like that. I will also try (no promises) to do the trade in conjunction with one another. So it would ideally be proposed as 3-moves to make together, not 3 separate moves to make. Again, no promises, and I'll clarify if I'm suggest one as an alternative, but that will be the aim if I can find a pattern I like. Also, some players listed in free agency signings do have player options, so we'll treat them all as possibilities to a certain degree. And also, just because your team's player is listed as a trade move for one team doesn't mean they are moving them, just that there either have been rumors they'd be available, or simply that the listed team would be interested in acquiring them.
Draft Pick: G/F Isaac Okoro, Auburn With plenty of promising scorers, the Hawks should target Okoro to add to their defensive capacity on the wing. Okoro is a very selfless player, and would fit well into a lineup with Trae Young, John Collins and Clint Capela, amongst other promising young players. While ultimately, the Hawks may actually be best suited packaging this pick in a trade, if they stick at #6 overall, Okoro sure would be a good addition for Atlanta. Signing: F JaMychal Green, Los Angeles Clippers The Hawks have a few players who can fill minutes behind John Collins at the 4, such as De'Andre Hunter. But adding a clear backup for Collins would round the depth a bit cleaner. Insert JaMychal Green, a quality shooter (39% last season), who still be able to keep the post clear for Clint Capela, will giving Atlanta an excellent depth addition should he decline his player option in LAC and seek out a new opportunity. Trade: G Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers Oladipo would be interesting backcourt partner with Trae Young. In addition to being a high-caliber defender, Oladipo also has the ability to handle the ball when Young isn't on the court. While Indiana risks losing Oladipo down the road for nothing, shipping him off to the rising Hawks, who will be angling for a playoff run next season. Oladipo could be a big piece of that run, and perhaps even help them contend for more if returns to his All-Star form.
Draft Pick: F Patrick Williams, Florida State The Celtics have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA, and selecting back at #13 overall means they'll really just be able to target the best player available. If Patrick Williams is available at 13 however, he should definitely be considered, as his versatility would help continue loading up the Celtics bench. And with Williams being a bit raw offensively, the Celtics can afford to take a chance on his upside and develop him under Brad Stevens further. Signing: F Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets A 6'6 sharpshooter, Harris would be a fun add to the Celtics rotation. It may take some small moves to create the space for him, but adding the career 3-point marksman would fit in well with the versatile athletes around him like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and help the second unit stretch the floor when he comes off the bench. Trade: C Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers Turner seems like he has been connected to the Celtics for a little while now, and it makes plenty of sense. The Pacers will likely be looking for players who fit better around Domantas Sabonis, and that could give an opportunity for the Celtics to move for Turner. Turner would fit well in the Celtics lineup at the center position, where right now the Celtics have some quality role players, but no star. By adding Turner, the Celtics would have one of the best all-around starting 5's in the entire league (Kemba-Smart-Brown-Tatum-Turner).
Draft Pick: G Josh Green, Arizona Finding players who can work alongside Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant will be key, and Green's defense and off-ball ability make him well suited to this role. Picking #19 overall will make it difficult to add an instant impact rotation, but Green would have a good chance to find minutes with his skill set. Signing: C Aron Baynes, Phoenix Suns Should the Nets see themselves dishing out C Jarrett Allen in a blockbuster trade for a third star (see below), then a backup center becomes a big priority for the Nets. The solution here is Baynes, a hard-working center who had a career season shooting the ball. He'd fit nicely behind DeAndre Jordan. Trade: G Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards If Beal is available, the Nets should be keen to add him to the mix. Able to offer the most enticing players to any blockbuster package (Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen), the Nets could find their third star to pair with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant when the two return next season. Adding Beal to the mix would immediately vault the Nets all the way to Finals contenders, if the return of Durant and Irving themselves don't already accomplish that.
Draft Pick: PG LaMelo Ball, Australia If he's on the board at the #4 overall pick, the Bulls should be keen on bringing LaMelo in to the Windy City. Perhaps the Draft's best playmaker, he could fit well with scoring guards like Coby White and Zach LaVine, while operating a dangerous pick and pop with big guys like Markkanen. With the size and athleticism to match up well defensively, LaMelo's playmaking ability would help turn the Bulls into a legitimate playoff threat in 2020-2021. If LaMelo is off the board, the Bulls could go in several direction, perhaps even trading the pick if they find a suitable offer. Signing: C Meyers Leonard, Portland Trail Blazers The Bulls could use some depth in the frontcourt, and Leonard's range and 3-point ability make him a great player to add into a rotation that ranked in the bottom third of the league in their percentage from deep, and could potentially lose F Otto Porter if he opts out, one of their better marksmen. The question will likely be centered on how much money Leonard is aiming for, but if the numbers work, Leonard should be a serious target for Chicago. Trade: C Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers Embiid may or may not be available, there have been reports going both ways. But if the former Jayhawk is on the block after the 76ers quick exit from the playoffs, then Chicago should be very interested in acquiring him, even if means shipping out Wendell Carter and some other assets. With Markkanen capable of spacing the floor (34.5% shooter from deep), an Embiid addition would give Chicago two versatile bigs, given Embiid's proficiency from deep as well (34.8%). But most importantly, he'd be a scoring machine that would be the focal point of a fun, versatile Bulls roster that could push into playoff contention quickly with him leading the way.
Draft Pick: F Obi Toppin, Dayton With it almost assured that neither LaMelo Ball nor Anthony Edwards reaches Cleveland at #5, their hope should be in Toppin making his way past the Hornets and Bulls. A dynamic forward who excels in multiple facets of the game, he'd represent the best player available at this point in the draft, and an ideal addition for a talent-needy Cavaliers team. Whether replacing Kevin Love, or playing alongside him in looks, Toppin should stay in Ohio if at all possible. Signing: F Derrick Jones Jr., Miami Heat The Heat need cap space for upcoming extensions, so it's likely that Jones Jr, a versatile role player, will hit free agency. Cleveland is already reportedly interested, and it makes sense why. Providing quality defense on the wing, he's 23 years old, which fits Cleveland's rebuilding timeline, and should have time to round out and improve his offensive game (8.5 ppg, 28% from 3). The name of the game for the Cavs is to acquire talent, and Jones Jr. provides them with an intriguing piece with room to grow. Trade: Moving Kevin Love for Assets After landing a dynamic replacement for him, the Cavaliers are a team that doesn't necessarily have a specific player to target, but rather figure out what they could get for someone like Love, who shot 37% from deep last year. His salary could be problematic here, but even adding second round selections has proven useful for Cleveland (Kevin Porter Jr.).
Draft Pick: G Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky Maxey may not be a lethal shooter by any means, but his defense should make him a desired player for a Mavericks team that could use a defensive stopper to pair with Luka Doncic down the role. Maxey brings athleticism, ability to finish at the rim, and a decent mid-range game to the table, which should be enough, along with his defense, to make a desirable player for Mark Cuban's Mavericks. Signing: SF Bogdan Bogdanovic, Sacramento Kings Limited to what they can make happen with the Mid Level Exception or in a sign-and-trade, the Mavericks should get creative and add Bogdan Bogdanovic to the roster. The 27-year old wing would fit right at home with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, a high caliber shooter, especially on catch and shoot situations. If Sacramento doesn't believe they can fit Bogdanovic in with upcoming deals for Fox and Bagley, along with Hield potentially, landing some assets in a sign-and-trade would make sense. If no sign-and-trade, perhaps a 3&D wing like James Ennis (Orlando) could be an easier fit financially. Trade: PF Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic Whether Kristaps Porzingis fills more time at the four or the five, finding a way to pair him and Gordon together in a frontcourt would be fun to watch. Gordon's resurgence for the Magic this past season was a large reason they managed to make it into the playoffs. His defensive versatility and 3-point ability would make him an ideal third star to pair with Luka and Kristaps.
Draft Pick: F Jaden McDaniels, Washington The Nuggets were patient in bringing along Michael Porter Jr., who has stepped up big time during the Bubble. And with several Nuggets wings likely to depart in free agency (Millsap, Torrey Craig), adding a high potential piece like McDaniels to develop and even rotate in behind Grant and Porter Jr. would give Denver the opportunity to take a chance on someone like McDaniels. Signing: C Thon Maker, Detroit Pistons If Plumlee is in fact priced out of a return to Denver, finding a suitable replacement at center will be important. While Bol Bol could claim that spot, it's not a certainty, and thus, adding a three-level scorer at the 5 would be a wise insurance policy for the Nuggets. Trade: G Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans A high caliber veteran on a rebuilding roster, Holiday could be a great partner to pair with Jamal Murray in the backcourt. Less costly than someone like Bradley Beal, Holiday would be a much more realistic third star to bring in. A lineup with Holiday-Murray-Porter Jr.-Nokic and whoever else you want in that fifth spot seems deadly. With Gary Harris and plenty of other assets available, the Nuggets could offer an intriguing package for Holiday.
Draft Pick: G/F Devin Vassell, Florida State This may break from the mock drafts a bit, which usually have the Pistons adding a point guard. However, Vassell could be an interesting piece for Detroit to select, especially considering that the top point guard in the draft (LaMelo Ball) will not likely be available for Detroit at #7 overall. Instead, Detroit adds a long 3&D piece that could fit nicely in between Luke Kennard and Sekou Doumbouya long-term. And as for a point guard. . . Signing: PG Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors Reuniting Dwane Casey and VanVleet seems like an ideal pairing, especially the major need Detroit has at point guard. With Blake Griffin still a high caliber player when healthy, adding a win-now veteran like VanVleet could perhaps boost Detroit all the way to the playoffs next season if Griffin is playing. And at 26-years old, he's both an instant impact veteran as well as a possible long-term solution at the position. Trade:C Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic The Pistons may have found themself something with C Christian Wood, who emerged as a quality option for them in the wake of the Drummond trade. However, Wood's emergence was a very small sample size, raising some questions over how much stock Detroit would put into it. Acquiring Bamba would give them another starting caliber option, who has proven himself as a decent player off the bench behind Vucevic if Wood does manage to build on his promising play.
Golden State Warriors:
Draft Pick: C James Wiseman, Memphis (kinda) Should the Warriors not move this pick, Wiseman makes more sense than LaMelo Ball in terms of fit and need. Though both have questions of maturity and consistency, Wiseman's size and length would offer the Warriors a weapon they haven't really had alongside Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. If Wiseman can fit in the frontcourt with forward Draymond Green, and Golden State makes the pick, it should be Wiseman. Signing: PG D.J. Augustin, Orland Magic At 32-years old, Augustin likely won't command more than any of the exceptions that Golden State would be able to muster up. However, he still can make an impact, running the Warriors second unit when Curry and Thompson (both returning from injury) need a breather. A quality shooter as well (35%), Augustin to the Warriors makes plenty of sense as they attempt to return to their place at the top of the Western Conference. Trade: PF John Collins, Atlanta Hawks While the Warriors seem to be another team interested in acquiring All-Star G Bradley Beal, perhaps a move for John Collins would be more feasible. The beauty for Golden State is that they would likely be able to orchestrate this trade more along the lines of a pick swap than an outright deal using their #2 selection. If the Hawks are interested in pairing Trae Young and perhaps LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards, this could the way to get there. Collins' 3-point shooting and athleticism would make him a quality fit in Golden State.
Draft Pick: - - - No Selection in Upcoming Draft - - - The Rockets could always try buying a second round pick to add someone like C Nick Richards (Kentucky) or F Paul Eboua (Italy), but for now, they do not possess a pick. Signing: C DeMarcus Cousins, Los Angeles Lakers The Rockets have found success operating without a center, but should look to find a big man or two who fits alongside Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Cousins' season was derailed by injuries, but his ability to stretch the floor as well as battle big men like Davis or Jokic in the West make him an appealing option for the Rockets. Trade: F/C Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers Likely dependent on whether or not they made the signing above, the Rockets could also choose to trade for a big man to help stretch the floor. A decorated veteran, Love has plenty of experience playing with ball-handling stars, and so long as he continues to shoot a good clip from deep and rebound the ball, he'd be an invaluable piece for Houston as they attempt to win a title.
Draft Pick: F Killian Tillie, Gonzaga The Pacers do not posses a first round pick this year, so finding a useful rotational piece at #44 overall will be the challenge here. For the Pacers, finding a clean backup for Sabonis would be a welcome add. Tillie is a floor-stretcher at the four, hitting over 40% from deep every season at Gonzaga. Mixing him into the second unit with Doug McDermott on the wing and Gaga Bitadze at center should give the Pacers the depth they need to make a run. Signing: G/F Kent Bazemore, Sacramento Kings Should the Pacers decide to move Victor Oladipo before he departs in 2021 free agency, then adding a wing like Bazemore should help fill in the depth after Jeremy Lamb steps into Oladipo's spot. Bazemore saw his 3-point percentage climb after moving to Sacramento (38%), and if he's able to continue hitting at a quality rate like that, he'd be a valuable two-way wing that would be helpful for a hopeful contender like the Pacers. Trade: G Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards The Pacers have several very intriguing pieces that they could potentially move, notably G Victor Oladipo and C Myles Turner. Should they move Oladipo, perhaps using him as the centerpiece to a Bradley Beal piece would give Indiana a shot at the player who would most likely elevate their team beyond first-round playoff exits. Swapping Oladipo for Beal should be discussed if the Wizards find themselves willing to move Beal.
Los Angeles Clippers
Draft Pick: F/C Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State If JaMychal Green departs, finding another power forward would make sense for the Clippers to look for. Picking so late in the draft, #57 overall, limits their options in terms of finding an immediate contributor. Rather, targeting someone more developed like Wesson would be their best bet of finding a contributor, though they could easily opt for someone with more raw potential. Either way, Wesson's 3-point ability makes him an interesting option to develop into a rotational piece. Signing: F/C Marvin Williams, Milwaukee Bucks While the most likely signings for the Clippers will revolve around internal free agents, notably Marcus Morris and Montrezl Harrell, they still will have a bit of room for a smaller addition like Williams. If Harrell does depart, the Clippers could use another big to add to the rotation, and Marvin Williams would be a quality small ball center option for any teams looking to contend for a title, like the Clippers. Trade:G J.J. Redick, New Orleans Pelicans The Clippers have a very deep roster already, but Redick is exactly what you'd want to bring in to bolster your chances of winning it all. An elite, established marksmen, his shooting off the bench would be a big plus, and the defensive-minded Clippers already can compensate for him on that end of the floor. If they can make the money work, reuniting Redick and LAC would make sense as they chase a title.
Los Angeles Lakers
Draft Pick: G/F Desmond Bane, TCU Picking at #28 overall, the Lakers would be wise to target Bane here, as his crazy 3-point rate (43%) would make him an energizing option off of the bench. The Lakers have a handful of wings as well on expiring deals, and should they lose someone like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, bringing in Bane to boost their mediocre 3-point numbers could help LeBron win another title. Signing: C Bismack Biyombo, Charlotte Hornets The Lakers have had DeMarcus Cousins, JaVale McGee, and Dwight Howard all on the roster in 2019-2020. McGee has an option for 2021, so the Lakers could see some turnover at the center position if any of the aforementioned don't want to run it back with LeBron and AD. If they need a new center, Biyombo's defensive chops would make him a good fit as a backup or rotational center to help the Lakers win a title. Trade:PG Derrick Rose, Detroit Pistons Ensuring that the Lakers can generate offense with their stars getting a breather is crucial for any contender. Derrick Rose may no longer be the star he was, but he's still a valuable piece off the bench, and would fit quite well leading the Lakers second unit, should Rajon Rondo decline his player option.
Draft Pick: C Jalen Smith, Maryland The Heat have found tons of success with Bam Adebayo at the five, but for a team as deep as Miami, bringing in a high potential big man like Jalen Smith could give them a fun piece to develop. A quality three point shooter already, ironing out his defensive inconsistencies would give the Heat a quality contributor with the #20 overall pick. Signing: F Dario Saric, Phoenix Suns With Adebayo more of a playmaking Energizer Bunny, bringing in another big who can play alongside Adebayo, or relieve him, would be wise. The Heat will likely focus on bringing back players from their current roster, which would likely take them out of the running for Danilo Gallinari, for example. Instead, Saric could provide the same style of play at a more affordable cost. And that's important because.... Trade: Nothing Big...for now Miami has a claim to one of the deepest rosters in the league. Their system works and they have the financial flexibility and assets to go big game hunting. With a poor free agency market this year though, the Heat should hold tight for another season and take a shot at a superstar like Giannis Antetokounmpo, and then pair him (or whoever) with one of the stacked free agents on the docket (Kawhi, LeBron, Beal, Gobert, Paul, etc). Adding DeMar DeRozan right now may be tempting, but don't do it, hold tight...for now.
Draft Pick: PG Devon Dotson, Kansas With multiple guards on expiring contracts, the Bucks should aim for a guard capable of providing them minutes in the Draft. An absolute blur, Dotson is one of the most physically impressive prospects in the Draft, though he'll need to work on deep range shooting before pairing up with Giannis. For now, he'd be a fun piece to add off the bench, able to push the ball in transition opportunities. Signing: F Joe Harris, Brooklyn Nets With a physical freak like Giannis leading the charge, surrounding him with shooters is the best course of action, and Harris shoots incredibly well. The Bucks may need to get create to afford Harris, but if they can make the money work, they likely won't find anyone as impactful as Harris in their pursuit of an NBA title. Trade: F Nemanja Bjelica, Sacramento Kings Bjelica had a quality season for the Kings, and while they'd likely want to hang onto him, the Bucks should consider making a call and working something. A 6'10 big with fantastic floor stretching ability (42% from 3), he'd represent a significant upgrade from the older Ersan Ilyasova. All about adding shooters, and even relative upgrades should be considered if the Bucks can afford it.
Draft Pick: SG Anthony Edwards, Georgia This is a fairly easy one, as the Timberwolves hold the top pick and will have their choice of player here. The most likely, and most logical, is Edwards, who would pair with D'Angelo Russell in a high upside backcourt in Minnesota. While not an elite shooter, Edwards finds plenty of ways to score, and should continue to do so in the NBA, as Russell and Karl Anthony Towns take up the most attention from opponents. Signing: F/C Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Clippers The Timberwolves could give themselves a defensive boost by bringing in Harrell, the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. Whether playing the four or five, Harrell would give the Timberwolves a high intensity option that can play alongside Karl-Anthony Towns or relieving him when he's off the floor. Trade: G/F Josh Richardson, Philadelphia 76ers If the 76ers do enter a fire-sale, the Timberwolves should put in a call for two-way wing Josh Richardson. Still only 26-years old, Richardson has plenty of upside for a relatively young team like the Timberwolves. Adding him to the mix would give them another capable weapon around their stars.
New Orleans Pelicans
Draft Pick: F Aaron Nesmith, Vanderbilt A 3-point marksman to fill in on the wings would be the exactly the type of player to put around a playmaker like Zion Williamson. Nesmith's large wingspan (6'10) would be an asset as he develops into a top two-way wing, and doing so in New Orleans would be an excellent move for the Pelicans to pursue with the #13 overall selection. Signing: PG Austin Rivers, Houston Rockets If the Pelicans look to accumulate assets by moving Lonzo Ball or Jrue Holiday, than bringing a quality shooting point guard makes a lot of sense. Rivers shot 36% on 4 attempts per game in Houston, and showed the ability to play with more ball-dominant players in Russell Westbrook and James Harden, which would suit him well in a lineup featuring Zion Williamson. And at 28 years old, Rivers still has plenty of good years left in him as the Pelicans work towards contending status. Trade: Whatever Assets They Can Get From Redick or Holiday The Pelicans don't bring a specific target to mind, but rather as a team who should aim to accumulate assets. Gathering picks or promising young players would position them well to make a move for a bigger superstar down the road, one who, paired with Zion Williamson, would propel them into championship contention. And with both Redick and Jrue Holiday in town, the Pelicans have some intriguing pieces to dangle for teams looking to win now.
New York Knicks
Draft Pick: PG Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State Unless the Knicks trade up to acquire PG LaMelo Ball (which they are reportedly looking at), the Knicks should feel comfortable picking the best guard on the board at #8 overall, as there are several quality options. Haliburton, however, is the ideal target here, as he's a high IQ player with a good 3-point shot and excellent defense, he would fit Thibodeau's style pretty well, and presents less of a risk than Cole Anthony or Killian Hayes for example. Signing: F Danilo Gallinari, Oklahoma City Thunder With Mitchell Robinson not a shooting threat in the slightest, the Knicks should target someone who can stretch the floor from the four position. The best name available there is OKC's Danilo Gallinari, who nearly went to the Heat, but now is a free agent. Whoever the Knicks end up with at point guard will be well-aided by the floor stretching capacity of Gallinari, a 40% shooter the past two seasons. Trade: PG Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder Another name out of OKC, the Knicks should feel no issues drafting a point guard and trading for Chris Paul. First and foremost, the Knicks need to rebuild a winning culture, and bringing in Paul and Tom Thibodeau are good first steps towards that end. Likewise, even if the Knicks do select a point guard in the draft, Paul has shown himself quite adept at sharing the floor with other ball-handlers, like he did in Houston with James Harden, and as he did this past year in OKC with Shai-Gilgeous Alexander and Dennis Schroeder. A great leader, player and mentor, Paul would help the Knicks build the right environment to end their playoff drought.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Draft Pick: C Isaiah Stewart, Washington If the Thunder move Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari walks, they could be in for a rebuild. Stewart may be raw and underdeveloped offensively, but at 19-years old, he has time to develop his offensive game. Meanwhile, his wingspan, strength and motor give him major upside as a defensive stopper in the post. With Nerlens Noel potentially departing OKC, there could even be minutes for Stewart to step into as a rookie and get his feet wet. Signing: F Otto Porter, Chicago Bulls The Thunder could possibly be losing their best shooter (Gallinari) and their best defender (Roberson). Finding someone who can provide a little bit of both could work for them, with Porter shooting 38% last year in Chicago. An easy fit in between OKC's high powered guard duo and center Steven Adams, Porter could serve as either a reinforcement for another playoff run, or a piece with some long-term upside. Trade: F Nemanja Bjelica, Sacramento Kings If the Thunder aren't able to retain Danilo Gallinari, perhaps bringing in Bjelica could give them a similar styled replacement. As mentioned already, Bjelica is a floor stretching forward (42% clip) that would put another dangerous shooter around Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous Alexander.
Draft Pick: G Theo Maledon, France The Magic need someone to boost their struggling offense, and Maledon's craftiness as a ball-handler and off-ball shooting ability (37% from deep) should peak the Magic's interest. While Markelle Fultz has rebuilt himself into a potential long-term point guard, Maledon should seamlessly fit in next to him, and even provide minutes backing him up when Fultz heads to the bench. Signing: G Wesley Matthews, Milwaukee Bucks If Evan Fournier opts in, the Magic won't have the money to add bigger names, but Matthews would fit in well after finding a role as a rotational two-way guard. And even if the Magic do see Fournier depart elsewhere, Matthews' veteran experience could help their young core figure things out. Trade: G/F Caris LeVert, Brooklyn Nets If the Nets have interest in bringing in Aaron Gordon to add to the Irving-Durant duo, the Magic should be intent on getting Caris LeVert shipped to them as part of the deal. Only 26 years old, Levert averaged 19 points per game while fueling a KD-less Nets team to the playoffs. A young core of Fultz, Levert, Isaac, and Bamba is a group that you can build around.
Draft Pick: G Cassius Stanley, Duke The 76ers could use guards and shooting, and with limited financial flexibility, may need to find it in the NBA Draft. Thus, Stanley to Philly, where his elite athleticism and quality range (36%), would be a welcome addition to the 76ers. If he's still on the board at #21 overall, Stanley would make plenty of sense for the 76ers. Signing: PG Goran Dragic, Miami Heat The 76ers management has said they intend to keep Simmons and Embiid together, but if they don't keep that intention, bringing in Dragic to run the offense could be the move to make. Still productive for the Heat at 33-years old, Dragic would likely pair with Embiid better than Simmons did, as indicated by his shooting ability (37%). Trade: PG Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder Breaking the mold here, should the 76ers decide to move Simmons, but not bring in Dragic, perhaps a bigger move would solve the question better. While the Knicks are the one most often linked to a move for Paul, the 76ers may want to consider adding the veteran PG to the mix, especially if they decide to breakup the Simmons-Embiid duo, and ship Ben Simmons out. Paul's veteran experience and versatile game should make him a much better sidekick for Embiid than Simmons managed to be.
Draft Pick: PG Kira Lewis Jr., Alabama The Suns needs someone in the backcourt, preferably someone who can work with Devin Booker, and run the offense when he's off the floor. That someone could be Lewis Jr., who averaged 19 points per game at Alabama and was able to knock down over 36% of his threes over two seasons. Finding a quality playmaker to carry the load could give them the breakthrough they need. Sigining: F Moe Harkless, Los Angeles Clippers Current starting wing Mikal Bridges was a solid compliment to Booker and Ayton this past season, but adding some more depth, especially a defensive geared piece, would give the Suns some switchy wings who can help them slow opponents down in the playoffs next year. Harkless will be a fairly cheap way of doing so. Trade: F Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls Putting Markkanen in an offense led by Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton could give him the space he needs to regain some of the production he had earlier in Chicago. Able to shoot off the pick-and-pop, Markkanen won't need to crowd in on Ayton to be an effective piece to the Suns offense.
Portland Trail Blazers
Draft Pick: F Saddiq Bey, Villanova With two picks in the first round (16 and 29), the Blazers will have the flexibility to fill multiple needs with the most talented players on the board. For that first selection, Bey would be a quality addition, giving the Blazers wing defense and reliable shooting. A second team unit featuring Trent, Little and Bey would be very versatile. Then, with that second first rounder, targeting a big man like Jalen Smith would be a quality Draft for the Blazers. Signing: C Mason Plumlee, Denver Nuggets With Hassan Whiteside hitting free agency, it's likely the Blazers could find themselves in need of a backup center if Whiteside is unwilling to accept a role as a backup. Thus, Mason Plumlee could be an option, as a veteran big with a quality motor who has been a serviceable option for Denver. Plumlee may not fill up the stat sheet, but in Game 6 of the Playoffs, made a direct impact for Denver with a handful of offensive rebounds and high energy. That kind of team player who work well for the Blazers rotation. Trade: PG Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs. The Blazers have a quality starting lineup with Lillard-McCollum-Ariza-Collins/Melo-Nurkic. What they still could use is a backup point guard to help generate some points when Lillard takes a breather. Perhaps swinging a deal to bring in Patty Mills to an actual contender would be a good match. Mills currently backups Dejounte Murray in San Antonio, but his quality production and veteran leadership could be a boost for the Blazers.
Draft Pick: G/F Devin Vassell, Florida State With De'Aaron Fox running the point, the Kings need to surround him with shooters like Vassell. A 6'10 wingspan and 42% clip from deep, Vassell would be an ideal fit on the wing, and could help the Kings make the push into the playoffs by bolstering their offense and defense. Signing: F Jerami Grant, Denver Nuggets If Grant opts out of his deal in Denver, he'd give the Kings a two-way option at the 3 or 4, an excellent depth addition to add in rotation with Jabari Parker, Bjelica, and Harrison Barnes. And of course, important to note when playing with De'Aaron Fox, Grant has a quality shot from deep, hitting 39% for the Nuggets this season. Trade: F Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers If the Kings are moving G Buddy Hield, then perhaps he could interest the Lakers, who would likely want to acquire a more high profile guard to compliment LeBron and Davis. Thus, a move for Kuzma could be in play, as he'd give the Kings a versatile wing to pair with Harrison Barnes. Kuzma would also compromise a promising young trio along with De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III.
San Antonio Spurs
Draft Pick: F Deni Avdija, Israel If there's any team that should be angling to move up should Avdija slide, the Spurs would likely be one of them. An excellent distributing big wing, capable of giving the Spurs minutes at the 4, Avdija seems like a tailor made fit for a Gregg Popovich offensive system. Between his schematic fit and his upside, he'd be the ideal player for the Spurs to come away with on Draft day. Signing: F/C Bobby Portis, New York Knicks Portis has plenty of upside if he can get straightened out, and if anyone is going to get the most out of Portis and teach him to play in a system, it's Gregg Popovich. If he succeeds, the Spurs find themselves with an offensive forward who can score in multiple ways, or even another trade piece if they want to sell high. Either way, taking a gamble on Portis could pay off for a program needing a new direction. Trade: As Many Picks as They Can Get The Spurs run is over for now. They did well to bring in some fun pieces in the Kawhi trade, but the Spurs need to enter a rebuild or risk an extended play in no man's land. Selling on DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Patrick Mills, and Marco Belinelli should be the aim. Get picks, get promising young players, and set yourself up to rebuild quickly. If one of these guys can even help you move up and select Avdija, do it.
Draft Pick: F Robert Woodard II, Mississippi State An athletic forward with a good build, Woodard could be a steal if Toronto is able to land him at #29 overall. After taking a major leap in between his freshman year and sophomore year, Woodard developed an outside shot (43%). For a team that may not be able to retain Serge Ibaka, finding another big to provide some range on the outside would give them a quality replacement. Signing: PG Austin Rivers, Houston Rockets Should Toronto be unable to retain Fred VanVleet, finding a guard capable of picking up minutes at point guard and shooting guard would serve them well. Rivers may not the same caliber of VanVleet, but can provide the versatility needed, along with a quality enough shot from deep (36% in 2019-2020). Trade: SG Luke Kennard, Detroit Pistons Thinking outside the box here, if the Raptors aren't comfortable paying VanVleet the rate it'd take to retain him, perhaps a sign-and-trade for a team like Detroit could send them back something useful, rather than letting VanVleet walk entirely. A sharp shooting guard (40% over his career, Kennard could fit well in Toronto, either as a long-term solution, or a piece to flip as part of a package at the deadline for a bigger star post-Kawhi.
Draft Pick: C Aleksej Pokusevski, Serbia A unicorn big-man, Pokusevski is a mobile center with fantastic height (7'0) and the ability to knock down shots beyond the arc (32% shooter). While he'll need to get bigger (only 205 lbs and lanky), he's still very young and should be able to develop into a starting caliber player down the road. And selecting at #23 overall, that's really what you're looking for. Signing: G Langston Galloway, Detroit Pistons While the main signing priorities for Utah will be re-signing Jordan Clarkson and extending Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz could also look to add another guard into the rotation, and Galloway's versatility and shooting make him an easy player to fit into any rotation. Trade: PG Dennis Smith Jr., New York Knicks The Jazz would have some quality offers if they did move C Rudy Gobert. But assuming they keep Gobert, the Jazz target someone to give their second unit a boost, especially as an aging Mike Conley drops off from the All-Star player he was. Smith looked much better earlier in his career, averaging around 15 points per game through his first three seasons. If he can recapture that, he could even play his way into the direct replacement for Conley.
Draft Pick: F Isaac Okoro, Auburn This one makes more sense than a lot of these other picks, in my opinion. The Wizards are horrendous on the defensive end, and Okoro is the best wing defender in this year's Draft. Being able to lock up opposing team's top scorer will allow Beal and Wall to go to work on the offensive end, lightening their load a good deal. Signing: F Moe Harkless, Los Angeles Clippers Bringing in one defensive minded rookie won't solve the defensive woes of the Wizards. With not a ton of cap flexibility, the Wizards should aim for someone relatively cheap, who can fill a clear role, and help develop young players like Rui Hachimura. That someone would likely be Moe Harkless. Trade: The Biggest Haul They Can Get for Beal I know the Wizards have said they want to see what Beal and Wall can do next season, rather than moving Beal now. But I personally think that's a mistake, and that cashing in on Beal, and getting a jump start on the rebuild is the way to go. The Wall-Beal duo didn't accomplish anything before Wall tore his Achilles, and the longer they wait, the more likely they get screwed over. If they can land two of Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, or Jarrett Allen from the Nets, I think that would be the best package, but the aim is less so a specific target than just hoard what they can get. Anyways, this took a little while to put together, so I hope you don't totally hate it. Let me know if you agree, disagree, think someone would fit better!
2020 Offseason Review Series Day 26: The New England Patriots
New England Patriots
Division: AFC East 2019: 12-4, Division Win Before I dive in, I want to give a massive, massive thanks to timnog - who is a national treasure and the resident .gif queen of the Patriots - and arbrown83 - who provides excellent high-quality OC and manages patriotsdynasty.info, a definitive repository for content complete with data and .gifs spanning the past 20 years. Basically everything in this piece that isn't sourced in the click (twitter, youtube etc.) came from one of them and I don't want to imagine what this would look like without them.
Joe Judge: After eight seasons with the team, five as our Special Teams coordinator, Joe Judge has left New England to take on a head coaching job with the New York Giants. New England's special teams units have been consistently good to great during Judge's tenure with the team and particularly played a massive part in the 2018 Super Bowl victory against the LA Rams. With Judge's departure the team faces special teams uncertainty for the first time in nearly a decade
Dante Scarnecchia: One of the few dedicated position coaches in the NFL with broad name recognition among many fans, Dante Scarnecchia has been one of the best position coaches in the league and a franchise legend. Scar has survived 5 General Manager transitions, 4 different head coaches, 3 decades of coaching, 2 sales of the franchise and a partridge in a pear tree return to work after a two year hiatus in retirement. Scar has been pivotal in the franchise's ability to continually identify and develop raw physical talent into serviceable or better starting linemen over the past 20 years. He heads off into retirement (part 2) and will be sorely missed
Bret Bielema: After two years with the team as a consultant and defensive line coach, Bret Bielema has departed with Judge to take on a defensive advisory role with the Giants
Jedd Fisch: Added to the offensive staff as the Quarterback's coach, Jedd Fisch has spent the better part of 20 years bouncing around between college and the NFL with the Texans, Ravens, Broncos, Seahawks and Jaguars before landing most recently with the LA Rams as a senior offensive assistant and assistant offensive coordinator in 2018/2019. Fisch brings a broad scope of experience to the table as an offensive mind. The linked article goes into some schematic possibilities that his addition may foretell, but we'll look closer at that in a later section
Troy Brown: After stepping in last August to try his hand coaching, team Hall of Famer, fan favorite, RecevieReturneCornerback Troy Brown has been officially added to the coaching staff. While he spent much of last season working with the receivers, recent news says Brown will be working with the running backs as we go into camp. Whatever the case, if the man can impart even a fraction of his work ethic and selfless attitude onto the players he will be a welcome addition to the staff
After last year's mass coaching exodus there are relatively few losses among the coaching staff this season, but two of them are major losses that will certainly be felt. The team has remained true to form this year in handling coaching turnover - losses have been addressed by promotions from within and the team has brought in one mid-priority, experienced outsider to supplement.
2 yrs, $50M
Kyle Van Noy
4 yrs, $51M
3 yrs, $30M
2 yrs, $8M
1 yr, $3M
1 yr, $2M
1 yr, $2M
1 yr, $1M
Tom Brady gets his own dedicated posts. It's simply impossible to talk about Tom Brady's Patriot tenure and legacy or what he has meant to the team, fan base and the sport of football inside a larger body post like this. The reddit limit for text posts is 40k characters and I could easily eclipse that talking about Brady and his career. I wouldn't be doing anybody justice by trying to shoehorn that commentary in here next to comments about Kyle Van Noy and Danny Shelton. It's simply a different universe of impact and significance from both objective and emotional angles. Suffice it to say in this section that he leaves a Lovecraftian void in his wake
Kyle Van Noy received a well-deserved payday after delivering above and beyond expectation on his opportunity in New England. Acquired in a trade-deadline deal in 2016, Van Noy worked his way through backup duties into a significant role as a hybrid edge defender. In 2017 after Dont'a Hightower went down for the season injured, Van Noy stepped into the #1 LB role, playing starter's snap share as a valuable run stuffer and pass rusher, from the interior or from the edge, standup or hand in the dirt, even in coverage or blowing up screens, sometimes doing multiple in the same play. KVN became Mr. Utility in the front 7 and spent the past few years making plays in any way a front 7 player can. Van Noy leverages a well rounded skill set to impact games in any manner possible, and he's helped the team to three super bowl appearances and two wins doing it while being one of the best players on the field in SB53. He leaves for Miami to rejoin the man who helped unlock that skill set and I will not be happy seeing him on the other side of the field twice a year in the immediate future
Jamie Collins leaves the Patriots for a second time after an excellent 2019 and a major bounce back from his poor showing in Cleveland. Initially drafted by New England in 2013, Collins rose quickly to become a key defensive force early on, capitalizing on explosive athleticism and a well rounded skill set (I know it's repetitive but it's the truth. I suggest you get used to the terms "well-rounded" and "versatile" now) to create a major impact in the 2014 playoffs, to earn 2nd team All Pro honors in 2015, and to get himself traded away to the gulag Cleveland in a surprise move in the middle of 2016. Collins came back home on a one-year deal in 2019 to try and show the world he deserved one more big pay day. He delivered with gusto. Through the first half of the season Collins was performing at an all pro level for a nightmarish New England Linebacking corps, primarily contributing exceptional coverage and explosive pass rushing skills but also playing a key role against the run. Contrasting with Van Noy, who is much more of a by-the-book type player without any outstanding athletic traits for the position, Collins has made his career largely on his absurd athletic potential and instincts, which were still on full display at age 30 this season. He leaves for Detroit to rejoin the man who helped unlock his skill set and it's nice that the Patriots won't need to see him across the field twice a season
Danny Shelton heads to Detroit as a big man who delivered in a big way on his 2019 one-year prove-it deal. Shelton is not the kind of name that turns heads, but he brought a significant physical presence to the interior of a defense that had been fairly vulnerable to the ground game when opponents could lean into it. He wasn't much of a pass rusher - though he did have his moments - but he was a stout run-stuffer and anchor in the middle of the D, playing the second most snaps of all of Patriot DL on the season. He leaves some large shoes to fill and his loss significantly weakens the Patriot hair game
Ted Karras also heads to Miami after taking on a starter's role at Center with less than one month's notice on the heels of David Andrews' season-ending blood clot situation. Karras, a 6th round pick in 2016, played just 430 snaps over three seasons as a reserve OL before responsibility was thrust upon him this season. Karras played admirably on over 1000 snaps and while he wasn't blowing any doors off the center position - particularly early on when he was still hammering out some snap-issues that had also flared up in 2017 - the fact that he was able to play 90% of New England's offensive snaps from a reserve role without creating glaring issues was nothing short of a godsend. Karras took home the 2nd highest paycheck league-wide from the NFL's Performance Based Pay program for his efforts, and frankly the $3M contract he received from Miami was surprisingly low given how hard it is for some teams to find a competent starting center
Nate Ebner follows Special Teams coordinator Joe Judge to New York after carving out an 8 year career as a dedicated special-teamer. Did you know he also played rugby?
Elandon Roberts wraps up an impressive Patriot tenure that was largely spent wanting to run through mother fuckers' faces. I've given Roberts some shit in the past for being the one player I've seen with a unique ability to fill the right hole at the right time but manage to not even touch the ball carrier, but the guy is an awesome locker room presence, willing special teamer, named team captain and just all around up for anything. Recently seen filling a need at receiver, Roberts heads out to join Patriots south where he'll go do whatever the hell they need him to
Phillip Dorsett heads to Seattle on a minimal 1-year deal. He leaves New England much the same way he came, as a former 1st round pick with a ton of speed and not much production. He has flashed for the team at times in a 3rd/4th/5th target role but struggled when asked to do more. He'll haul in a few long bombs when things go just right though, and that's always a treat
2 yrs, $7M
2 yrs, $6M
1 yr, $1.6M
1 yr, $1.3M
1 yr, $1M
1 yr, $1M
1 yr, $1M
New England entered the 2020 Free Agency period without much cap space to speak of. After placing a franchise tag on Left Guard Joe Thuney and re-signing Free Safety Devin McCourty, the team was left without much of anything to work with. Trading away Duron Harmon turned out to be a necessary move solely for the cap ramifications.
Beau Allen is a very large man who plays in the middle of defensive lines. He's worked as a depth IDL for the Eagles and Bucs, and would seemingly be the replacement for Shelton. Certainly not a disruptive pass rusher with just 2.5 sacks to his name across 6 seasons, he's done some good work against the run in limited snaps and appears to have an open path to a more significant role. He'll even attempt to replace Shelton in the hair game, just with his face
Adrian Phillips has been a depth/rotational safety for the Chargers for 6 years while contributing on special teams at an all-pro level. He's the exact kind of guy Belichick loves to pick up for versatility and depth purposes, but he's also done enough on the field as a true safety to believe he can function in that capacity as well. Phillips is my favorite addition this season and given the age of the other safeties on the roster he'll have an opportunity to break into the lineup with significant snaps
Damiere Byrd is a very fast receiver. He hasn't been able to really break out in the pros, but he's shown up with brief flashes as a returner and deep threat. He'll have an open opportunity to seize that role without many major challenges in his way
Dan Vitale is a Fullback who has opted out of the 2020 season to put in even more work on his biceps due to conerns over COVID-19
Marquise Lee was brought in as a veteran option to compete for a receiver role. He's a talented player who has struggled significantly with injuries in recent years. He has recently opted out of the season due to concerns over COVID-19
Brandon Copeland is a versatile linebacker who has performed mainly in a rotational role for the Jets over the past few years. He's shown an ability to play the deep hole zone coverage, which was a Jamie Collins special, and to put a hand on the ground and rush a passer or run a stunt. He's an unheralded name but those qualities might allow him to step into the giant chasm of opportunity left at linebacker in the wake of Collins and Van Noy's departures
Not much in the way of splashy names. Those signings left New England without even enough money to sign a draft class. Without even enough cap space to fit a veteran minimum contract, the team couldn't have possibly added any more players..... Wait. What?
1 yr, $1.75M
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Kyle Dugger became the 6th defensive back in a decade to be taken by the Patriots in round 2 of the NFL draft. I'm going to take a minute to address this elephant in the room because the track record there is, frankly, abysmal. The most successful second round DB taken by the Patriots in the last decade is Tavon Wilson, and the gap between Wilson and the second best DB the team has taken in round 2 is incomprehensibly large considering Wilson started a grand total of 4 games in New England. Ras-I Dowling was healthy for 9 games in 3 years. Jordan Richards stuck around as a special teamer while inducing panic any time he played in an actual safety role. Cyrus Jones muffed approximately one million 4 punts and fumbled another on just 14 return opportunities before being sent to Baltimore as a sleeper agent. Duke Dawson was traded for a 6th/7th round swap 1 year after being drafted, having played exactly 0 snaps. Joejuan Williams murdered twelve puppies can't be faulted for not breaking into the starting lineup in a ridiculously strong cornerback room in year 1 and isn't a lost cause yet, thankfully. This is what comes to mind when Patriot fans think about drafting DBs in the second round. It's not any player's fault that the Patriots draft them when they do, but it's such a well-known string of failures that it became a talking point when the team traded a 2nd round pick for Mo Sanu. Enter Kyle Dugger. Dugger played for Lenoir-Rhyne, a D-II school with a sports-reference page that looks like this, boasting 6 whole names of NFL players who combined to produce 16 AV. Dugger is the highest draft pick to come out of Lenoir-Rhyne by over 100 slots, and for good reason. He arguably only ended up playing D-II because of a very late growth spurt, and by the time he had it his combination of explosive athleticism and pro-size physique left him looking a man among boys. Film on Dugger is scant, and much of what exists looks like the Zapruder tape, but even in the blurry mess you simply can't miss the guy being disruptive in coverage, flying around like a missile, decleating ball carriers and running circles around - or straight through - punt coverage. Dugger is pretty raw. A few seasons flexing on physically outmatched competition in D-II is not the best way to prepare for sophisticated NFL defenses and opponents with more similar athletic profiles. That said, the physical tools are elite even when measured by NFL standards. He's a 99th percentile SPARQ athlete who reportedly smothered TEs and receivers in senior bowl week. It's hard to say too much about Dugger until we see more but he seems to have every tool he needs to become an impact safety, a box roamer, even play some nickel/dime slot coverage in the NFL. I specifically see a Tight End eraser and eventual Pat Chung replacement if he develops well. I'm more optimistic about him than I've been about any of the other 2nd round DBs since Dowling. The age in the safety group, Chung's opt out and Harmon being traded away have opened things up for someone to take over a large chunk of the snaps and whether it happens sooner or later Dugger looks like he can be the one to break a series of sadness a decade old. I'm ready to either get hurt again or watch him become the next Brian Dawkins. At least he wasn't a projected 6th rounder
Josh Uche became the second Michigan defender drafted to New England in two years. While he played primarily on the edge he was deployed in off-ball alignment and crowding A gaps over guards, displaying the versatility New England loves in its front 7. An excellent quick-twitch athlete, Uche produced a pressure on over 22% of his pass rush snaps in 2018 and 2019, 1st in the nation per PFF and displays explosive ability as a pass rusher off the ball to blow past OTs and as a run defender with a blazing fast closing speed. The major knocks against Uche in the draft process were a general lack of reps - as he did not break out until his junior year and was still ceding snaps to Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich - a slightly undersized frame and a lack of drill numbers owing to a hamstring tweak suffered in the senior bowl then a canceled pro day due to COVID-19. He's shown great bend and reasonably polished hand fighting technique to complement the athletic gifts, and whether he ends up primarily in a pass rushing role or moving around the front, he's a welcome addition to a severely depleted front-7. Find an excellent OC film breakdown by Memokerobi in this thread
Anfernee JenningsAnfernee Jennings mainly filled an edge role in Alabama's hybrid defense. In contrast the quick-twitch and bend we saw in Uche, Jennings provided a stout, strong, physical presence for one of the country's best defenses. Jennings was a productive pass rusher and a particularly dominant run stuffer, at times manhandling some of the best blocking TEs in college to get there. Despite playing a majority of his snaps at the edge last season, Jennings has the physical tools to line up off-ball as a downhill thumper as well. He has experience lining up everywhere from the 4-tech to wide 9, stand-up or hand in the dirt, and he's displayed a sophisticated game IQ in play diagnosis. While his game is markedly different from Uche's, he finds himself facing the same opportunity to make an immediate mark in the linebacking corps. To this point if you think I've been repetitive while talking about the draft picks, it's because I have been. The first three picks in the 2020 draft have all been versatile defensive pieces that should be able to move around the formation fluidly. As the league evolves and offenses adapt to answer the recently-popularized "big nickel" personnel grouping, the need for defenders who can fill a variety of needs has only increased. That factor and the loss of versatile defenders Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins creates a pretty clear picture of what the Patriots were working towards early in the draft
Devin Asiasi became the first TE drafted by the Patriots inside the top 200 picks since 2010. Asiasi is a well-rounded player who has shown the ability to play in-line or split wide, albeit in limited time as he's only had one season of significant usage and production. In that year, he displayed very reliable hands and solid route-running ability while making impacts at all three levels of the passing game. He was also a competent, if raw, blocker with the frame to match many edge defenders. He's a tough runner with the ball in his hands, though he's not going to outrun most defenders and with a bit of development he should be able to fill the all-around TE role the Patriots desperately need filled
Dalton Keene became the second TE drafted by the Patriots inside the top 200 picks since 2010. Keene is a versatile guy, the proverbial H-back type who spent a significant amount of time moving all around the formation at Virginia Tech last year. He's a tenacious blocker and is described by basically everybody as having relentless effort. The main drawbacks with Keene are his production - with just 748 yards receiving across 3 college seasons - and the fact that his route tree is more a shrub. He's a player who has predominantly gotten open by leaking out of a blocking assignment or against motion on play action. That said, George Kittle makes a significant amount of his hay running leak or counter motion routes too so it's not as if that role doesn't have value. Keene is extremely unpolished, but he's shown the skills necessary to become an impactful TE if he can prove himself with a major increase in responsibilities, volume and overall refinement
Michael Onwenu (#50) is a strong, stocky interior lineman who simply bullies people in tight spaces, but he doesn't move very well and can be stiff in his stances and footwork. New England has had success in the past with coaching up stiff or awkward movers into useful offensive linemen - Marcus Cannon is a prime example - and Onwenu should have time to work on his weaknesses as he was drafted into a very strong IOL group with established starters. With some coaching up he could end up a great value for a 6th round investment
Justin Herron is a long Tackle with decent hands and mobility who's main criticisms are a lack of any particular strength or control in the run game. After bouncing back nicely from an ACL tear in 2018, Herron played well enough at Wake Forest to earn a late round draft selection. With the uncertainty around New England's Tackle situation, he could have a good chance to stick as a depth piece for future development
Cassh Maluia was a solid three year starter for Wyoming with good athleticism for the position and notable closing speed. Physically he's similar in build to Elandon Roberts. The gaping void that opened up at linebacker this offseason and the loss of a few dedicated special teamers should give him a chance to make the roster and leave his mark
Dustin Woodard was a long-time starter at Memphis. He moves pretty well but he's on the small, stocky side and will need to add strength and refine his technique if he's going to contribute in the NFL. He'll have some stiff competition for a depth role as an interior lineman
It's never easy to talk about Patriots drafts. In 2020 the team clearly wanted to add versatility on multiple levels, and they did something we've seen them do multiple times before and double dipped at positions of significant need. A number of pundits have panned the Pats 2020 draft class because it didn't include a Quarterback or receiver, while others have praised it because the team moved around a number of picks and that must be a good sign. If forced to give a grade I'd throw out a B/B-. Dugger has a ridiculous potential ceiling but his rawness is scary. I absolutely love the Uche pick. He was a favorite of mine through the process with nice tape who seemed generally undervalued due to lack of volume. He could return major upside. Jennings is a classic Patriots prototype pick who could be great for the team, and he was selected at about "expected" range. Asiasi is someone I liked in the scouting process as a competent receiver but I would have preferred Adam Trautman as the more complete package. I liked Dalton Keene for fit but I didn't expect him before the middle of day 3. Trading 2 4ths to the Jets to move up for Keene there just doesn't sit right. The Rohrwasser pick is another Belichick staple on the current rookie wage scale. Once the 5th round rolls around he starts taking his "reach" shots on special teamers or long-shot projects e.g. Punter Jake Bailey, Long Snapper Joe Cardona, Punter Zoltan Mesko or reclamation projects Byron Cowart and Marcus Cannon. Most of those picks have turned out pretty good for the team. Given that track record and the need, I expected and don't hate taking the kicker there. I know nothing about Rohrwasser except he apparently went 100% from 50+ yards and had a handful of impressive kicks in bad weather, but Belichick has been on point with specialists and the team hasn't brought in any competition so I believe in his ability. The rest of the selections are just prospective depth, which is hard to get excited about but is also something the team desperately needed. I'm glad the team didn't try to take a QB and instead focused on addressing a lack of roster depth, an aging safety group, an eviscerated LB corps and the worst TE room in the league. For the oldest roster in the NFL and for how many contributing bodies the team lost in free agency, this draft class isn't exactly sexy, but it is a necessity and very on-brand for the Patriots.
James Develin, long time fullback, has retired from the NFL and will be sorely missed. That .gif is basically his Patriot tenure and his personality in a nutshell. He gives a relentless effort, displaying hard-nosed tenacity, and you can feel the sheer joy emanating from Legarrette Blount. Develin was a positive personality in the locker room, a versatile utility knife on the field and an all around great guy.
The world is in the middle of a pandemic. This is very obviously affecting every team and the league as a whole. Specific to New England, the Patriots have had eight players opt out of the 2020 season. In order of 2019 snap count, the team has lost RT Marcus Cannon, LB Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, RB Brandon Bolden and TE Matt LaCosse. On top of this, Free Agent signings Marquise Lee and Danny Vitale have opted out, as well as Guard Najee Toran, who was signed to a futures contract this past December. This is the highest number of opt-outs in the NFL. When combined with the free agent losses and the trade of Duron Harmon, the New England defense has lost 4,141 high-quality snaps and another 598 role-player snaps from 2019. That represents an absolutely staggering 45% of all defensive snaps lost from year to year. The important takeaway here isn't about football though.
Thanks for reading if indeed you have. If not, thanks for at least scrolling to the bottom. I hope it's been enjoyable and informative. Stay safe and be good to each other. E: Of course within hours of posting this the Patriots finalized multiple roster moves. Lamar Miller was signed to a 1 year deal. While the terms are unknown at the moment, he'll be a strong candidate to come in and carry a significant workload. The signing suggests that the team is unsure of Sony Michel's availability after the foot surgery that currently has him on the PUP list and does not feel comfortable leaning on Burkhead or Harris in the event that Sony misses time. Jordan Leggett has also been signed and could push Ryan Izzo for a roster spot.
Offseason Blueprint: it’s time for the young/Young Atlanta Hawks to leave the nest and take flight
The playoffs continue to rage on, but there are 26 teams sitting at home with nothing to do but twiddle their thumbs, have nightmares about getting blocked by Bam, and wait for next season to start. For their sake, we wanted to look ahead with the next edition of the OFFSEASON BLUEPRINT series. In each, we'll preview some big decisions and make some recommendations for plans of attack along the way. Today, we're looking at the Atlanta Hawks. step one: grow up and play D, because you can’t be forever young Two summers ago, the Atlanta Hawks hired coach Lloyd Pierce on the basis of his defensive reputation. So far, that hasn't translated to the court. Last season, the Hawks ranked 27th in defensive rating. After a year in the system to improve their habits and chemistry, that ranking jumped all the way up to... 27th. What's wrong here? A few factors, of course. The one that gets the most attention and the most blame would be the deficiencies of Trae Young. His lack of length and athleticism will always be a problem, but it shouldn't be this bad. ESPN RPM ranks his defensive impact as a -6.2 per 100 possessions, which ranks 520th out of all 520 qualifiers in the NBA. According to that metric, his defense is even worse than Isaiah Thomas (at age 31.) Isaiah Thomas may be a helpful comparison though, because he does illustrate that one bad defender shouldn't be able to sink a team on his own. In IT's great season in Boston, his individual defense was poor, but the Celtics ranked in the top 5 in defense overall. Clearly, some teams are able to overcome liabilities like that. The Hawks may have to consider hiding Trae Young on defense like he's in the witness protection program. Other lead guards like Allen Iverson defended off the ball often, which is an approach that worked for his team defenses in Philadelphia and Denver. So what else is wrong here? The second major factor would be a matter of youth. Yes, we have a "Young" and a "young" problem here. Inexperienced players tend to be bad defensively, and the Hawks were one of the youngest teams in the league. Their top 5 players in minutes played (Young, De'Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, John Collins) were all in their age-22 season or younger. There are some college rosters older than that starting five. That aspect should improve in time, especially because some of those young players like Hunter and Reddish project as good defenders. Although it may sound counterintuitive, another issue with the defense is the offense. The Hawks play fast (top 5 in the NBA in pace), and shoot a bunch of threes (top 10 in three point attempts.) The problem is: they don't make a lot of those threes. As a team, the Hawks shot 33.3% from three, dead last in the NBA. These issues naturally affect their defense. The Hawks are playing fast and missing threes, which tends to lead to transition baskets for their opponents before the Hawks can get back and get set. If the Hawks improve their offense, then their defense should improve by proxy. To do that, they may have to slow down their pace to some degree. Modern teams love to run and gun, but if you're not very good, you're only giving your opponents extra possessions to allow their talent to win out. The fourth potential issue is a matter of coaching. As mentioned, Lloyd Pierce had a good reputation as an assistant coming over to Atlanta, but we haven't seen that manifest so far. It's a tough job assignment coaching up a young team, but it's a talented group of players. If we don't see tangible improvement in Year 3, then I would presume it's time to fire Pierce and look for another answer. There are a lot of good coaches on the market right now, so Pierce needs to step up his game to avoid getting replaced. Rebuilding teams can afford to be patient, but they can't afford to give their coaches tenure. step two: use it before you lose it The 2020 free agent market is going to be quieter than an indoor mall during COVID quarantine. Hardly any teams have cap space... except for Atlanta. In fact, the Hawks have the most cap space in the entire NBA, committed to only $58M on the books for next year. This is going to be a bad free agent class, but that's okay. In a sense, the Hawks are like the best looking guy in a dive bar. There may be slim pickings, but at least he gets his pick of the litter. You don't want to throw your money away foolishly, but you don't want it to burn a hole in your pocket either. Eventually that cap space is going to dry up when you extend your young players, so this may be a great opportunity to "use it before you lose it." The first option should be to throw a big offer at restricted free agent Brandon Ingram. Ingram has great length for a wing player, and his scoring prowess would make for a -- wait, what was that? The Pelicans just matched my offer in mid sentence? Okay then, let's move on to our next options. I'd also consider making sizable offers to free agents Bogdan Bogdanovic and/or Jerami Grant. Bogdanovic is a skilled scorer who averaged 18-4-4 per 36 this past season, and has the potential to thrive as a secondary scorer or 6th man. At 27, he also fits the general timeline here. While Bogdanovic may not be the defensive stopper we're looking for, you can never have too many quality wings in today's NBA. Jerami Grant doesn't have the same shooting ability or skill set, but he's an energetic player and an impact defender. He's 26 now, and should retain his value for the next 3 years. Having Grant as a complementary starter or rotation player would help the team on and off the court; from what I understand, he's a hard worker and a team-first player. On the lower end, it wouldn't be a terrible idea to punch some lottery tickets and hope they pay off. Josh Jackson (former Suns bust) still has potential at age 23. Chicago SG/SF Denzel Valentine has an intriguing skill set. And fellow Bull Kris Dunn is one of the premier defenders at his position. Dunn would make for a great yin/yang backup to Trae Young. step three: have some faith in John the Baptist One of the reasons that the Atlanta Hawks' cap size will dwindle in the future is the potential extension for PF John Collins. A year or two ago, the team may have thought long and hard about whether or not to commit huge money to Collins. There were some indications that he was a "good stats / bad team" kind of player. He was a tweener who struggled on defense, and didn't stretch the floor reliably on offense. These days, it's harder to hate on Collins. The raw stats are as good as always (20-10 this year), but he's also playing a more desirable brand of basketball as well. He's worked to improve his range and shotmaking. His three-point shooting went up to 35% in year two, and swelled to 40% in year three. His FT% has also gone up each year, from 72% to 76% to 80%. You appreciate when a young player improves his game, as it indicates a lot more potential still in the tank (as he turns 23 next week.) Defense is becoming less of a concern for Collins as well. The trend towards smallball allows him to play about 50% of his minutes at center. In turn, that allows Coach Pierce some flexibility. Depending on the matchup, he can go with the traditional bigs like Clint Capela or Dewayne Dedmon, or he can play a smaller, more dynamic 5 in Collins. Collins will never be Kevin Garnett, but if he's at least average on defense, then he's a net positive player. Going forward, there's no immediate rush or urgency to extend Collins this offseason. The team will have matching rights next summer, so they can wait and see Collins "prove it" over a full regular season before committing to him. Still, if he's willing to sign a reasonable extension this offseason, the Hawks may be able to avoid the headache. Atlanta's a good situation for a young scorer like Collins, so the hope is that he'd be amenable to a reasonable deal that locks him up as part of this core. step four: remember you're playing the long game, not Tetris The Atlanta Hawks will have the # 6 pick in the draft, giving them the chance to add another young prospect to the team. We had been concerned about too much youth on this roster, but it's not worth giving up that pick for a veteran because we're not in "win now" mode yet. The team may as well keep collecting youngsters like they're pokemon. With that top pick, they should keep that mindset, and not fall victim to the desire to find the right "fit" (hence the Tetris analogy.) Best available player. That's a good philosophy when you're drafting in the top 10 regardless, but it applies to this team more than most. The team needs to get a lot better, but there are no glaring issues in terms of positions or rotations. Trae Young will have PG on lockdown. Kevin Huerter will have a role as a wing. Better still, Cam Reddish and De'Andre Hunter are the types of BIG wings that can fit across several positions. The frontcourt should be fine as well between John Collins and Clint Capela. Given that, almost any position would be fine for the Hawks to select. At PG, the top prospects (according to ESPN) are LaMelo Ball (N.Z.) and Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa State). Both players would be fine picks for the team, because both have the size and length to guard 1s or 2s and can play alongside Trae Young in that regard. Offensively, LaMelo and Trae may fight for the ball, but both have dynamic scoring potential that would make a tag-team dangerous. Haliburton would be an even easier fit, as he's had experience playing off the ball. At SG/SF, the top prospect is Anthony Edwards (Georgia), who is likely to be off the board. I'm also a fan of Devin Vassell (Florida State), who projects as a good 3+D player that could soak up minutes at SG and SF for this team. He's one of the safer prospects in the class to me. I also like Deni Avdija (Israel), a ball moving forward with the size to play either SF or PF. The hardest debate may be whether to select a big man that falls to them, be it James Wiseman (Memphis) or Onyeka Okongwu (USC). After acquiring Clint Capela (and potentially ponying up for a John Collins extension), the team may not want to invest much more into the position. Still, I'd hold firm to my "best player available" idea. Wiseman and Okongwu have major potential as defenders, which has been a problem area as discussed. It could be worth bringing them in and seeing how they develop. If they turn out to be the real deal, then it's perfectly fine to trade Capela or even Collins after the fact. I'd have a harder time justifying the selection of two other top prospects: Killian Hayes (France) feels like too much of a pure point guard to me, and Obi Toppin feels like too much of a duplication to John Collins. Still, we've discussed 7 prospects that I've already given the "greenlight" to draft, which means at least 2 of those should be available when the Hawks are on the clock. step five: give the kids some big brothers We've harped a lot on the youth of this team already. Usually, that's seen as a positive. Rebuilding teams are supposed to be young, right? Sure. But there's some danger there of going overboard. If you're too young, and too inexperienced, then it's hard for the young pups to learn from those around them. It's hard to hold them accountable if there's no one else around to play their minutes. We can't have the blind leading the blind here. Oftentimes, teams try to solve this issue by adding older veteran mentors to the locker room. The Hawks found the MOST veteran of them all by adding Vince Carter (age 43.) In theory, that's exactly what we're talking about. Wise old sages like Carter can help the kids grow up and learn to be professionals. Still, I'm not sure that's enough. As respected as an old vet like Vince Carter may be, there's only so much influence he can have on a team if he's not playing. There's only so much influence he can have on a kid's habits if they're not in the same peer group. It's unlikely that 20-21 year olds are hanging out with guys in their mid to late 30s. They're in different stages in life, and probably have different interests and lifestyles. Given that, I believe there should be more of a priority placed on "big brother" teammates in addition to older mentors. What do I mean by big brothers? I mean veterans who have good work ethic and character, but aren't over the hill. Young vets (ages 25-27 or so) who can still contribute on the court, and can still act as friends and peers to the kids. True role models. Consider this: who influenced your behavior more in high school: Your teachers? Or your friends? We need friends / big brothers that will spend more time with our kids, and teach them through osmosis if not outright lectures. Consciously or not, the Memphis Grizzlies showed the value of this principle with their current season. They surrounded their rookies and sophomores with "big brother" vets like Tyus Jones (age 24) and Kyle Anderson (age 26.) Those guys happen to be high-IQ players and high-character teammates, but they're still young and good enough to play 20+ minutes a night. When you're checking all those boxes, you can influence the young players on your roster more effectively than the salty old dog who's basically an assistant coach. It's hard for me to give recommendations for "big brothers" because I don't know these players behind the scenes outside of public reputation, but the idea would be to add smart, hard-working veterans in that 25-27 age range. We want vets who play unselfishly on offense, and play hard and disciplined on defense. Even if they're not great, they can help instill good habits with the team, on and off the court. previous offseason blueprints CHA, CHI, CLE, IND, GS, MIL, MIN, NYK, POR, SA, SAC, UTA
This is what I think the changes Celtics should/will make this off season.
The loss last night cuts deep, but it's kind of a weird feeling. Instead of sulking in devastation, a huge feeling of optimism and excitement for the next season lingers. Teams like the Raptors and Lakers already hit their ceiling and we're just scratching the surface; our future is safe with the Jays. As soon as the game was over, I was already searching for the FA list and our salary cap situation this off season. This is probably the most realistic off season changes Danny should make. First of all, trading for Donovan Mitchell is a long shot, the Jazz surely won't accept Hayward's contract and we probably need to get rid of Kemba and Smart to make that happen and it's just stupid to blow up our core for Mitchell who I thought you could argue is tad bit better offensively than Jaylen but worse defensively and even if we pull it off, it'll be a chaos cap wise. Jaylen I think can be as good (or better) as Mitchell. - Get Davis Bertans Davis Bertans can fucking shoot. The guy is a Klay Thompson/Duncan Robinson tier shooter. He's a 6'10 that run from screens that can shoot it straight that'll suck the defense in just like what Herro and Robinson did to us to free Bam in the post. Him coming off the bench will solidify our depth and can also fix our offense which at times become stagnant. This will give more space for Tatum to create and kick out. This also means that Kanter should go. Oh god, to have a bench player that could actually shoot. - Get a solid big Tristan Thompson could be an option if we get him for cheap, or maybe Myles Turner if we could trade some picks and some young players. Personally I would love to have Aron Baynes back. We just need to have an extra body to match up against Bam and Giannis. We lost a handful of games because Theis fouled out/foul trouble and Kanter just cannot guard the PnR and Grant as great as I think he is, is just undersized. Don't get me wrong. Theis is such a good player. He is solid. He has a very high basketball IQ with a sneaky athleticism too. But players like Bam, Giannis, Jokic, and even Embiid with the right system is just too much for him to handle as a starter. That's why the war on Theis is a thing, because I feel like he needs to do more to compensate his lack of height against Bam and Giannis. Him being a backup big is a huge W for us. and my last one, - Re-sign Gordon Hayward. I feel bad for the guy. You could argue he's been playing his most efficient season of his career and he just couldn't catch a break from unlucky injuries. This guy is averaging 18ppg as a fourth option. Then he got injured. And got injured again first game of the playoffs. `He played terrible in game 6 but to put the blame on him while obviously still nursing an injury is just too much. The guy basically played with one leg. I don't know a shit ton about salary cap but to my limited understanding, the Celtics can't spend money anyway so keeping Hayward won't handicap for the future besides the luxury tax. If he opts out and sign long term for cheap, the better. And then slide him to be our sixth man and start Marcus. That is a win-win for the Celtics and Hayward as well. For him to still compete for the championship while preserving his body and minutes, and for Celtics to have a healthy Gordon off the bench. I could see him being the Andre Iguodala of GSW or even Manu of the Spurs. A former All-star off the bench for a championship team. so the possible Celtics lineup would be: Kemba Smart Jaylen JT Tristan Thompson/Baynes/Turner (oh god pls Danny make it work) bench: Hayward Bertans Theis Grant Timelord Romeo Wanamaker Waters Maybe some rooks, Carsen, Javonte, and VP. The Jays improved a lot. And what excites me the most is we now know what to expect from the Jays unlike last season. Tatum made a crazy leap back in January and Brown in the bubble. Next season is where they begin to peak.
[OC] CASH ME OUTSIDE: Which future free agents have the most to gain or lose if basketball resumes in the Orlando bubble ?
Back in 2016, young Danielle Bregoli appeared in a Dr. Phil segment eloquently titled: "I Want To Give Up My Car-Stealing, Knife-Wielding, Twerking 13-Year-Old Daughter Who Tried To Frame Me For A Crime." She made the most of it, and even gained fame for her instant catchphrase "cash me outside". Usually, that's where a viral moment ends. However, Bregoli (now known as Bhad Bhabie) has actually parlayed that one moment into a legitimate career. She's a rapper signed by Atlantic Records, and her videos have millions and millions of views. We see this happen often in sports and in basketball specifically. The national media and even front offices start paying more attention to high-profile televised games -- the NCAA tournament, the NBA playoffs, etc. If a player can make the most out of their time in the spotlight, then they can parlay that into huge success themselves. College players who have big tournaments shoot up draft boards. NBA players who have good playoff performances can drive up their prices in free agency. We've seen it time and time again, from Austin Croshere, to Jerome James, to Ian Mahinmi. The continuation of the NBA season (barring a Kyrie Irving led rebellion) means that some players are going to get their time in the spotlight again. That's hugely important for players who are about to reach free agency. Now, there are a lot of big name free agents that are going to cash in regardless. Anthony Davis has a player option; I suspect he'll do all right. Similarly, there are veteran players like Danilo Gallinari or Joe Harris who are more "known commodities." We've seen plenty of them, and we understand their skill sets and values. Their prices are somewhat fixed (aside from concerns about a COVID-infected cap.) Alternatively, there are a group of future free agents that have more volatile stock. They have a lot to gain -- but they have a lot to lose. This is their moment. This is their last impression. They're heading into the Orlando bubble to do business, with the hope that teams will cash them outside.
READY FOR THEIR CLOSE-UP
C Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio If you just glanced at the raw stats, you might not understand why anyone would fuss about Jakob Poeltl. He averages 5.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Ho hum. He's only started a grand total of 38 games in his four-year career so far. Yawn. He's a true center who can't shoot threes? Yikes, go back to 1973. Can we move on to free agents who actually matter? Not so fast, my friend. Jakob Poeltl is a lot more interesting than those numbers suggest. He may be a 7-foot true center from Austria, but he's hardly a stereotypical "stiff." He's more nimble than you'd expect, and shows good defensive instincts inside. Overall, he's a smart player with a natural feel for the game. Those skills are born out in the advanced stats, which LOVE Poeltl's impact. Over the course of his career (4-year sample size here), teams with Poeltl on the court have scored 126 points per 100 possessions, and only allowed 107 per 100 possessions. That's the type of difference (+19) that ranks up with the elite in the NBA. Now, we have to take those numbers with a grain of salt. On/off figures rely heavily on your teammates, and Poeltl's had the good fortune of being on some great bench units in Toronto and now San Antonio. Still, you'd have to guess that he's contributing to those units in a major way. Fortunately for teams and for Poeltl, we don't have to "guess" much more. LaMarcus Aldridge (who had been playing 95% of his minutes at center) is out for the season, clearing a huge pathway for Poeltl to play 25-30 minutes a game and prove his worth. Or not. This is exactly the type of volatility we're looking for in this exercise. upside/downside: If the season had ended prematurely, the Spurs could have effectively "hidden" Jakob Poeltl and retained him for a modest price. As a restricted free agent, his value may have been depressed even more. He may have returned on his qualifying offer ($5M) or signed a team-friendly extension in the neighborhood of $6-8M a year. However, if he has a monster bubble-bracket showing, then teams are going to look at him as a potential starter and pay him accordingly. Gone are the days when Ian Mahinmi or Timo Mozgov would get $15M a season, but $10-12M isn't unrealistic. Heck, Mason (the good one) and Miles (the bad one) Plumlee both got more than that. PG Shabazz Napier, Washington Shabazz Napier knows all about shining under the spotlight. He helped UConn pull off an upset NCAA title, and consequently boosted his draft stock. LeBron James even publicly praised him as his "favorite player in the draft." The Miami Heat then acquired Napier (perhaps as a way to keep the King happy?) However, James left in free agency that summer anyway, and the Heat never seemed too invested in Napier after that. He'd be in Orlando the next year, and Portland the following year. Napier's kept bouncing around since then. In fact, he's already been traded SIX times in his young career. In his journey around the league, Napier has been up or down. Sometimes he flashes and makes you think he could be a high-end backup or even a low-end stopgap starter. Other times, he disappears or shoots poorly, and you start using his name as a trade filler contract. This bubble in Orlando may represent Napier's best chance at latching on to a role and a landing a decent contract. At the moment, he's soaking up minutes for the Washington Wizards, who have lost John Wall to an Achilles injury and have lost Isaiah Thomas to awful defense-itis. In their wake, Napier and veteran Ish Smith are platooning at PG, and both trying to show their competence. If Napier can take advantage of these 25-30 minutes he's getting, then he will go a long way to securing his future in the league. upside/downside: If Shabazz Napier can outplay Ish Smith and hold the fort well at PG, then teams may start viewing him, as mentioned, as a high-end backup/low-end starter. That may not sound like any great shakes, but that's a lucrative role. Ish Smith himself makes $6M a year -- D.J. Augustin makes $7M. Those figures would represent a major pay raise for Napier, who's never made as much as $2.5M in any season so far. On the other hand, if he flops and the Wizards fold, then he'll be back to looking at 3rd PG spots and fighting to stay in the league.
BREAKOUT STARS WHO CAN'T AFFORD TO BREAK DOWN
PG Fred VanVleet, Toronto Fred VanVleet had to work hard to convince NBA teams to buy into him. That's bound to happen any time you're an undrafted player who looks like he should be selling pretzels at a game at not playing point guard. But finally, after several years of proving himself, Fred VanVleet put himself in prime position to cash in this summer (or whenever free agency actually happens.) He carried over his great Finals performance to this regular season, averaging 17.6 points and 6.6 assists. He can shoot -- he can defend. Hell, he can even defend across positions despite his limited height thanks to his strength and his basketball IQ. In fact, basketball-reference listed VanVleet at SG for 54% of his minutes this season. Presumably, FVV will be a lead guard going forward, but that versatility only adds to his value. You can make an argument that he offers similar value to a player like Malcolm Brogdon, who got over $20M in salary in Indiana. What's the "volatility" here? Why can't we lock in VanVleet for a fat contract yet? Well, VanVleet needs to finish the job, essentially. We all remember how great he played in the Finals, but we tend to forget how badly he played in the playoffs prior to that. In their seven game war against Philadelphia, VanVleet shot a combined 3-24 from the field (12.9%) and averaged 2.0 points per game. Perhaps he was distracted by issues at home, but he was also rattled by the Sixers' length. He can't have that happen again, or else it'd leave a sour taste in the mouth of the NBA front offices, and scare them from trusting him as a surefire starter going forward. upside/downside: If Fred VanVleet plays well (the same level as he's played throughout the year), then he's looking at a healthy deal. He's 26 right now, so he may land a 4-year deal in excess of $60M ($15M per year). But if he struggles in the playoffs, then that may go down to something like 3 years, $40M ($13M per year) as teams view him as more of a fringe starter instead. C Montrezl Harrell, L.A. Clippers Doc Rivers and the Los Angeles Clippers will enter the bubble with genuine and realistic title aspirations. They're loaded from top to bottom, and as deep as any team in the field. That said, they may be too deep for their own good. In some ways, it still feels like two teams fused together like the Man with Two Heads. On one shoulder, there's the "old Clippers" from last year -- the plucky overachievers fueled by the chemistry of Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. On the other shoulder, the "new Clippers" -- the would-be Super Team featuring two superstars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Because the Clippers have been coasting through the regular season and load managing their stars, they haven't gotten the chance to lock in rotations and nail down their final form as a cohesive group yet. That's especially apparent in terms of the PF/C spot. Like last year, the team starts young center Ivica Zubac, but then cedes major minutes and a bigger role to Harrell off the bench. However, they've also brought in PF Marcus Morris, fresh off a strong half-season for the Knicks. There are contenders here, but no clear plan. When push comes to shove, is the team going to play a traditional lineup with a PF and a C? And if so, which center will close out games? And if the team needs to adjust and go to a "smallball" approach against a team like Houston, who will that lone big be -- Harrell or Marcus Morris? For Harrell, winning that role will be important as a matter of pride, but also important as a matter of market value. He'll be an unrestricted free agent (as will Marcus Morris). But unlike Morris, Harrell hasn't gotten a huge contract in the NBA yet. This summer was supposed to be his year to cash in. However, if Doc Rivers and the Clippers don't feel like he can hang on D at the end of games, then that will give his stock a big hit. upside/downside: If you're a free agent coming off a championship team, you're bound to get paid (and likely overpaid.) Of course, to benefit from that ring, you'd have to be seen as a key member of that team. As a result, Harrell needs to lock down the closing minutes at center. If that happens, then he's in line for a big contract in the range of $15M per year. However, the nightmare scenario for him would be if he gets played off the court due to his defense; if that happens, then he'll be seen as a niche role player and his contract will likely go down to the $10-12M range.
LAST CHANCE FOR A BIG CONTRACT
SF Jae Crowder, Miami Veteran Jae Crowder is a great addition to any contending team. He's a strong, dogged defender. He can hit threes. In a world that craves 3+D players, he fits the bill to a T. At least, that's his reputation. In reality, Crowder has never reached the heights that he did back in Boston (a familiar trend among former Celtics, it appears.) The most obvious issue is the inconsistent shooting. He had never been seen as a shooter originally, but he worked on that aspect of his game. In 2016-17, Crowder hit on 39.8% of his three-point attempts. The presumption is that he'd finally clicked into another gear, and could only get better from there. He became a valuable trade piece (and ended up going to Cleveland in the Kyrie Irving deal.) More and more, it's starting to look like that one season was an outlier. Crowder's three-point percentage has fallen back down to Earth, registering 32%, 33%, and 32% over the next three seasons. His defense also may have been overrated. At 6'6" with a 6'9" wingspan, he has only average size for a SF and only registered an average impact in terms of advanced stats. He's bounced around lately, from Cleveland to Utah to Memphis and now to Miami. Interestingly enough, Crowder got off to a hot start in Miami, and may have started to resurrect his stock. The Heat had been playing him more as a smallball four (basketball reference listed him at PF for 60% of his minutes), and he looked rejuvenated by that change. He hit on 39.3% of his threes (13 game sample size) and also looked better defensively as well. The question now is... can that continue? Miami will be healthier coming back from the break, and may not envision heavy minutes for Crowder in this playoffs. Are they going to rely on him? Or bury him? TBD. These next few months will be crucial for Crowder's stock as he heads into unrestricted free agency. upside/downside: If Jae Crowder can continue to play well as a smallball PF (and also soak up minutes at SF), then it'd give credence to the idea that he's a legitimate starter. And as a result, he'd be looking at salaries in the $10M+ range. However, there's also a lot of potential downside here. If his shooting stumbles again, it's difficult to imagine smart teams viewing him as anything more than a depth player at this stage (29, turning 30 in July.) He may have trouble matching his current salary of $7.5M. C Derrick Favors, New Orleans We're trying to focus on players with "volatile" stock and some unknown elements to their game. I'm not sure that describes New Orleans big man Derrick Favors right now. After some very high expectations as the # 3 pick, he appears to have settled into a known commodity right now at age 28. He's never going to be an All-Star, but he's developed into a capable starter (9.2 points, 9.9 rebounds this year) who is particularly sturdy on the defensive end. So what's the lingering question here? For Favors, it's more about a matter about whether he's a long-term "fit" with this New Orleans team. After rotating between PF and C in Utah, Favors has been locked in as a true center with the Pelicans, playing 100% of his minutes as a 5. That certainly feels like his best position moving forward. But the question is... do the Pelicans need a center? They just invested the # 8 overall pick in Jaxson Hayes, a naturally springy 7-footer. Moreover, there's still the lingering question about whether Zion Williamson may be best served as a smallball center himself. Between the two, there may not be loads of minutes at the 5 in New Orleans. Realistically, the team could retain Favors on a 1 or 2 year deal and utilize him as a placeholder until Hayes fills out and develops into a viable starter. At the same time, Favors is likely looking for a longer-term deal than that; this may be his last big contract. The Pelicans haven't had their full roster together all season, so they still need to work out their rotations. Will coach Alvin Gentry want to lock Favors in at the 5 (with Zion Williamson at the 4)? If push comes to shove, will Favors be squeezed out? Those decisions may go a long way to determining his free agency future. upside/downside: As mentioned, Derrick Favors' "value" may be more locked into place than his peers on the list. He's likely worth around a 3 year, $40M contract ($13.3M per year.) But for him, the question will be where that money will come from. A lot of the playoff teams that could use him (say Boston, for instance) don't have the cap space to offer those prices. If he wants to get bowled over with money, it'll likely come from a young team with cap room (like an Atlanta or Charlotte). But for them to justify paying big money to a big man, he'll have to keep playing heavy minutes and keep putting up solid numbers.
THE COMPLETE WILD CARD
SG Andre Roberson, Oklahoma City Remember him? There are younger fans out there (the babies and toddlers among us) who may not even recall the extreme strengths of weaknesses of Andre Roberson. It's not an exaggeration to say that, at his peak, Andre Roberson was the best perimeter defender in the NBA. Armed with length (6'11" wingspan), nimble feet, and a tenacious style of play, he could slow down anyone from 1-4. In 2017-18, ESPN's real plus minus metric graded his defensive impact as a +4.3 per 100 possessions, second best in the league behind Rudy Gobert. Alas, Roberson only checked one box on the 3+D prototype. He's a career 25.7% shooter from beyond the arc, and a particularly ugly 46.7% at the free throw line. That free throw percentage even dipped as low as 31.6% in that 2017-18 season. So why do I keep citing the 2017-18 season? Because that's the last time we actually saw Andre Roberson play. He ruptured a patellar tendon, then had setbacks in rehab. All in all, he missed the entire 2018-19 season, and he's missed the entire 2019-20 season so far as well. Allegedly, Roberson is ready to come back now. If that's true, that would be a huge boon to his stock as he approaches unrestricted free agency. If any team is going to pay Roberson, they want to see that he's healthy and that he can keep up his defensive impact. And hey, if his shooting form looks like it's improved, then that'd be a major bonus. The mystery is likely to continue though, because we're not sure if Roberson is healthy, and we're not sure if he'd actually play even if he is healthy. Oklahoma City has found a good rhythm right now, and has had success combining their guards in lineups together. If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander can serviceably guard SGs and SFs, then there's not a huge need for Roberson in the starting lineup. At the same time, the wing depth is still pretty thin, so a healthy Roberson could help on the margins. upside/downside: It's difficult to imagine Billy Donovan throwing Andre Roberson out there for 20+ minutes a night after such a long layoff. Given that, the most likely scenario is that we see faint glimpses of Roberson this season, which forces him to take a modest one-year "prove it" deal in 2020-21 to rehab his stock. However, IF Oklahoma City finds itself struggling to contain a player like James Harden in the playoffs, then you'd figure they'd break the glass in case of emergency and call in Roberson. If Roberson can prove that he's back to his old stopper ways, then he's a valuable piece for a team. He'll never get HUGE money if his shooting continues to suck, but he can be a $8-10M role player. And if he ever learns to shoot at a modest clip (even 33% from three) then his stock will balloon.
Why do a seemingly massive amount of warriors fans want him at #2? Why do a seemingly massive amount of warriors fans seem to think Anthony Edwards and Wiseman are 1 and 2 and we should pick the one the wolves don't? Those guys aren't the top 2. Beyond just disagreeing with scouts, and therefor disagreeing with the "best player available" philosophy, why do people think this would even make sense based on need? The warriors have 2 needs and some wants as I see it. Firstly, the warriors need a ball handler. Look at our roster. For ball handlers we have: Steph, and .... ummmm..... Draymond? Literally no one else besides G-leaguers. You cant have G-leaguers handling the ball, running the offense, and making important decisions in the playoffs. Sorry Damian Lee fans, hes not cutting it, and don't get me started on Poole. So.... that's a massive hole that needs to be filled. The second need is a high IQ center to play crunchtime playoff minutes and set screens and make good decisions. Other than being smart and a rim protector, we require very little from this player, but they need to be very smart. Gasol, Ibaka, or Olynyk would be the dream with the traded player exception; something along those lines. Honestly, I'm fine with just plugging Looney into this role. Again, we just don't ask much of this player other than defense and IQ and Looney has shown promise in both areas. That being said, I'm calling it a need because at the end of the day, I want someone better than Looney at this spot. Beyond the two needs, I see us wanting an infinite supply of 3 and D wings, but who doesn't. The reason this isn't a need is we have Wiggins who we all hope will fill the role, but we can use an infinite supply like anyone else. How does Wiseman fit into any of this though? Do people want to put the ball in Wiseman's hands in crunchtime during the playoffs and have him make plays like Bogut did? To the people who want Wiseman, what need do you see him filling? I see him as both a bad fit and not the best player available at #2. Personally I love Lamelo, but he might not fall to us, because despite warriors fan's impressions, he's the consensus top ranked player. Loop at the big boards. We easily fits into the backup ballhandler need. I see him as both the best player available and and excellent fit if he falls to us at 2. Trading down is also an option high on my list.
After tonight's lottery, I figured I would post a two-round mock draft. I didn't make any trades. I tried to go based on what I thing teams will do, not necessarily what I think they should do, though my opinions obviously impact the decisions as well. I also included my personal grades and some undrafted fits that I liked. Let me know what you think!
MIN - LaMelo Ball PG (NBL) - LaMelo is the best player in the draft and is worth the gamble for the Timberwolves. It is reasonable to be concerned about his fit with their roster on both ends, but that concern would be fair regardless of who the Timberwolves select. Their defense would probably struggle with either LaMelo or Edwards. The fit with D'Lo would be clunky with either LaMelo or Edwards. LaMelo is a great passer and an underrated off-ball player. He played off-ball in high school and is a high IQ player on that end of the court. I expect him to be able to adjust to sharing time on ball with Russell. The offensive potential, particularly the two-man game with Towns, is far too enticing to pass up on at this spot.
GS - Anthony Edwards SG (UGA) - Edwards adds depth to their backcourt that is lacking in talent outside of Steph and Klay. He can also gives them another ball handler to take some pressure off Draymond. The Warriors’ closing lineup has Draymond at the 5, so having Edwards on the roster could allow for him to play important minutes in a lower-usage role where he plays next to both Steph and Klay. The Warriors are a well-run organization and I expect them to get him to buy in on the defensive end and be more of a team player on offense, where they can take advantage of his underrated cutting abilities.
CHA - James Wiseman C (MEM) - Wiseman will help anchor the Hornets’ defense for the foreseeable future. He fits well with Washington, who is big enough to provide weakside rim protection but also quick enough to guard the 4 and space the floor on offense. Wiseman can be a quality roll-man for Rozier and Graham and can help those guys get open by setting screens with his 7’1” frame.
CHI - Deni Avdija SF (BSL) - Deni is a great fit for a Chicago team that needs a wing who can help their pieces fit together. He is a competent defender who plays hard on every possession, though his lack of length may limit his upside on that end of the floor. Offensively, he is a very good cutter and a capable ball handler. Even though he is not a good shooter, he is an intelligent floor spacer and knows where to be on the court. He can do a little bit of everything, and if his skills coalesce, he should be able to provide the Bulls with their wing of the future.
CLE - Isaac Okoro SF (AUB) - Okoro is a great pick for the Cavaliers here at 5. They get one of the best defensive players in the class and fill a very substantial need in their roster, that being wing depth. Okoro is a good ball-handler and passer, which could help take some of the pressure off of Sexton and Garland, both of whom are probably undersized shooting guards, not true point guards. If Okoro is developed properly, he could turn into one of the best players in the class and could be an important building block for the Cavs in the future.
ATL - Tyrese Haliburton PG/SG (ISU) - Haliburton can be the secondary ball-handler the Hawks desperately need. He is a smart defender and can help make up for some of Trae’s shortcomings, particularly if he is able to add strength. He will keep the ball moving and help make their pieces fit together better. He can play both on and off the ball thanks to his shooting ability, which is a plus for his fit next to Trae offensively.
DET - Obi Toppin PF (DAY) - At the 7th pick, Obi will probably be viewed as the best available player. The fit with both Blake and Wood is less than ideal, but Obi has a bunch of avenues to being an effective offensive player. This is probably not a draft where you can get high level talent, particularly at pick 7, so it makes sense to go with a high floor player who can be an important piece of their multi-year rebuild. They can grab a star in next year's draft, and Obi will hopefully fit in with that player.
NY - Killian Hayes PG/SG (BBL) - Though the Knicks unfortunately fell, they will still have the ability to acquire a good player for their future. I view Hayes as a tier 1 prospect, and although the consensus is lower on him than I am, I expect Hayes to be the pick for New York as they continue with their rebuild. He can run their offense and create for himself and others in the PnR. He is a good defender both on and off the ball. Surrounding Hayes with shooters will be crucial to the success of the Knicks in the future. The two-man game with Robinson looks like it could be a great way for the Knicks to reliably generate offense.
WAS - Onyeka Okongwu PF/C (USC) - Okongwu is a great addition to the Wizards frontcourt and can be an anchor for the defense in the short and long term. Thomas Bryant has been relatively inconsistent and they lack depth outside of Bryant at the center position. Okongwu will be a good PnR partner with Wall and should be a solid paint presence for the Wizards.
PHX - Devin Vassell SG/SF (FSU) - Vassell and Mikal Bridges on the court at the same time will be hell for opposing wings. Both are such instinctual and smart defenders who can get in passing lanes and disrupt the flow of the offense. Vassell is a capable offensive player, particularly on the perimeter, and if his off-the-dribble shot-making flashes are real, he could be a valuable secondary creator for a team lacking in creation outside of Booker.
SA - Patrick Williams SF/PF (FSU) - I trust the Spurs development staff to mold Williams into the incredible player on both ends that he has the potential to become. They needed to improve their front court and Williams can provide value at the 4 spot with his elite weak-side rim protection. He has shown some ability to create off the dribble and his shot profile looks solid enough for me to believe in him as a capable floor spacer. Williams could turn into one of the better players in this class and his youth and athleticism would be great for a Spurs team in need of both.
SAC - Aaron Nesmith SG/SF (VAN) - Nesmith would add much needed wing depth for the Kings. He has a 6’10” wingspan and may be able to guard some bigger players because of it, particularly if he is able to add strength. His off-ball movement coupled with Fox’s ability to create advantages off the dribble would be a lethal combination. Nesmith will be able to find a nice role on the Kings and be productive from day 1 as a lethal shooter and valuable floor spacer.
NO - Cole Anthony PG (UNC) - Cole can provide a scoring punch off the bench for the Pelicans and give some clarity to their backcourt situation, as he can play both on and off the ball and should be successful with either Lonzo or Jrue as his backcourt partner. He would not be expected to be a big decision-maker for the Pelicans, which should help him integrate into the NBA more seamlessly and allow him to focus on his high-level shotmaking that should take the Pelicans’ offense to the next level.
BOS (via MEM) - Tyrese Maxey PG/SG (UK) - The Celtics need bench scoring (they finished 29th this year). Maxey isn't a point guard in the NBA, but he wouldn't have to be one in Boston. His 3-level scoring will be a great addition to their bench and his defensive abilities would bolster one of the best defenses in the league. He can play off of Smart, Hayward, and Tatum on the offensive end and benefit from the advantages that Tatum can create. Watching he and Smart terrorize the other team on the perimeter would be amazing.
ORL - Kira Lewis Jr. PG (ALA) - For a team that doesn’t have a ton of young offensive talent, Kira could be a very welcome addition and he fits reasonably well next to Fultz. His rim pressure could certainly help break defenses down and create open looks for shooters or dump-offs to their forwards. His small frame isn’t a huge concern when placing him on a team with such a deep and defensively versatile frontcourt.
POR - Saddiq Bey SF/PF (VILL) - The Blazers have needed wing depth for the entire season, but the bubble certainly helped bring his issue to light. Bey is a great fit with the Blazers as he should be able to play either the 3 or the 4 and he can knock down perimeter shots. He may not be the wing stopper that the Blazers desperately need to compete in the West due to his limited lateral mobility, but he is still a better option than most of the players they have on their roster currently. He is a polished player who will be ready to help the Blazers compete from day 1.
MIN (via BKN) - Precious Achiuwa PF/C (MEM) - Precious is a pretty good fit next to Towns if he can be a solid interior defender. He had a lot of moments where he was a good rim protector this season. He is also ostensibly switchable and should be able to bolster the Timberwolves’ defense. On offense, he fits well with Towns as well because Precious can play on the interior and Towns can space the floor.
DAL - Jalen Smith PF/C (MD) - After losing Dwight Powell to an Achilles injury that could keep him from being 100% for a good portion of next season, it makes sense to invest in the frontcourt. Smith will be able to space the floor and should be able to provide rim protection as well. It may be difficult to play Smith and Porzingis simultaneously because Smith doesn’t move particularly well, but Smith should be able to provide floor spacing with Porzingis off the court. A frontcourt of Kleber and Smith might be among the better shooting frontcourts in the league and will help open up the floor for Luka and the rest of their perimeter players.
BKN (via PHI) - Josh Green SG (ARIZ) - Brooklyn could definitely benefit from some wing depth, and with a backcourt of Kyrie and Dinwiddie, they are going to need some guys who can defend the other team’s guards. Green is very athletic and has great hips, making him one of the best on-ball wing defender in the class. If his shot comes around, Green will be a contributor for the Nets for a long time.
MIA - Théo Maledon PG (LNB) - Though Kendrick Nunn had a productive rookie year, he struggled in the bubble and it might make sense for the Heat to invest in a better long-term option at point guard, as Maledon is about 6 years younger. Maledon is a good fit for Miami to strengthen their backcourt, which could be pretty thin if they don’t hold onto Goran Dragic. If they can develop him, Maledon could turn into a very effective guard for the Heat with his potential to dribble, pass, and shoot at a high level.
PHI (via OKC) - Tyrell Terry PG (STAN) - Though I have soured a bit on Terry’s fit with the Sixers, particularly because I think he might be too weak to contribute in the short term, this is still a good pick for Philadelphia. Terry is one of the better shooters in the class and someone who can score from the outside both off the catch and off the dribble. Has some playmaking ability and fits very well next to Simmons. The Sixers’ size should be able to make up for his poor frame in the short term; as he develops physically, he should be able to be a competent finisher around the basket due to his high-level shooting touch.
DEN (via HOU) - Jaden McDaniels SF/PF (WASH) - McDaniels is a great addition to a Nuggets team that is deep enough to take a risk on a high-upside prospect. Though there may be some overlap between McDaniels and MPJ in terms of role, McDaniels is not the shot-creator that Porter is and would likely end up playing a more complementary role, without the ball in his hands. He has shown potential as a weakside rim protector, which is helpful next to Jokic, especially as Millsap ages. McDaniels could be a fantastic 4th option for the Nuggets in the future if he is able to develop properly.
UTAH - Aleksej Pokuševski PF (GBL A2) - Poku probably doesn’t fit the timeline that the Jazz are currently operating under, but he is worth the swing anyway. They desperately need athleticism in their frontcourt and although Poku isn’t a ridiculous athlete, he is still a very fluid mover and is highly coordinated for his size. If he is able to hit a high-end outcome, the Jazz should be a dangerous defensive team moving forward with Gobert in the middle and Poku providing weak-side rim protection. His floor-spacing potential should also open things up for Mitchell even more.
MIL (via IND) - RJ Hampton PG/SG (NBL) - Milwaukee can take a swing here because of how well their roster is already built. RJ can develop his shot and decision-making in the G-League as a rookie and can then slide into a bigger and bigger role as Bledsoe gets older and he gives them the option to move on from George Hill at the end of next season if RJ can develop as I think that he can.
OKC (via DEN) - Desmond Bane SG/SF (TCU) - With Gallinari potentially walking this summer and the Thunder being near the bottom of the league in terms of 3PT attempts, Bane makes a lot of sense as a 3&D player who may end up being the best shooter in the draft. Couple that with the playmaking flashes he has shown and you’re left with a really solid player who fills a clear need for the Thunder.
BOS - Xavier Tillman PF/C (MSU) - Tillman is the smartest player in the class and would greatly bolster the Celtics interior defense. He is very strong and had a lot of success against bigger centers in the Big 10 this year like Garza and Oturu. I expect him to be able to carve out a similarly valuable role in the NBA. He will be able to do a lot of the little things that Theis does well, such as helping to give Tatum cleaner driving looks by sealing off in the paint. He's also a good passer and ball-handler for a big and may be able to fill some of the void left by Horford's departure. The Celtics have done a good job teaching big men to shoot (Olynyk, Baynes, Horford), and if Tillman can be a respectable shooter, he should be an incredibly valuable role player.
NY (via LAC) - Robert Woodard II SF (MSST) - The Knicks could absolutely use a 3&D wing, and Woodard is one of the better ones available at this spot in the draft. He is a capable off-ball defender and is fairly athletic. Woodard shot 43% from three this year and has shown flashes of passing and ball-handling. He is exactly what the Knicks need and can be a valuable piece as they move forward.
LAL - Grant Riller PG (COFC) - The Lakers lack self-creation from any of their perimeter players outside of LeBron. Adding Riller, who can get to the basket and finish better than any player in the class, would be a great addition to their offense. Riller could take some of the creation load off LeBron as he ages and he will provide them with an entirely new avenue of offensive opportunities, particularly with LeBron on the bench. Riller is an older prospect and is ready to contribute right away for a team that will be competing for the title next year. He has been good on spot-ups (albeit on limited volume), and continued success in that regard will be crucial to his fit with the Lakers.
TOR - Zeke Nnaji C (ARIZ) - It is unlikely that the Raptors will be able to retain both Gasol and Ibaka barring one of them taking a massive pay cut. Adding Nnaji to their frontcourt would be a great move. He is mobile, can play on the interior on offense, and has shown some signs of being able to develop as a floor spacer, though there are better bets at this point in the draft if that is the desire. He is a smart big who can play a meaningful role for the Raptors long into the future.
BOS (via MIL) - Leandro Bolmaro PG/SG (ACB) - Bolmaro is another draft-and-stash prospect (possibly for multiple years, if he wants) and could end up as one of the best players in the class. He's a high level passer already and as he matures, he should only get better in that regard. He's a phenomenal on-ball defender and that skill should be able to translate to the NBA, especially as he gets older and stronger. If he is able to hone his scoring craft overseas, he would be a great addition to this team in a year or two to take care of some of the ball-handling duties, especially as Kemba ages.
DAL (via GS) - Jahmi'us Ramsey SG (TTU) - Ramsey can provide the Mavs with his perimeter shotmaking, particularly off the catch, and is a fairly dynamic athlete, which would be a great boost for a Mavs team that lacks traditional athleticism in their backcourt. Ramsey struggles to get to the basket, but Luka is good enough to create advantages and open looks for Ramsey. He still has a fair amount of room to grow as an off-the-dribble shotmaker, but he should be a valuable scorer for the Mavs. There are question-marks about his defensive awareness, but he is a good enough athlete to where he should be able to improve on that end of the floor.
CHA (via CLE) - Elijah Hughes SG/SF (CUSE) - Hughes outside shot-making will be great for the Hornets. He can operate effectively as a catch-and-shoot player, but he may be given an opportunity to show off his off-the-dribble shotmaking as well. He probably needs to improve as a movement shooter and show that he can consistently defend outside of a zone in order to be a meaningful contributor on the Hornets, but Hughes is a great selection to add some wing depth in Charlotte.
MIN - Tyler Bey SF/PF (COLO) - Tyler Bey is a smart and athletic forward who can complement Towns very well. He consistently makes great rotations and has a 40-inch vertical, making him a guy who can be a solid weakside rim protector next to Towns. The fit with Achiuwa is sub-optimal, but with a core of LaMelo, D'Lo, & Towns, the Timberwolves have to find impactful defenders wherever they can get them.
PHI (via ATL) - Malachi Flynn PG (SDSU) - Though it may look strange to double dip at PG, especially when the two guards are broadly similar players, Flynn is too good of a fit with the Sixers to pass up. He is one of the best PnR players in the class and provides a lot of abilities that the Sixers are otherwise lacking. Flynn can be the Sixers answer at PG in the short term while Terry takes the time to develop his body and decision-making.
SAC (via DET) - Daniel Oturu C (MINN) - With Harry Giles hitting free agency, Dwayne Dedmond getting traded earlier this year, and some reasons to be concerned about the durability of Richaun Holmes/Marvin Bagley, it makes sense for the Kings to invest in a big man who can grab rebounds, potentially space the floor, and add some depth. Though I am skeptical of Oturu’s defensive IQ and his offensive projection at the next level, he can slide into a fairly comfortable role with Sacramento where he doesn’t have a ton of responsibility.
PHI (via NY) - Paul Reed PF/C (DEP) - Reed is among the better 2nd round bigs for the Sixers to select. This might be a bit of a reach considering his draft stock at the moment, but Reed is athletic and fairly coordinated. He should be able to hold things down on the defensive end when Embiid is not on the floor and has shown some ball-handling ability that makes me cautiously optimistic about his ability to develop some sort of perimeter game that would allow him to play some minutes with Embiid.
WAS (via CHI) - Tre Jones PG (DUKE) - Though the Wizards might opt for a wing at this point in the draft, Jones is a borderline first round talent and a guy who can provide value for the Wizards as a backup point guard right away. He can defend on the ball and has improved greatly as a shooter. He also provides some assurance should John Wall be less that 100% after his injury. This is good value at this point in the draft.
NY (via CHA) - Devon Dotson PG (KU) - Grabbing Dotson at 38 is a steal for the Knicks. With a bevy of point guards and relatively small number of teams in need of one, it makes sense that some might fall. Dotson can provide rim pressure that the Knicks do not have on their roster outside of Barrett and can be a menacing defender despite his small size. The fit next to Hayes is probably better than one would think at first glance because they add value in different ways; Hayes will succeed in a PnR-heavy offense, while Dotson will probably be maximized being able to drive to the basket and finish, which Hayes can struggle with at times.
NO (via WAS) - Cassius Stanley SG/SF (DUKE) - The Pelicans could use added wing depth and Stanley has the ability to provide that for them. There are reasons to be concerned about how he adapts to the pros given how raw he is for his age, but he is at least a decent 3PT shooter and is a ridiculous vertical athlete. If he can put his tools together, he and Zion would make for an incredibly athletically impressive frontcourt.
MEM (via PHX) - Isaiah Stewart PF/C (WASH) - Stewart may be viewed as one of the best players available at this spot and he fits reasonably well into the Grizzlies’ long-term plans. He is a solid rebounder, which they need next to Jaren Jackson, and has flashed some ability to space the floor, which could create space for Ja to drive. It may be hard to get him minutes in the short term with Valanciunas and Dieng ahead of him, but it is reasonable to assume they will move on from Dieng when his contract is up and Stewart can then get more minutes. JJJ and Clarke should be able to cover for some of his mobility issues, and Stewart should be able to provide a hard-nosed edge to their frontcourt that has defined Memphis basketball for a long time.
SA - Vernon Carey Jr. C (DUKE) - Carey may be viewed as one of the best players available at this spot, and although his playstyle does not fit seamlessly within the modern NBA, he is certainly talented enough to carve out a role for himself. Compared to other bigs such as Stewart & Oturu, Carey is a much more willing passer and may be able to conduct some offense out of the post if his awareness improves. There are reasons to be concerned about his defensive IQ, but he is fairly nimble for someone his size and may have more success than one might think on the defensive end after the Spurs coach him up.
NO - Abdoulaye N’Doye PG/SG (LNB) - N’Doye is among the better 2nd round stash prospects, and although he is relatively old, he has many avenues to becoming an impactful NBA player in the future because of his combination of size, length, and ball-handling. Because the have 3 2nd round picks, adding a stash prospect makes sense for the Pelicans, even if he is only stashed for one year. If N’Doye’s jumper can improve, he may end up as a steal for the Pelicans.
SAC - Nico Mannion PG (ARIZ) - Mannion is a very capable decision-maker and will benefit from being in NBA offenses with more spacing. Yogi Ferrell’s contract expires after this year and Cory Joseph’s contract isn’t guaranteed after next year. Nico could easily slide into the backup point guard role and fill that role perfectly. If his shooting can develop, he may be able to play off-ball next to Fox due to his ability to move without the ball.
CHI (via MEM) - Isaiah Joe SG (ARK) - The Bulls struggled to make 3s last year, but Joe should help to solve that problem off their bench. He will probably have fewer opportunities to create with the ball in his hands, which he was pretty good at in college, but he is a very good off-ball player as well, which should be great for the Bulls offense. Defensively, Joe can hold his own with his 6’5” frame and plus wingspan, though he may have to take fewer gambles in order to be successful on that end of the floor. The Bulls get a first round talent in the second round and begin to shape up their roster nicely.
ORL - Cassius Winston PG (MSU) - Double dipping at PG might not look like the best decision, but Winston and Lewis fill different roles. Winston’s outside shooting is something the Magic are in need of, particularly if Fournier doesn’t re-sign. Winston also proved to be a great PnR playmaker with Tillman this year, and I expect him to have similar levels of success at the NBA level off the bench with Gordon, Vucevic, or even Bamba. Though they probably won’t ever play together, Winston and Lewis could be a very interesting contrast of offensive styles.
POR - Skylar Mays SG/SF (LSU) - Mays is another solid addition to the Blazers roster to add to their wing depth. While Bey is ostensibly a 3/4 tweener, Mays should be able to play the 2 or the 3. He is another mature, smart player who produce in a relatively small role. He can hit open 3s, defend both on and off the ball, and take advantage of his craftiness to make a play with the ball in his hands. He is not a high ceiling player, but he is what the Blazers need for their roster.
BOS (via BKN) - Udoka Azubuike C (KU) - The Celtics tend to struggle against big men who dominate in the paint (as we have seen with Embiid this week). Azubuike is not a high-minutes player, but he can play a necessary role in the NBA and fills a void on the Celtics roster as a rim protector, post defender, and lob catcher. He's much better than Tacko and could easily be given a 2-way and contribute meaningfully in small minutes.
GS (via DAL) - Killian Tillie PF/C (GONZ) - If Tillie is fully healthy, he is a first-round talent. He can provide floor spacing, is a capable passer, particularly in the post, and is one of the more mobile bigs in the class. I really like the fit next to Draymond and if he is able to be the passer that I think he can be, Steph and Klay should be able to use their off-ball movement abilities to get open, where Tillie will easily find them. This pick has the potential to be a steal for the Warriors.
PHI - Jordan Nwora SF (LOU) - Nwora is 6’7” and will probably shoot 40% from 3 in the NBA. That alone makes him worth taking a look at, though his ancillary skills are lacking. The Sixers could use a sharpshooter, and Nwora could be that player for them. He is not the best defender, but the Sixers have a number of high-level defenders who could make up for some of his deficiencies.
SAC (via MIA) - Boriša Simanić PF (KLS) - With their 4th pick in the draft, the Kings will probably take a draft-and-stash candidate. Simanić is a solid stretch big with really high level shotmaking instincts. He could potentially fill a role similar to Bjelica should the Kings move on from him in the future, and if Simanić can be more aggressive offensively and improve defensively, he could be a welcome addition to their frontcourt.
GS (via UTAH) - Yam Madar PG/SG (BSL) - Looking forward, the Warriors could greatly benefit from adding another ball-handler. Madar is one of the better 2nd round stash prospects and should be able to be a capable 3rd guard once he comes over. If the Warriors can improve upon his shot, he would have the potential to be a very productive player as a solid 3-level scorer and aggressive defender at the NBA level.
OKC - Reggie Perry PF (MSST) - Perry could add depth to OKC’s frontcourt and give them another dimension on offense. Perry showed some ball-handling and passing abilities with team USA and if those abilities can translate, he should be a valuable piece for the Thunder moving forward, particularly because their frontcourt depth is lacking. Perry should also be able to bang in the post a bit and provide value off the bench.
ATL (via HOU) - Payton Pritchard PG (ORE) - The Hawks are very thin at PG after Trae, particularly because there are concerns about whether or not Haliburton can be a full-time point guard and because Teague is unlikely to be in their long-term plans. Adding Pritchard, who can dribble, pass, and shoot at a high level will be a good addition to their backcourt. He doesn’t defend all that well, but the Hawks are accustomed to having a poor defender at the PG position.
IND - Immanuel Quickley SG (UK) - Quickley may be viewed as one of the better players available at this spot due to his shooting ability and the defensive upside he showcases thanks to his wingspan. The Pacers could use another guard/wing, particularly if Oladipo continues to have injury issues, and Quickley may be able to be that player. He can find a role on the team as a sharpshooter and floor spacer.
BKN (via DEN) - Mamadi Diakite PF/C (UVA) - Diakite is one of the better shot-blockers in the class and should be able to provide value for the Nets in that regard. Though he lacks the size to play full time center, the Nets already have Allen & Jordan, and Diakite's mobility is pretty good for a big, making me think he could play a bit at the 4. He showed some ability to stretch the floor this season and knows what it takes to win a championship, meaning he should be able to be a valuable role player for the Nets as they aspire towards a championship.
CHA (via BOS) - Mason Jones SF (ARK) - Rozier and Graham had FTr’s of .202 and .242 respectively, which are not good. Enter Mason Jones, who, although limited athletically, was an exceptional off-the-dribble creator at Arkansas, leading him to an absurd .668 FTr. He can provide another avenue for offensive creation for the Hornets and is a great pick at the end of the 2nd round, despite the obvious defensive concerns.
LAC - Nick Richards C (UK) - The Clippers could greatly benefit from a rim protector and paint presence, and Richards should be able to provide that for them in a low-minutes role. I have some concerns about how his game translates to the NBA, but he posted relatively good block rates during his time at Kentucky. Richards should be able to be a solid role player for the Clippers when they need to guard 7 footers.
PHI (via LAL) - Georgios Kalaitzakis SF (LKL) - With a total of 5 picks in the draft, it makes sense for the Sixers to go with a draft-and-stash. Kalaitzakis doesn’t shoot the ball very well, which is particularly concerning with this Sixers team, but he is good ball handler and defender. If he can learn to shoot, he should be a solid bench contributor.
TOR - Ty-Shon Alexander SG (CREI) - Ty-Shon is a great fit for the Raptors, regardless of whether or not VanVleet leaves in free agency. Ty-Shon has shown some ball handling ability but can also play off ball and spot up on the perimeter. He is a good 3&D prospect and will add another quality perimeter defender to a team that is already loaded with them.
NO (via MIL) - Naji Marshall SF (XAV) - The Pelicans struggled defensively this year, so adding a versatile defensive wing in Marshall should help them in that regard. He will probably have to improve as a shooter in order to get real minutes in their rotation, but if he can, he will be a great addition. Given the success they have had with Ingram as a ball-handler, it may make sense for the Pelicans to take one of the better wing ball-handlers in the draft in Marshall, as he can slide into that role with Ingram on the bench or if he misses time due to injury.
Mock Draft Results by team (& my personal grades) Atlantic Celtics - Tyrese Maxey (14), Xavier Tillman (26), Leandro Bolmaro (30), Udoka Azubuike (47); GRADE: A Nets - Josh Green (19), Mamadi Diakite (55); GRADE: B Knicks - Killian Hayes (8), Robert Woodard II (27), Devon Dotson (38); GRADE: B+ 76ers - Tyrell Terry (22), Malachi Flynn (34), Paul Reed (36), Jordan Nwora (49), Georgios Kalaitzakis (58); GRADE: B+ Raptors - Zeke Nnaji (29), Ty-Shon Alexander (59); GRADE: A- Central Bulls - Deni Avdjia (4), Isaiah Joe (44); GRADE: B+ Cavaliers - Isaac Okoro (5); GRADE: B Pistons - Obi Toppin (7); GRADE: B- Pacers - Immanuel Quickley (54); GRADE: B Bucks - RJ Hampton (24); GRADE: A Southeast Hawks - Tyrese Haliburton (7), Payton Pritchard (53); GRADE: B- Hornets - James Wiseman (3), Elijah Hughes (32), Mason Jones (56); GRADE: B- Heat - Théo Maledon (20); GRADE: B+ Magic - Kira Lewis Jr. (15), Cassius Winston (45); GRADE: B+ Wizards - Onyeka Okongwu (9), Tre Jones (37); GRADE: B Northwest Nuggets - Jaden McDaniels (21); GRADE: B Timberwolves - LaMelo Ball (1), Precious Achiuwa (17), Tyler Bey (33); GRADE: B Thunder - Desmond Bane (25), Reggie Perry (52); GRADE: B TrailBlazers - Saddiq Bey (16), Skylar Mays (46); GRADE: B+ Jazz - Aleksej Pokuševski (23); GRADE: A Southwest Mavericks - Jalen Smith (18), Jahmi’us Ramsey (31); GRADE: B- Rockets - N/A; GRADE: N/A Grizzlies - Isaiah Stewart (40); GRADE: C+ Pelicans - Cole Anthony (13), Cassius Stanley (39), Abdoulaye N’Doye (42), Naji Marshall (60); GRADE: A- Spurs - Patrick Williams (11), Vernon Carey Jr. (41); GRADE: B+ Pacific Warriors - Anthony Edwards (2), Killian Tillie (48), Yam Madar (51); GRADE: A- Clippers - Nick Richards (57); GRADE: C- Lakers - Grant Riller (28); GRADE: A- Suns - Devin Vassell (10); GRADE: A- Kings - Aaron Nesmith (12), Daniel Oturu (35), Nico Mannion (43), Boriša Simanić (50); GRADE: B- Undrafted fits that I like (Only NCAA players were counted for the undrafted pool; no international players were counted; I assumed every player who has declared but was not drafted was eligible): Bucks: Anthony Lamb; Bulls: Lamar Stevens; Cavaliers: Kaleb Wesson, Kristian Doolittle; Celtics: Justinian Jessup; Clippers: Jordan Ford; Grizzlies: Nate Hinton; Hawks: Ashton Hagans; Heat: Caleb Homesley; Hornets: Kahlil Whitney, Nathan Knight; Jazz: Yoeli Childs; Kings: Jay Scrubb; Knicks: Jalen Harris, Jake Toolson; Lakers: Malik Fitts; Magic: CJ Elleby, Nate Darling; Mavericks: Trent Forrest; Nets: Rayshaun Hammonds; Nuggets: Trevelin Queen; Pacers: Dwayne Sutton; Pelicans: TJ Holyfield; Pistons: Markus Howard, KJ Martin; Raptors: Lamine Diane; Rockets: Emmitt Williams; 76ers: Jon Teske; Spurs: Tres Tinkle; Suns: Saben Lee, Freddie Gillespie; Thunder: Myles Powell; Timberwolves: Josh Hall; TrailBlazers: Sam Merrill; Warriors: De’Riante Jenkins; Wizards: Christian Vital
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