Chicago Bulls (33-49: fourth place in Central Division, missed playoffs)
Draft picks: No. 1, No. 39
PG: Kirk Hinrich / Chris Duhon*/ JamesOn Curry*
SG: Larry Hughes / Ben Gordon* / Thabo Sefolosha / Shannon Brown*
SF: Luol Deng* / Andres Nocioni / Demetris Nichols*
PF: Drew Gooden / Tyrus Thomas / Cedric Simmons
C: Joakim Noah / Aaron Gray
*Potential free agent
Could use help at: Point Guard, Center
Bottom line: What looked like a promising situation in Chicago quickly soured this season, as the franchise took a significant step back, a 16-game drop to be exact. Despite the fact that the Bulls brought back a roster very similar to the one that helped them approach the 50-win mark in 2006, they failed to build any kind of consistency as the season went on, as discontent spread within the organization between the players, coaching staff and front office. However, those struggles were quickly forgotten when the team's misfortune was reversed with an improbable stroke of luck. On lottery night, the Bulls supplanted eight teams to earn the right to choose first in their year's draft. With a solid staple of young talent, a handful of pending restricted free agents, and the opportunity to add a franchise player on a discount rookie contract, Jim Paxson has a chance to make Chicago a contender in a hurry without having to clear any cap space, an anomaly for most lottery teams.
Draft outlook: The Bulls are in the enviable position of having to make a difficult decision between this draft's top two prospects: Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley. Though Beasley is an ideal fit on the team's current roster due to his ability to fill it up from in close, Rose is a homegrown talent with unlimited potential at a position that the Bulls need to address this offseason. It is hard to say which player would have a bigger immediate impact in Chicago considering the circumstances, and Jim Paxson has the assets at his disposal to facilitate either one. Though Rose has been rumored as the early favorite, this one will likely go to the wire. With their second-round selection, the Bulls will target a point guard or scoring big man that falls out of the first round. Paxson likes players with strong pedigrees. If the Bulls don't see anyone on the board that they feel offers solid offensive value at that point, they may opt to trade the pick considering the amount of youth they already have on their roster.
Cleveland Cavaliers (45-37: second place in Central Division, lost in second round of playoffs)
Draft picks: No. 19
PG: Delonte West* / Damon Jones* / Eric Snow
SG: Wally Szczerbiak / Daniel Gibson* / Devin Brown*
SF: Lebron James / Sasha Pavlovic / Billy Thomas*
PF: Nazr Ben Wallace / Joe Smith / Lance Allred*
C: Zydrunas Ilgauskas / Anderson Varejao / Dwayne Jones*
*Potential free agent
Could use help at: Center, Shooting Guard, Point Guard
Draft outlook: The Cavaliers have a very well-rounded roster, but there will be plenty of guys still on the board at 19 who could provide the team with either the production or potential that Gilbert is looking for. Chris Douglas-Roberts may need some time to transition to the NBA game, but he's a scorer with a knack for creating his own offense, a trait Ferry will be looking for in his targets in free agency. Though Cleveland could take a proven player like Douglas-Roberts, it may be more beneficial for the franchise to take an aggressive approach to the draft and take a risk on a player with great potential. Nicholas Batum and Donte Greene may be a bit raw at this point, but could flourish next to LeBron, while Marreese Speight and JaVale McGee could turn into very productive frontcourt players in time. Danny Ferry has proven that he isn't risk-averse, and this seems like a scenario where that can pay off for him.
Detroit Pistons (59-23: first place in Central Division, lost in Eastern Conference finals)
Draft picks: No. 29, No. 59
PG: Chauncey Billups / Rodney Stuckey / Lindsey Hunter*
SG: Richard Hamilton / Aaron Afflalo / Juan Dixon*
SF: Tayshaun Prince / Jarvis Hayes*/ Walter Herrmann*
PF: Rasheed Wallace / Jason Maxiell / Amir Johnson
C: Antonio McDyess / Theo Ratliff / Cheick Samb
*Potential free agent
Could use help at: Small Forward
Bottom line: The Pistons have a roster full of excellent rotation players who play tough defense, something that has characterized the team for years. They have guys who have been, could be, or are already All-Stars at every position. Over the last few years Joe Dumars has even had the foresight to add and develop a handful of young players, seeming to almost always find quality assets late in the draft. This offseason will be a continuation of his recent efforts as he preemptively prepares for the decline of his current nucleus.
Draft outlook: Detroit doesn't have any legitimate needs, meaning Dumars will get the chance to draft the best player available at 29. Just for the sake of balance, it is likely that he'll target a forward with scoring ability and the athleticism to be a solid defender. Bill Walker and Davon Jefferson are both capable of developing into very capable players if they buy into the mentality that Detroit's current group of veterans demand in the locker room. Chris Douglas-Roberts is a local product who already knows the drill, but may not be available. Jason Thompson is a real possibility as well, and he seems to fit into what Flip Saunders wants in a center. D.J. White is rumored to have drawn some early interest from the Pistons as well. At 59, Detroit will probably take a player to leave overseas or look to move the pick for future considerations.
Indiana Pacers (36-46: third place in Central Division, missed playoffs)
Draft picks: No. 11, No. 41
PG: Jamaal Tinsley / Travis Diener / Andre Owens*
SG: Mike Dunleavy / Kareem Rush* / Marquis Daniels / Flip Murray*
SF: Danny Granger / Shawne Williams / Stephen Graham
PF: Jermaine O'Neal / Troy Murphy / Ike Diogu
C: *Potential free agent
Could use help at: Point Guard, Center, Depth
Bottom line: Though Indiana had a hard time staying healthy this season, that doesn't mask the fact that their lineup needs some changes. The Pacers need to rebuild their roster from the top down, a strategy that has worked wonders for them in the past. However, general manager David Morway won't have the cap flexibility to make a whole lot happen outside of the draft. While the Pacers may not have the chance to add a legitimate franchise player at 11, they certainly will have the opportunity to upgrade their roster. At this point, Indiana has a lot invested in their current talent, but need to upgrade a number of positions to compete. Any player they select must possess strong intangibles after the many non-basketball related distractions the Pacers have suffered through over the past few years.
Draft outlook: Jim O'Brien's offense is tailor made for D.J. Augustin. His ability to handle the ball, create open looks for his teammates, and knock down his own shots from the outside would allow him to step in and play significant minutes in Indiana from Day 1. Russell Westbrook would be another very good pick-up, and could fill in at two positions to accelerate his development. Should the Pacers opt to go big, DeAndre Jordan would be the most realistic selection, but doesn't provide the shot-blocking that the Pacers desperately need from their postmen. At 41, Indiana could adequately fill that need by selecting local standout D.J. White. Nathan Jawai is another intriguing option, but he needs quite a bit of coaching up. It is also possible that the Pacers will just take the best player available to bolster what little quality depth they have by taking someone like Richard Hendrix or Lester Hudson.
Milwaukee Bucks (26-56: last place in Central Division, missed playoffs)
Draft picks: No. 8, No. 37
PG: Maurice Williams / Royal Ivey* / Ramon Sessions
SG: Michael Redd / Charlie Bell / Awvee Storey*
SF: Bobby Simmons / Desmond Mason
PF: Charlie Villanueva / Yi Jianlian / Michael Ruffin*
C: Andrew Bogut / Jake Voskuhl* / Dan Gadzuric
*Potential free agent
Could use help at: Small Forward, Center, Overall Depth
Bottom line: The Bucks simply don't have the talent to compensate for the poor brand of defense they brought to the floor this season. They don't have the cap space to let John Hammond remedy the problem either. Their first-round selection last summer, Yi Jianlian, had a solid rookie year, but is still going to need quite a bit more time to get comfortable at the NBA level, and while he isn't going to turn the team around by himself, he has the potential to be a nice asset down the road. The Bucks will have the chance to add another piece to the puzzle in the draft, and will use this offseason to put themselves in position to rebuild more effectively over the next two summers while hoping that Scott Skiles can turn the team around to some extent in the short-run.
Draft outlook: The Bucks aren't sitting in the best position to fill their needs. At small forward, Anthony Randolph feels a little too much like Charlie Villanueva to be their pick, while Danilo Galinari makes fine sense, but may already be off the board. That leaves the player who has been surging towards the top-10, Joe Alexander, as one of the few logical choices available. If the Bucks decide to truly push forward with their rebuilding process, they may take a risk on DeAndre Jordan, or deal their pick to move down for someone like Brandon Rush. At 37, the Bucks could look to bolster their depth by selecting J.R. Giddens, who could be a steal should he continue to tap into his immense potential. Kyle Weaver and Omer Asik are other potential draftees who have experience to go along with some upside. Ultimately, it seems very likely that Milwaukee will make a deal that impacts their draft position and strategy.
- Derrick Rose