What should teams look for in Thursday's draft? Our shopping list details the projections and needs of all 30 squads.
Los Angeles Lakers
2014-15 Finish: 21-61, 14th in West
1st Round Picks: No. 2 and No. 27
2nd Round Picks: No. 34
Holding three high-value picks, general manager Mitch Kupchak has the opportunity to address a multitude of needs. That's a good thing, because the Lakers can use help pretty much everywhere. With Kobe Bryant heading into potentially his final season, no other players truly entrenched in their spots, and few free agents likely to serve as transformational figures, the Lakers can go after the best players available.
The choice at No. 2 seems clear — Kupchak will take either Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns or Duke center Jahlil Okafor depending on which one goes first to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Okafor looks like the surest best to end up at Staples Center, especially considering that Towns has refused to work out for anyone but the Wolves. If Okafor is the pick, he would give the franchise a young, talented post scorer who might need some help on the defensive end. Regardless of any concerns, he is solid value at this spot. It's possible that the Lakers could shock everyone and take Ohio State guard D'Angelo Russell or Latvian wunderkind Kristaps Porzingis, but it's probably a good use of time not to plan for that outcome.
The 27th and 34th picks are close enough together that it's probably best to discuss them in tandem. Attention to balance would dictate that the Lakers focus on whichever area of the court they don't address with their first-round pick, but the truth is that the cupboard is bare enough that the team needs to shop with more of an eye on pure talent. These picks could give L.A. a look at such high-potential players as UNLV freshman Rashad Vaughn, a superb scorer who could contribute to a team in need of shooting. Other options include LSU frontcourt tandem Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin, Louisville point guard Terry Rozier, and Syracuse freshman Chris McCullough. None of these players slots easily into a rotation spot, but the Lakers are involved in a long-term rebuilding effort even if they're not willing to admit as much in public.
Whatever happens on Thursday, we already know that the Lakers will emerge with a lot of momentum simply because of excitement over their marquee selection. But this is a team in need of talent in volume, so those other two picks will also go a long way towards determining the future.
2014-15 Finish: 29-53, 13th in West
1st Round Picks: No. 6
2nd Round Picks: None
While it's pretty easy to argue that a team like the Kings should have figured out a way to hold onto (or add) more than one pick in a fairly good draft, lead decision-maker Vlade Divac should be able to bring in a solid, exciting player with the sixth-overall selection. Apart from bona fide All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and very well-paid small forward Rudy Gay, the Kings have no players that cannot be set aside for a newer and more exciting model. However, it is very unlikely that Divac will not go after a shooting guard, both because of a lack of sensible options at No. 6 and the fact that the Kings took one in the top 10 of each of the last two drafts. Ben McLemore and Sauce Castillo can probably plan on staying in California's capital for at least one more season.
So it would be prudent for the Kings will go for a big man or point guard. Kentucky center Willie Cauley-Stein would give Sacramento a super-intriguing, potentially elite front line as a highly versatile defender who could free up Cousins to save up some energy for offense and avoid consistent foul trouble. The other top option looks like 19-year-old point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, big at 6-5 but also something of an unknown quantity. These would be two high-potential players at this spot.
The trouble is that no one really knows anything about what Divac might look for in his first draft at the helm. Twenty-year-old Croatian wing Mario Hezonja stands out as another risk-reward player, but the Kings have worked out (or plan to work out) several prospects who don't necessarily rate as value picks at No. 6 and could trade in the hopes of adding more assets or lower potential players ready to contribute immediately. Wisconsin shooter-center Frank Kaminsky is set to come in on Monday and could be such a guy.
Golden State Warriors
2014-15 Finish: 67-15, 1st in West, NBA champions
1st Round Picks: No. 30
2nd Round Picks: None
What do you get for the team that has everything? Fresh off the best season in franchise history and their first title in 40 years, the Warriors have no major holes on the roster and a core young and versatile enough that they don't need to think too far ahead about reloading. In other words, Golden State can use its sole selection to take the best player available and let him develop without too much pressure. Unless the Warriors feel like they need to package the selection in order to trade David Lee and his sizable contract, look for a high-risk player or a guy with a projectable NBA skill that would make him a fine role player. A bench scorer or shooter looks like the biggest gap, especially with Leandro Barbosa not under contract for next season.
It's therefore hard to suggest potential selections if only because general manager Bob Myers can go in so many directions. One-time BDL contributor and Utah point guard Delon Wright, who spent time at City College of San Francisco and is the younger brother of former Warrior Dorell Wright, could be a nice fit as a defensive-first perimeter player with the ability to guard multiple positions. Texas product Jonathan Holmes is a tweener forward with quality perimeter skills, which would perhaps make him a fine replacement for Lee and reasonable backup for Draymond Green. If they want a draft-and-stash candidate, Spanish center Guillermo Hernangomez, an adept passer, could fit.
The good news, though, is that the Warriors had such a great season and have so few immediate needs that it will be hard to screw up this draft. Even a mistake will only hurt so much in the short term.
Los Angeles Clippers
2014-15 Finish: 56-26, 3rd in West, lost in conference semifinals
1st and 2nd Round Picks: None
Lacking any picks, the Clippers are most likely to make noise on draft night via a trade to shore up the small forward spot and a conspicuously thin bench. Last week's deal for Lance Stephenson has been pitched as a move in support of the latter need, so it's possible that we will hear something about a respected veteran soon to don the league's most-derided new uniform.
After several years with Doc Rivers in charge, it seems clear that the Clippers have no interest in taking a chance on a rookie in a big spot. This team wants players with a track record of success. Plus, they don't exactly have the assets necessary to obtain a suitable pick.
2014-15 Finish: 39-43, 10th in West
1st Round Picks: No. 13
2nd Round Picks: No. 44
After a catastrophic trade deadline derailed plans of contention, the Suns fined themselves back where they figured they'd be when Ryan McDonough was hired two years ago — in rebuilding mode. As such, they can approach their picks with some willingness for experimentation or doubling up on positions. Hey, it worked with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe before adding a Isaiah Thomas screwed things up, so why not try it again?
That said, certain areas need less help than others. Bledsoe looks like a fixture at the point, but he has been involved in trade rumors and could head out of town. They're also in pretty good shape in the front court, where twins Marcus and Markieff Morris and center Alex Len combine strength with athleticism and versatility to form one of the finest young frontcourts in the league.
Phoenix needs wing scoring (or even just shooting), but this draft is short on end-of-lottery value prospects who fit that bill. As such, it wouldn't be a shock to see McDonough go for the best player available. That could be Kentucky forward Trey Lyles, Texas big man Myles Turner, or Murray State point guard Cameron Payne, none of whom is older than 20 years old. There's also Kaminsky or fellow Wisconsin sensation Sam Dekker, both of whom would carry name recognition.
The second-round pick seems like a potential draft-and-stash slot, especially considering that the Suns still have a roster full of talented players and enough pending free agents not to depend too much on instant help via the draft. If they don't go that route, several college stars are on the table, including Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison, a better prospect than his twin brother Aaron. Although, given Phoenix's history of obtaining siblings, they'll probably end up with both somewhere down the line.
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