Dallas Mavericks (51-41: fourth in Southwest, lost in first round of playoffs)
Draft picks: No. 51
PG: Jason Kidd / Jose Juan Barea* / Tyronn Lue*
SG: Jason Terry / Eddie Jones* / Antoine Wright*
SF: Josh Howard / Jerry Stackhouse / Devean George*
PF: Dirk Nowitzki / Brandon Bass / Malik Allen*
C: Erick Dampier / Juwan Howard* / Jamaal Magloire*
*Potential free agent
Could use help at: Center, Shooting Guard, Point Guard
Bottom line: The Mavericks took a small step back this season. Trading for Jason Kidd was a gutsy move that may not pay off until next season. It is tough to say whether Kidd will begin to mesh better with his teammates or decline physically. Mark Cuban loves a competitor, and will give Donnie Nelson the green light to make the move necessary to put Rick Carlisle in position to lead this team to a championship.
Draft outlook: The Mavericks have previously fallen in love with lottery players before and tried to move up. Dallas has some nice assets, but they aren’t comparable to those that it used to trade up for Devin Harris. Ultimately, Dallas will probably wind up using it second round pick and then exploring the trade market after the draft is complete. At No. 51, there won’t be that many exciting players left on the board. Mantas Kalnietis or Goran Dragic would fill a need at point guard as would Semih Erden at center. Dallas may be attracted to those players because it can leave them overseas.
Houston Rockets (55-27: third in Southwest, lost in first round of playoffs)
Draft picks: No. 25, No. 54
PG: Rafer Alston / Bobby Jackson / Aaron Brooks
SG: Tracy McGrady / Luther Head / Steve Francis
SF: Shane Battier / Steve Novak* / Mike Harris*
PF: Luis Scola / Chuck Hayes* / Carl Landry*
C: Yao Ming / Dikembe Mutombo* / Loren Woods *Potential free agent
Could use help at: Power Forward, Point Guard, Depth
Bottom line: From an improbable winning-streak to an early playoff exit, it was a wild ride for the Rockets this season. With a solid lineup that survived Yao Ming’s extended absence, the Rockets may not be an elite Western Conference team, but they are certainly competitive. Without a lot of cap space, the Rockets will rely heavily on GM Daryl Morey’s savvy to land them a steal in the draft.
Draft outlook: The Rockets’ first-round pick may be included in a trade to land the team a legitimate third-option. If they keep the pick, Brandon Rush would fit in well given his all-around talent. DeVon Hardin could add athleticism and defensive intensity to Houston’s frontline. If neither player is available, Roy Hibbert would be a nice fit behind Yao Ming. In the second round, the Rockets are likely to take the best player available.
Draft picks: No. 5, No. 28
PG: Mike Conley / Kyle Lowry / Javaris Crittenton
SG: Mike Miller / Juan Carlos Navarro*
SF: Rudy Gay / Casey Jacobsen*
PF: Hakim Warrick / Kwame Brown* / Brian Cardinal / Andre Brown*
C: Darko Milicic / Jason Collins *Potential free agent
Could use help at: Center, Power Forward, Depth
Bottom line: It isn’t easy to rebuild in a division featuring four 50-win teams, but Memphis is making a run at it. The package they received for Pau Gasol was questionable at best, but will only be viewed that way temporarily if the team improves substantially over the next two seasons. Though that doesn’t seem entirely likely, GM Chris Wallace has assembled a team with a lot of potential. Marc Iavoroni’s offense will allow the Grizzlies to use their athleticism to their advantage, and they’ll have the chance to add a player that can flourish in that system in the draft.
Draft outlook: The Grizzlies’ selection may be the turning point of the draft. The team has a number of needs, and will have even more if they consummate any trade including Mike Miller. Memphis would jump at the chance to pick Michael Beasley or Brook Lopez, but probably won’t get that chance. After the two players they covet, they’ll at least take a look at Kevin Love and Anthony Randolph. Love might not be the best value at No. 5 unless he works out extremely well, but Randolph would be a good fit in Memphis’ system. However, O.J. Mayo may be the player that Memphis needs to push its rebuilding process to the next stage. Selecting Mayo would also allow Wallace to trade Mike Miller, something that has been discussed all season. With their late first-rounder, Memphis will target a power forward with legitimate potential such as J.J. Hickson, Richard Hendrix or Jason Thompson. That is, of course, assuming the Grizzlies don’t maneuver to acquire Love, which is something they’ll probably consider given his rebounding and outlet passing skills.
New Orleans Hornets (56-26: first in Southwest, lost in second round of playoffs)
Draft picks: No. 27
PG: Chris Paul / Jannero Pargo*
SG: Morris Peterson / Mike James
SF: Peja Stojakovic / Bonzi Wells* / Rasual Butler
PF: David West / Julian Wright / Ryan Bowen*
C: Tyson Chandler / Melvin Ely / Hilton Anderson* / Chris Andersen *Potential free agent
Could use help at: Shooting Guard, Depth
Bottom line: New Orleans is one of the best assembled teams in the NBA. Despite the question marks that surrounded some of the signings when the Hornets made them, everything has come together perfectly. Chris Paul is the main reason for that, as he makes everything work for the Hornets. He proved to be a transcendent talent this offseason, and may be able to carry New Orleans into the NBA Finals in the near future. It’s likely the Hornets use their draft pick to add young talent to their already competitive roster.
Draft outlook: The Hornets will be taking the best player available at No 27. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Brandon Rush or Courtney Lee may be the most talented available if they slide, and they also fill somewhat of a need on the wing. Each player could step in and handle some minutes in New Orleans’s backcourt rotation and offer some of the qualities that Byron Scott loves in his players. If none of them are there, Bill Walker and J.R. Giddens will receive strong consideration. Jeff Bower will have a lot of work to do, since the Hornets lack any truly dire needs and will be able to draft anyone on the board.
San Antonio Spurs (56-26, second in Southwest, lost in Western Conference finals)
Draft picks: No. 26, No. 45, No. 57
PG: Tony Parker / Jacque Vaughn / Damon Stoudamire*
SG: Manu Ginobili / Michael Finley* / Brent Barry*
SF: Bruce Bowen / Ime Udoka / DerMarr Johnson*
PF: Tim Duncan / Robert Horry* / Matt Bonner / Ian Mahinmi
C: Fabricio Oberto / Kurt Thomas* *Potential free agent
Could use help at: Center, Small Forward
Bottom line: This Spurs’ team is battle tested and will remain in the mix for a championship until Tim Duncan starts to slow down. GM R.C. Buford has built a fantastic team, and will use this draft to prepare for the future. He’ll need to replace some of his aging role players via free agency or the draft. It would be beneficial for them to start stashing some additional young talent on their bench.
Draft outlook: There is one player in the first-round that seems to really stand out as a “Spurs type of player.” Courtney Lee has the talent, versatility and demeanor that Gregg Popovich gets from his veteran role players. If Lee isn’t available, Chris Douglas-Roberts would also be an ideal pick. Nikola Pekovic is also a possibility, provided the Spurs decide they don’t need him this season. Buford may opt to add a future pick if there isn’t a player on the board that he’s interested in later in the second round. Should the Spurs keep their second-round selections, they may pick up an experienced player like Trent Plaisted or Pat Calathes. Maarty Leunen is another possibility.