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Monday, November 18, 2019

10 teams that need to nail the NBA Draft

Danny Ainge Celtics

The NBA Draft is important for every team. It’s a chance to bring new, young talent into the organization. Teams that consistently get it right often line themselves up for years of success. Remember, before all the Kevin Durant hoopla, the Golden State Warriors were built almost exclusively through the draft process, with both Splash Brothers among the team’s first-round picks.

However, some teams need draft success more than others. They may be facing a long rebuild if they can’t keep the continuity going, or an even longer one than they’re already in if they get things wrong. Here are ten teams that really need to nail the NBA Draft, or the futures of their franchise could get quite bleak.

10. San Antonio Spurs

It’s been two years since the Spurs made it out of the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, a rather unprecedented drought for the Gregg Popovich era. The Spurs always find players somewhere, even as they lose veterans. LaMarcus Aldridge, 34 in July, is the next big name to face the aging curve, and San Antonio really need an infusion of young talent on the roster here. This will only be the third time since the selection of Tim Duncan No. 1 that the Spurs will draft in the top 20. To keep the immensely successful run going, they need to get the 19th pick right.

9. Detroit Pistons

The Pistons are in a difficult spot — a team on the fringes of the playoffs without much cap room. They’re also reliant on two star big men in what is increasingly considered a shooter’s league. Blake Griffin is only getting older, and if the Pistons are serious about winning with him, they cannot afford to whiff on the 15th selection. This is a team that last won a playoff game in 2008 and has only made it twice since. In a league where over half the teams make the playoffs every year, that’s some accomplishment, and one they must turn around.

8. Charlotte Hornets

It’s certainly good news that Kemba Walker seems very focused on remaining with Charlotte in free agency. However, he’s going to tempt a lot of other teams this summer, and even if he does stick around, the Hornets have demonstrated that his presence alone does not make them a playoff team. The Hornets select 12th, the fourth time in five years they’ll be in the lottery, and they need to turn the franchise around in the right direction.

7. Cleveland Cavaliers

The post-LeBron James Cavaliers are still pulling things together and are in the very early stages of what will prove to be an extensive rebuild. In theory, being far more than one player away means they don’t need to strike immediate gold here, but every pick they whiff on extends the rebuild that much longer. The Cavs have the luxury of two first-round picks, one of them in the top five, and can basically draft the best available player in each position. If they nail this, they could actually expedite their rebuild. They seem to have their eye on player.

6. Washington Wizards

The Wizards have tried for years to become a legitimate Eastern Conference contender. They never got over the hump and are now at something of a crossroads. John Wall may miss all of next season, Bradley Beal’s future is unclear, and they don’t even have a general manager right now. They pick ninth in the draft, and it’s not out of line to say that, with injury concerns and a lack of clarity regarding the future of their talented backcourt, this team may need another long-term cornerstone to stabilize things. Whether they can get that at nine remains to be seen, but a miss could set the franchise back years.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves

All that optimism that opened the Tom Thibodeau-Jimmy Butler era evaporated quickly, and both men are long gone now, leaving Minnesota to pick up the pieces. They can build around Karl-Anthony Towns just fine, but it’s become apparent that Andrew Wiggins isn’t what they hoped he would be, and it may be too late for him to still turn into it. Picking at 11 for now — they may look into trading up — the Timberwolves are desperate for a fresh start, and a young, talented long-term success is a must.

4. Chicago Bulls

The Bulls pick seventh and may look to trade up, but no matter what, this is a team still trying to piece things together during a lengthy rebuild. There is promise here in Lauri Markkanen, and Zach LaVine looks like a good get, but they need more talent in the backcourt, especially if Kris Dunn simply isn’t going to become the star they hoped. The Bulls could go anywhere here, but they often look the part of a directionless organization that isn’t really close to figuring out what they want to do with themselves. A franchise-caliber talent would be a good start.

3. Boston Celtics

The Celtics whiffed on an Anthony Davis trade and are now facing the very real possibility of Kyrie Irving leaving, turning what once looked like a future Eastern Conference power into a franchise staring down a possible recalibration. The good news is they’ve loaded up on three first-round picks, though none of them are higher than 14th. They can build around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and if they can do well with even two of those three first-rounders, that immediately puts the franchise back on the right track. It’s hard to find impact players from day one later in the draft, but failure to get at least some long-term success could leave the Celtics’ future quite murky.

2. New Orleans Pelicans

David Griffin has brilliantly maneuvered the Pelicans into great position for the future in making the Anthony Davis trade. Obviously, it’s no secret who they’ll pick first overall, and Zion Williamson looks poised to be an impact player from day one. The fourth pick is where this really gets interesting. If the Pelicans keep it — which is no sure thing — a second star at that slot could make them hugely dangerous for years to come. In this case, though, acing the draft may not mean nailing No. 4 — if they make a trade that benefits them immediately, that counts as a win, too.

1. New York Knicks

There will be no Zion Williamson for the Knicks, which landed the third pick in the draft lottery. The likely pick is RJ Barrett, though there is late noise about a potential surprise. Whatever the case, this is a franchise devoid of long-term talent and facing the possibility of striking out on every major free agent they had intended to pursue, from Kevin Durant to Kyrie Irving. They need something to build on, and whomever they pick here will be expected to become a star. If they don’t, things could get even uglier.



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