Biggest Need: Small Forward/Wing
Other Needs: Coach that’s willing to develop players and not seek wins. Backup scoring big man.
Fantasy Situation: I understand what Ty Corbin wanted to do in keeping both Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter in the center position while playing Marvin Williams as a stretch four. He’s getting paid to win and somewhere along the lines the Jazz decided it simply wasn’t worth pressing Corbin to see if Favors and Kanter could play together heavy minutes. You’ll note that new coach Quin Snyder has already come out and said that developing players is one of his biggest concerns. That’s probably not a coincidence.
Whether or not he’s able to help Enes Kanter get his feet off the ground when he jumps, or help Favors expand upon the flashes of four-man game he has shown at times is a separate issue – this team needs a legit small forward in the worst way possible. Richard Jefferson just wasn’t cutting it. Gordon Hayward can slide over and play the three, but that only seems beneficial if the Jazz can get a shooting guard that can bury the triple. Alec Burks just isn’t that guy right now. With Trey Burke apt to get at least another year to show that he can improve into a starting-caliber point guard, the hope for fantasy owners looking at Utah’s pick is that they find a partner to trade with in order to get a wing player instead of duplicating talent via a ‘best player available’ selection. As an aside, a guy like Julius Randle would be an ideal pick for them if they decide it’s time to cut bait on Enes Kanter via trade.
Biggest Need: Big Man.
Other Needs: Depth, high-end talent, and did I mention big men? Brandon Bass and Kris Humphries are end-of-the-rotation guys on any good team, and Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger are tepid prospects at this early stage of their careers. Sullinger has shown decent promise but his stats were inflated on a bad team, and his injury and weight concerns speak for themselves. Olynyk has a long ways to go before any team would plan around him as a constant.
Fantasy Situation: Assuming Joel Embiid’s foot injury isn’t a deal-breaker for teams (and it’s hard to believe anything you hear at this time of year), he would be a boon for the Celtics if he fell this far. Brad Stevens proved to be a little of a tinkerer in his handling of the bigs last year, but I’m going to wait until he has better players before labeling him a fantasy liability in that regard. Of course, owners drafting Embiid in these crazy pre-NBA draft leagues have to know he could miss all of next year.
Beyond the big man situation, the Celtics are going to always be in the rumor mill but until something happens they’re pretty well set with Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, and unfortunately for them they’re stuck with Jeff Green. Green could always get groomed to play some four and Bradley’s injury concerns are ever-present, but still anybody but a big man selected on draft day will have some hurdles in fantasy leagues.
Biggest Need: Organizational Direction.
Other Needs: Point guard, big men, and general depth. Whenever they have their assessment of what Kobe Bryant can give them, the Lakers will need to figure out how they want to leverage one of the league’s marquee franchises in order to acquire high-end free agents. Steve Nash is done, injury-prone Jordan Farmar has very low-end starting upside, and Nick Young is better on TMZ than he is for a contending team. Pau Gasol doesn’t fit a rebuild and the only big man the Lakers should have in future plans is Ryan Kelly, as he showed decent versatility and could be useful off the end of a winning bench. Wes Johnson could play spot minutes for a contender. This leaves the Lakers as a team with plenty of reasons to make moves in the next 30 days, and on draft day they should probably go for the best player available.
Fantasy Situation: This is a good spot for owners looking at the middle of the lottery for fantasy value. Julius Randle could make some noise if he lands there, as could Marcus Smart, Nik Stauskas, Doug McDermott or any of the offensively polished players going in mock drafts between 5-10.
Biggest Need: Get out of the awkward zone.
Other Needs: The Kings have a Moneyball player in Isaiah Thomas for the point guard position, but they don’t know if they can afford him because they feel they need to sign Rudy Gay in order to improve the franchise’s credibility overall. They have bad, duplicative holdings at the power forward position in Jason Thompson and Carl Landry. Derrick Williams needs to take a big step that would qualify as surprising if he's going to be a contributor for a winner. Quincy Acy and Reggie Evans are nice role players for contending teams but they kill spacing and aren’t a great fit for this squad. Bad money from previous ownership is winding down. The new regime is hooked into their McRookies, Ray McCallum and Ben McLemore, and in the case of McLemore the jury is still out on if he can pull it all together to reach his potential. And for the millionth straight year it seems, McCallum is the other option keeping the franchise, fans and media from getting behind Thomas in full, despite Thomas making the detractors look silly in each of three straight years.
Whatever the Kings do, they have an anchor tenant in DeMarcus Cousins, and Gay is probably an overspend if they choose to keep him at the expense of the younger, cheaper talent in Thomas. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money in the NBA, though, and quality players will be more apt to play on a roster with other bigger name players. Ideally, the franchise sucks it up and finds a way to pay both guys. If Gay doesn’t totally crap out in the first three years of a theoretic deal, it’s probably still a win for a team devoid of next-level players. He’ll need to improve his defense and keep from being a take-turns player on the offensive end. I worry about his athleticism at the tail-end of his deal when the Kings would theoretically be contending. Cousins is the league's most physically dominant big man and Gay needs to improve the way he plays off of him, even if we should all give Rudy a tip-of-the-cap for the efficient basketball he played much of the time.
Overall, the Kings need outside shooting in a bad way. Defenses packed the paint and doubled their Big Three relentlessly. McCallum is a nice improving player but he saw a lot of garbage time when he put up big numbers and it’s safe to say he hasn’t been thoroughly tested. If he can’t develop something close to the sweet jumper that Thomas has, the Kings and Cousins will see even more feet in the paint. It’s a huge gamble letting Thomas go at the relatively low dollars he’ll command, but one way or another the franchise needs to either put their full faith in him or try what’s behind door No. 2.
Fantasy Situation: Ideally, the Kings would draft either a rim-protecting power forward or a stretch-forward and give them 30 minutes per game or more in a developmental season. But that’s not going to happen while Thompson, Williams and Landry are still around, and even an ideal offensive pick in Doug McDermott would be a tough sell in fantasy leagues. Likewise, it’s much too early to give up on McLemore so any shooting guard selection will probably be in for a timeshare early on at least. With Thomas being used as trade bait it’s possible a backcourt selection like Marcus Smart could work out, but we’re really guessing at that point. In the end, the Kings will be one of the more aggressive teams in the next 30 days so planning around them is probably a fool’s errand.