All posts by Troy Jefferson

2018 NBA Draft Team Needs: Northwest division

Denver Nuggets

Team needs:

Guard

Jamal Murray and Gary Harris will start in the backcourt for the Nuggets next season but Malik Beasley is the only true guard left under contract.  Will Barton provided a spark off the bench and could come back next season but he will be a coveted free agent. If the Nuggets can’t re-sign Barton, look for them to add another guard who can handle the ball and score.  With the 14th pick in the draft, Denver could look west to Oregon and target combo guard Troy Brown.  Brown is 6’7” and finished the season with 11 points , six rebounds and three assists per game. Brown can play everything from point guard to forward and could in time be an Andre Iguodala-type player.  

Wing

The Nuggets roster is filled with bigger forwards like Paul Milsap, Trey Lyles, Kenneth Faried and Darrell Arthur but Wilson Chandler is the only “wing” on the team.  Denver could use the 43rd overall pick on a wing if they decide to go with a guard at No. 14.  If the Nuggets target a wing in the second round, Texas Arlington’s Kevin Hervey could be intriguing. Hervey averaged 20 points per game and eight rebounds a night on 33 percent three-point shooting last year for the UTA Mavericks. Hervey (6'9, 230) moves well for his size and should translate well to small forward in the NBA.

Cap space: -7 million, 107 million

Free agents: Devin Harris, Will Barton, Richard Jefferson

Minnesota Timberwolves

Team needs:

Wing

Jeff Teague, Jimmy Butler, Andrew Wiggins and Tyus Jones lead an experienced backcourt while Gorgui Dieng and Karl Anthony-Towns are the foundation pieces in the frontcourt. Minnesota lacks a true small forward/ wing player.  Butler and Wiggins can alternate minutes at small forward but the Timberwolves could stand to add another wing for depth. Minnesota has the 20th pick in the draft and Boston College’s Jerome Robinson is a prospect to watch.  Robinson, 6-foot-5, is a sharp shooting guard who would allow Minnesota to move Butler/ Wiggins to the small forward position. Robinson shot 48 percent from the field and averaged 20 points last season. Robinson’s silky shooting and lean frame could remind fans of Jamal Crawford.

Cap space: -16 million, 116 million

Free agents: Jamal Crawford, Derrick Rose, Amile Jefferson, Aaron Brooks, Marcus Georges-Hunt, Nemanja Bjelica

Portland Trail Blazers

Team needs:

Backup guard

Shabazz Napier served as the primary backup point guard last season but struggled in the opening round against the Pelicans. For the season, Napier averaged eight points per game and two assists on twenty minutes of action. This season, Napier along with Pat Connaughton are free agents.  Portland has the 24th pick in the draft and could use that pick to bring in some depth behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. USC’s De’Anthony Melton is a do it all combo guard at 6-foot-4. Melton has the tools to be an elite defender but his offense could use some seasoning. Melton could come in immediately and play alongside either Lillard and McCollum and give them a breather against the opposing team’s best scoring guard.

Center

Big men Ed Davis and Jusuf Nurkic are free agents. Nurkic, 23 years old, has played his best basketball over the last two seasons, averaging nearly 15 points and 10 rebounds in both seasons. Portland could still use their 24th pick to bring in another defensive minded and athletic big man. Louisville’s Ray Spalding is raw but is 6-foot-10 and has a 7’6” wingspan. Spalding’s game translates to that of a stretch four and could complement the Trail Blazers, who lack an athletic big man.

Cap space: -13 million, 113 million

Free agents: Ed Davis, Jusuf Nurkic, Shabazz Napier, Wade Baldwin, Pat Connaughton

Oklahoma City Thunder

Team needs:

Wing

Oklahoma City SF Carmelo Anthony averaged 11.8 points per game in six playoff contests for the Thunder in 2018.

The Thunder broke the bank to bring in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony last season. George will probably explore other options next season and Anthony’s production in 2017 doesn’t warrant his $27 million price tag. Oklahoma City will be in search for an athletic wing as Corey Brewer is set to hit free agency. The Thunder don’t have a first round pick but do have the 53rd and 57th overall picks. TCU’s Kenrich Williams, 6-foot-7, is a name to watch. Williams is 24 years old but that could work to his advantage.  Oklahoma City has enough pieces to win now and his game is developed for a rookie. Williams averaged 13 points per game, nine rebounds and shot 39 percent from three last season.

Backup point guard

Raymond Felton will be 34 years old by the start of next season and is a free agent. The Thunder could look for a more athletic point guard to backup Russell Westbrook if Felton chooses to leave. Kansas’ Malik Newman is a 6-foot-4 combo guard with elite athleticism. Newman will have to work on his ball handling but he has shown before he has the ability to share the ball with talented teammates and could fit well alongside a star studded crew in OKC.

Cap space: -36 million, 136 million

Free agents: Nick Collison, Raymond Felton, Josh Huestis, Jerami Grant, Corey Brewer

Utah Jazz

Team needs:

Guard

Raul Neto and Dante Exum are free agents and Ricky Rubio will be a year from now. Utah could use their 21st pick to bring in another point guard to complement Donovan Mitchell long term. Duke’s Trevon Duval is 6-foot-3 and has a 7’0” wingspan.  Duval is athletic and can handle the lead ball handling responsibilities. Duval’s size will allow him to defend either guard position.  Alongside Mitchell, Duval will have a chance to defer offensively until he develops his offensive game, most notably his jump shot.  

Cap space: -25 million, 125 million

Free agents: Derrick Favors, Dante Exum, Raul Neto, David Stockton

*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.

Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.

--By: Troy Jefferson, DraftNasty Staff reports, Follow him @troy_jefferson on twitter.

 

2018 NBA Draft Team Needs: Southwest Division

Memphis Grizzlies

Team needs:

Combo guard

Tyreke Evans and Mario Chalmers are up for free agency. Evans led the team in points per game and Chalmers averaged 20 minutes per night. The Grizzlies could look to add another guard to complement Mike Conley if one of their free agent guards walks. Evans may command a big contract, which will probably price him out of Memphis. The Grizzlies will probably use the fourth overall pick on a big man but if they decide to use their 32nd pick on a combo guard, Duke’s Trevon Duval is a potential option.  Duval is raw but has good size for his position (6’3”), athleticism and the handle to get where he wants while setting others up.

Forward

This year’s draft is filled with premier big men and Memphis should be in the sweepstakes for a post presence. Marc Gasol has one more year left on his contract and then a player option in 2019.   It wouldn’t be surprising if he decided to leave for a contender a year from now.  Another Blue Devil who could attract the Grizzlies attention is Marvin Bagley Jr.  The Duke power forward is tall, runs the floor well, rebounds and puts the ball in the basket. 

Bagley Jr. has all the tools offensively but the one thing that could shy teams away from is his defense.  Coupled with the right lineups, however, Memphis could hide some of his deficiencies.

Cap space: -10 million, 110 million

Free agents: Tyreke Evans, Mario Chalmers

Houston Rockets

Team needs:

Forward

The Rockets have numerous free agents but since they were so close to an NBA Finals appearance, look for them to return its core and make another championship run next season. Houston could use some more depth along the frontcourt after showing a lack of depth and resorting to seven-man rotations against the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.  The Rockets have the 46th pick in the draft, but there’s no guarantee someone picked that low will even make the roster.  Maryland’s Justin Jackson could be intriguing.  Standing 6’7” with a 7’2” wingspan, Jackson has size and positional versatility. More importantly, his  three-point shooting (43 percent his freshman season) is a characteristic that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey covets.

Cap space: -19 million, 119 million

Free agents: Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Tarik Black, Clint Capela, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute

New Orleans Pelicans

Team needs:

Guard

Rajon Rondo and Ian Clark logged heavy minutes for the Pelicans during their playoff run. Rondo has jumped from team to team over the past few years and if he does the same this free agency period, New Orleans will be in the market for another guard. New Orleans has the 51st pick overall but if they decide to test the free agency market, Elfrid Payton could be a younger option. Payton came into his own offensively last year in Phoenix and would be a younger and cheaper option than Rondo.

Backup big man

In 48 appearances for the New Orleans Pelicans in 2017-18, DeMarcus Cousins (No. 15 pictured in the 2016 NBA All-Star game) averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.6 blocked shots per game.

New Orleans won a playoff series without DeMarcus Cousins but that doesn't necessarily mean they are better without him. Even with Cousins, New Orleans could use a backup big man. The Pelicans signed journeyman Emeka Okafor after Cousins got hurt, but he will be 36 years old by the start of next season. If New Orleans decides to use their 51st overall pick on a big man, USC's Chimezi Metu could develop alongside Cheick Diallo to possibly provide a low post duo in the future.

Cap space: -19 million, 119 million

Free agents: DeMarcus Cousins, Rajon Rondo, Ian Clark, Jordan Crawford

San Antonio Spurs

Team needs:

Wing

San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard averaged just over 23 minutes, 16.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2 steals in nine games for the team in 2017-18.

Above all else, the Spurs will have to figure out if they will have Kawhi Leonard on the roster after he missed most of this season with a quadriceps injury.  Leonard covers so much ground for the Spurs and to lose him would be a major setback for San Antonio. If Leonard stays or leaves, look for San Antonio to still target another athletic wing, who can long minutes at both the shooting guard and small forward position since Kyle Anderson and Bryn Forbes will hit free agency.  Boise State's Chandler Hutchison is a name to watch for at the Spurs' 18th pick.  Hutchison doesn't shoot the three as well as the Spurs wings that have come before him, but each season he has improved his three-point shot.  Hutchison (6'7") also has good height and can play within the Spurs offense at either the shooting guard or small forward position.

Cap space: -17 million, 117 million

Free agents: Tony Parker, Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes

Dallas Mavericks

Team needs:

Wing

The Dallas Mavericks signed Harrison Barnes to a max deal but don't have much behind him.  Doug McDermott averaged seven points and two rebounds in 20 minutes per game last season. Dallas could use another wing player that could play off the ball and defend both shooting guards and small forwards. The Mavericks could go with a big man with their fifth overall pick, but if Luka Doncic from Slovenia is available expect Dallas to take a long look at him. Doncic has a polished game for a 19-year old and has the ability to create for himself or play off the ball.

Big man

Doncic could very well be drafted in the top three picks, which means Dallas could fill another one of their needs with pick number 5.  Nerlens Noel is a free agent and Dirk Nowitzki will be 40 years old by the start of next season. The Mavericks could use an athletic big ma  who has the ability to play both the forward and center positions.  Michigan State's Jaren Jackson Jr. is raw but has all the physical tools, can block shots as good as anyone in the draft and showed an ability to put the ball on the floor and shoot threes during his one season in East Lansing.

Cap space: -1 million, 100 million

Free agents: Nerlens Noel, Doug McDermott, Seth Curry, Salah Mejri, Yogi Ferrell

*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.

Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.

--- By: Troy Jefferson, DraftNasty Staff reports, Follow him @troy_jefferson on twitter.

2018 NBA Draft Team Needs: Pacific Division

Los Angeles Lakers

Team needs:

Shooting Guard

The Lakers got their table-setting point guard in Lonzo Ball, who has the ability to spoon feed baskets for others but with Isaiah Thomas and Kentavious Caldwell Pope facing free agency, the team needs to add another off the ball scorer. If the Lakers want to add a cheaper piece via free agency in order to put money aside for a bigger free agent, Marco Belinelli is an option. Bellinelli fit in seamlessly for a young 76ers team after coming to Philadelphia midseason. If the Lakers use their 25th overall pick on a scorer, UCLA’s Aaron Holiday, who played with Lonzo in 2016, could provide depth behind Ball and play off the ball when he plays point guard.

Forward

The Lakers will be in the Paul George sweepstakes this offseason. Even if the Lakers sign George, they will still have enough money to offer Julius Randle a long-term contract. Randle is coming off his most efficient season, averaging 16 points (55-percent FGs) and eight rebounds per game. If LA chooses to add some depth along the frontcourt with its 25th overall pick, Kentucky’s Jarred Vanderbilt could be worth a shot. Vanderbilt is a left-handed power forward with good position versatility, athleticism and -at times- can’t help but remind you of a young Lamar Odom.

Cap space: -3 million, 103 million

Free agents: Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell Pope, Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas, Julius Randle

Los Angeles Clippers

Team needs:

Power forward

The Clippers had a lot of young players step up despite losing Blake Griffin. Players like Sindarius Thornwell, Milos Teodosic and Tobias Harris can serve as the new faces in the rebuild around DeAndre Jordan. Los Angeles also has capable three-and-D players like Wesley Johnson and Sam Dekker under contract. However, the Clippers could stand to add an athletic power forward to spell Harris in small ball lineups. With the 12th and 13th picks, LA could go in a few different directions but Kentucky’s Kevin Knox fits the mold of a strong but athletic forward. The Clippers could bring in Knox with the 12th pick and use the 13th pick on the best available prospect, which could be anyone from Alabama’s point guard Collin Sexton to Missouri small forward Michael Porter Jr.

Cap space: -19 million, 119 million

Free agents: Avery Bradley, Montrezl Harrell

Golden State Warriors

Team needs:

Wing

If the Warriors showed one weakness it was when Andre Iguodala went down to injury.  Coupled with the earlier injury to fellow wing Patrick McCaw, Golden State needed another wing defender. The Warriors will bring back Kevin Durant but it remains to be seen what else they will be able to add in free agency.  If Golden State looks to the draft with their 28th overall pick, then SMU’s Shake Milton is a name to watch. Milton shot 43 percent from three-point range last season and owns a 6’11” wingspan.  Milton also averaged four assists and four rebounds per game. The former Mustang would be a welcome addition and could develop into a three-and-D prospect capable of defending multiple positions.

Cap space: -36 million, 136 million

Free agents: Kevin Durant, Nick Young, Zaza Pachulia, Kevon Looney, JaVale McGee

Sacramento Kings

Team needs:

Wing

Justin Jackson is the only true small forward under contract. Sacramento has the second and 37th overall picks in the draft. If the Kings want to add a wing early in the draft, Luka Doncic from Slovenia would make sense. Doncic is a polished player and at 19 years old, he has not yet reached his ceiling.  However, if Sacramento wants to grab a big man and come back in the second round and add a wing player, Kansas’ Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk is a 6’8” sharpshooter.  He has shown before that he can play well alongside former Kansas Jayhawk and current Sacramento Kings guard Frank Mason, Jr.

Big man

Willie Cauley-Stein, Zach Randolph and Kosta Koufos have one year each remaining on their contracts.  Sacramento could look to add another big man who could play alongside Cauley-Stein, stretch the floor and play both the forward/center positions. With the second pick in the draft, Duke’s Marvin Bagley, Jr. would make sense. He has room to improve defensively but he could play beside Cauley-Stein and they could both help each other's deficiencies.

Cap space: 2 million, 98 million

Free agents: Vince Carter, Bruno Caboclo

Phoenix Suns

Team needs:

Center

Phoenix has the first and 16th picks in the first round.  Tyson Chandler is the only true center under contract and he will be 36 years old by the start of next season.  Arizona’s Deandre Ayton played right down the road and is the consensus best prospect in the draft.  Ayton is a 7-foot-1-inch,  250-pound 19-year old with an NBA-ready body. Ayton averaged 20.1 points per game last season along with 11.6 rebounds.  He also possesses a decent jump shot to go along with a back to the basket game. With Ayton and young SG Devin Booker, Phoenix would have a strong foundation to build around.

Guard

Elfrid Payton turned in his best season last year, averaging 12 points per game, six rebounds and four assists. Payton also played 28 minutes per game last season, splitting minutes with a host of players (Troy Daniels, Tyler Ulis and Mike James). If the Suns choose to add a big man with the first pick, look for them to come back 15 picks later and try to address the depth in the backcourt.  Miami’s Lonnie Walker IV is 6’4” and has a 6’10” wingspan.  His size will give him some position versatility defensively at the next level.

Miami (Fla.) G Lonnie Walker IV (pictured for Team Final during the 2016 Nike EBYL Peach Jam) averaged 11.5 points per game for the Hurricanes in 2017-18 and shot nearly 35-percent from three-point range.

Coupled with his scoring potential (11.5 points per game), Walker could be an intriguing pick to log guard minutes behind Ulis and Booker next year.

Cap space: 7 million, 93 million

Free agents: Alex Len, Elfrid Payton

*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.

Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.

--- By: Troy Jefferson, DraftNasty Staff reports, Follow him @troy_jefferson on twitter.

2018 NBA Draft Team Needs: Atlantic Division

Toronto Raptors

Team needs:

Backup point guard

Toronto’s biggest need is for LeBron James to leave the Eastern Conference, seeing as how he consistently turns up his game and eliminates the Raptors year after year. Toronto will return its core and doesn’t have a lot of cap room with which to maneuver. Look for the Raptors to stay put and try to resign a few of their bench contributors like Lucas Nogueira and Fred VanVleet, who are free agents this summer. Toronto doesn’t have a pick in this year’s draft but Arizona’s Rawle Alkins could be a name to watch in the latter stages of the second round or as an undrafted signee.  Alkins (6’5”) has position versatility and in time could be a key contributor at the next level.

Cap space: -17 million, 117 million

Free agents: Lucas Nogueira, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown

New York Knicks

Team needs:

Forward

The Knicks future success will be determined by the continued development of recent draft picks Frank Ntilikina and Kristaps Porzingis. Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Enes Kanter are solid pieces to build around as well. New York showed a defensive weakness along the frontcourt once Porzingis went down with an injury.  Look for the Knicks to target a defensive-minded forward in either the draft or free agency.  Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. has a versatile game and could fit nicely with the Knicks at the ninth pick.

Wing

Lance Thomas and Troy Williams are under contract but New York could stand to upgrade the wing position. The Knicks could use some explosiveness from the forward position.  Michigan State’s Miles Bridges is as explosive as they come and should be available at the ninth pick if New York chooses to pass on a bigger forward.

Cap space: -5 million, 105 million

Free agents: Jarrett Jack, Michael Beasley

Boston Celtics

Team needs:

Backup ball handler

The Celtics are as young and complete of a team as there is in the NBA, so we’re nitpicking at this point but with Shane Larkin and Marcus Smart set to hit free agency,  Boston will be in need of a backup ball handler if either chooses to take their services elsewhere. I expect Boston to sign one if not both of the aforementioned guards but if they choose to use their 27th pick on a guard, West Virginia’s Jevon Carter fits the bill.  He's the type of gritty collegiate experienced guard that HC Brad Stevens has coveted in the past.

Big men

Greg Monroe and Aron Baynes gave the team key minutes all postseason long and are great candidates to return to the team in 2018. However, if Boston chooses to go the draft route, look for them to identify a versatile big who can defend either the four or five positions.  Michigan’s Moe Wagner would be a project and would need to develop his game further to be counted on for big minutes, but who better to learn from than Al Horford?  Wagner has all the skills to be a contributor in the NBA on both ends of the floor for the next 10 years and could be available with the 27th pick.

Cap space: -15 million, 115 million

Free agents: Greg Monroe, Shane Larkin, Marcus Smart, Aron Baynes, Jonathan Gibson

Brooklyn Nets

Team needs:

Forward/ Center

Brooklyn is still working its way back from awful trades that have kept them out of the lottery. The Nets wouldn’t turn down talent at any position but with guards D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Allen Crabbe already under contract, they will probably target big men during the draft. Brooklyn holds the 29th, 40th and 45th picks, so they could use their two second round picks to trade back into the first round. If Brooklyn stands pat, Villanova’s Omari Spellman (6’9”, 245 lbs) could be a choice, as he has a polished offensive game and could mesh well defensively next to Timofey Mozgov.

Cap space: $128,000, $99.9 million

Free agents: Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas, Dante Cunningham, Joe Harris, Quincy Acy

Philadelphia 76ers

Team needs:

Shooting guard

The 76ers' two best floor-spacing shooters, Marco Belinelli and J.J. Redick, are free agents. The two combined for 30 points in the postseason and were two of the top three-point shooters on the team this past season. If Philadelphia chooses to let either of them leave via free agency, then they will have to find another shooting option to accompany their outstanding young core. The 76ers hold the tenth pick in the draft and Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith is an intriguing option. The 6-foot-4 Smith has a capable jumper, 6’9” wingspan and enough bulk to switch defensively.

Cap space: $1 million, $99 million

Free agents: J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson, Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova

*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.

Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.

--- By: Troy Jefferson,  DraftNasty Staff reports, Follow him @troy_jefferson on twitter.

2018 NBA Draft Team Needs: Central Division

Cleveland Cavaliers

Team needs:

Wing

All of Cleveland’s offseason moves begin and end with LeBron James.  If Cleveland loses James, it creates an obvious wing need.  Jeff Green and Rodney Hood are also entering free agency and they could look to add another wing capable of playing off the ball and contributing defensively.  Villanova’s Mikal Bridges is a “three and D” prospect who can shoot the ball at a high clip (43 percent from three last year) and figures to log heavy minutes covering the opposing team’s best wing player.  Bridges, who should be available with Cleveland’s eighth pick, would fit nicely alongside James and could help space the floor for the Cavs.

Offensive creator

With the absence of Kyrie Irving, James took over the role of initiating the offense. As he gets older, it would be wise for the Cavaliers to explore options to have him play more off the ball.  If he chooses to remain in Cleveland, the team may work to utilize his strengths on the elbow and on the block.  Tyreke Evans enjoyed a strong season in Memphis averaging 19 points and five assists per game.  He has the type of offensive versatility that Cleveland has lacked beyond James.  Despite being an intriguing free agent prospect, he won't garner as much money as some of the upper echelon free agents.

Cap space: -36 million, $136 million

Free agents: Rodney Hood, Jose Calderon, Jeff Green, Kendrick Perkins, LeBron James  

Indiana Pacers

Team needs:

Forward

Behind a balanced attack, Indiana played Cleveland as well as any of the other top teams in the Eastern Conference.  The Pacers will return all of their key players and have the 23rd overall pick in the draft.  At that stage of the draft, most teams target the best player on their board and care less about a specific need.  However, Glenn Robinson III and Trevor Booker are free agents and Indiana could look to bring in another wing/forward.  Cincinnati’s Jacob Evans is a stout defender who can also spread the floor with his shooting and passing skills.  Evans seems like a perfect player as the NBA transitions to small ball lineups.

Cap space: 5 million, 95 million

Free agents: Glenn Robinson III, Trevor Booker

Detroit Pistons

Team needs:

Guard

Detroit is set in the frontcourt with Blake Griffin,  Andre Drummond and Stanley Johnson.  Jameer Nelson averaged 20 minutes a game a season ago but he will be 37 years old midway through next season. Luke Kennard is also the only true shooting guard on the roster.  It would make sense for Detroit to look for a combo guard who can play on and off the ball. The Pistons have the 42nd pick in the second round and if they choose to take a flyer on a combo-type, Wichita State’s Landry Shamet is a 6-foot-5-inch option.  Shamet -who ran the show for the Shockers- averaged 14 points and five assists per game in 2017-18.

Cap space: -19 million, 119 million

Free agents: Anthony Tolliver, James Ennis, Jameer Nelson

Chicago Bulls

Team needs:

Shooting guard

Free agents Zach LaVine and David Nwaba both averaged more than 23 minutes per game.   LaVine appeared in 24 games while Nwaba saw action in 70 contests. The Bulls added Dwyane Wade two years ago but look for them to stick with their youth movement and either re-sign Nwaba or LaVine.  Another option is to give former Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine more minutes.

Athletic forward

Paul Zipser is the only true small forward under contract for next season. Chicago has a lot of forwards, centers and guards under contract but the Bulls could use more athleticism.  Big men Lauri Markkanen, Cristiano Felicio and Robin Lopez  can be picked on in pick and roll situations defensively.  Texas’ Mo Bamba should be available at the seventh pick and has elite defensive tools to contribute immediately. With the Bulls, Bamba would have time to develop his offensive game as he plays alongside scoring big men like Bobby Portis and Markkanen.

Cap space: 10 million, 90 million

Free agents: Noah Vonleh, Zach LaVine, David Nwaba, Ryan Arcidiacono

Milwaukee Bucks

Team needs:

Scorers

Out of the 16 playoff teams, Milwaukee finished 13th in three pointers made per game last postseason.  That number could drop with shooters Jabari Parker, Jason Terry and Shabazz Muhammad set to enter free agency. Milwaukee has limited cap space and its core is already under contract for the foreseeable future. The Bucks have the 17th pick in the draft and could look to add another scorer. Maryland’s Kevin Huerter is 6’7” and possesses the height and shooting ability that the Bucks covet (shot 50-percent from the field and 41 percent from three last season).

Cap space: -17 million, 117 million

Free agents: Jabari Parker, Jason Terry, Shabazz Muhammad

*The 2018-2019 NBA salary cap sits at $101 million and the luxury tax sits at $123 million.

Player stats are courtesy of ESPN.com.

Financial outlook is courtesy of Spotrac.com.

---By: Troy Jefferson, DraftNasty Staff reports

2018 CFP National Championship preview: Georgia vs Alabama, 1-08-18

This year's championship game in Atlanta will feature two SEC teams and  two coaches who are familiar with one another.

Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide (12-1 overall, 7-1 SEC) will face off against his former defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's Georgia Bulldogs (13-1 overall, 7-1 SEC) on Monday night.

Both teams are led by stingy defenses.  Each unit ranks top five scoring defense.

Worth noting, Saban is 11-0 against former assistants.

Players to watch

Georgia

3 Roquan Smith LB- Junior

Smith, at 6'1 225 lbs., is a little smaller than a typical first round linebacker but he has typical high-round talent. Smith finished the College Football Playoff semifinal versus Oklahoma with 11 total tackles. For the season,  Smith has 124 tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Smith already has an SEC Championship game MVP under his belt,  and the Bulldogs will need a similar effort to handle the Crimson Tide.

1 Sony Michel RB- Senior

Michel is a threat to take it to the house  any time he touches the ball. In the semifinal against the Sooners, Michel scored the game-winning touchdown and finished with 181 yards and three touchdowns. This year, he is averaging eight yards a carry.

Alabama

94 Da'Ron Payne DT- Junior

Payne is poised to join the likes of Marcell Dareus and Jonathan Allen, former Crimson Tide defensive linemen who have become premier run stuffers at the next level. Payne, at 6'2, 308 lbs., is a space eater and does the dirty work in the trenches that allows the 'Bama linebackers to roam free. He also intercepted a pass and caught a touchdown against Clemson in the College Football semifinal.

29 Minkah Fitzpatrick DB- Junior

Fitzpatrick patrols the back end for the Crimson Tide and his measurables (6'1, 203 lbs) could make him useful at the next level as a nickel corner and safety. Versatility is the name of the game for defensive backs in the NFL and Fitzpatrick possesses that ability. On the season, Fitzpatrick has eight pass deflections, one interception and one forced fumble.

Prediction: Georgia 13 Alabama 21

---Troy Jefferson, DN Staff Reports

2017 Cotton Bowl preview: USC vs Ohio State, 12-29-17

Two blue chip programs will matchup in the Cotton Bowl on Friday night.

The Cotton Bowl will serve as a consolation prize for Ohio State (11-2 overall, 8-1 Big Ten) and USC (11-2 overall, 8-1 Pac-12), both of whom had College Football Playoff aspirations at the beginning of the season.

Both teams are led by star quarterbacks. Sam Darnold, a consensus Top 10 NFL draft prospect, leads the men of Troy. J.T. Barrett, one of the most decorated quarterbacks in college football history, leads the Buckeyes.

Both teams enter the game as conference champions as USC defeated Stanford and Ohio State beat Wisconsin in their respective conferences.

Players to watch

Ohio State Buckeyes

J.K. Dobbins RB- Freshman 

Freshman running back J.K. Dobbins averaged 7.5 yards per rushing attempt and had six games this season with more than 100 rushing yards. After just one season, Dobbins is making waves and could find himself in the same breath as former Ohio State running backs Archie Griffin, Maurice Clarett and Eddie George. Dobbins took home the MVP award in the Big Ten Championship after finishing with 174 rushing yards on just 17 attempts.

Tyquan Lewis DL-Senior

Lewis is expected to be an early-round draft pick and will have to be accounted for by the Trojans offensive line. Lewis has 22 career sacks, 34.5 tackles for losses and four forced fumbles. When Lewis is at his best, he's a relentless pass rusher who is never out of a play.

USC Trojans

Ronald Jones II RB- Junior

Darnold might receive the air time but Ronald Jones II was the workhorse running back behind the Trojans offense.  Jones II finished the season with 242 carries for 1486 yards.  Like Dobbins, he had an impressive conference championship game. He finished with 140 rushing yards (4.7 YPC) and two touchdowns against Stanford.

Iman Marshall CB- Junior

 

Marshall has been reliable as they come at USC.  The junior cornerback stands 6'1"  205 lbs, and he has the size scouts will covet in the NFL.  Marshall has six career interceptions.  A knee injury forced him to miss four games in the middle of the season. However, Marshall returned for the final two games of the season, finishing with two pass deflections.

Prediction: USC 21 Ohio State 35

2017 Heart of Dallas Bowl preview: Utah vs WVU, 12-26-17

The Heart of Dallas Bowl will feature two teams with explosive offenses that underwhelmed in their respective conferences.

Utah (3-6, 6-6) will match up against West Virginia (5-4, 7-5) in Dallas on Tuesday.

The Mountaineers will be without transfer quarterback Will Grier, who is out with an injured finger.  The Mountaineers will also be without running back Justin Crawford, who is entering the draft and will sit out.

The Utes resume lacks a signature victory but they did defeat short-handed UCLA in November and could have similar success against the Mountaineers, who will be without two key offensive pieces.

Utah has won 13 of its past 14 bowl games.

Players to watch

West Virginia

13 David Sills V WR-Junior

Crawford and Grier combined for over 4,500 yards worth of yardage during the regular season. Junior wide receiver, David Sills, who led the team with 18 touchdowns, will have to shoulder the load if his team has any chance of winning. Sills, 6'4, 203 lbs., will be targeted early and often by backup quarterback Chris Chugunov.

3 Al-Rasheed Benton LB-Senior

Al-Rasheed Benton ranks at the top or near the top in every statistical category for the Mountaineers defense. Benton led the team with 73 solo tackles (102 total) and finished second with two interceptions, a forced fumble and three quarterback sacks.  He has 18 career tackles for losses.

Utah

9 Darren Carrington II WR-Senior

Senior Utes receiver Darren Carrington will suit up one more time in his collegiate career, which spans back to three years at Oregon. Carrington, 6'3 205 lbs, feasted on early non-conference opponents and against his former team.  Despite having not recorded a single 100-yard receiving game since that matchup versus the Ducks, he enters the bowl game with 66 receptions for 918 yards and six touchdowns.

23 Julian Blackmon DB-Sophomore

Utah's sophomore defensive back Julian Blackmon covers a lot of ground and is equally strong against the run as he is against the pass. Blackmon finished the season with 36 solo tackles and two interceptions. The Heart of Dallas Bowl could be a sneak preview for the future NFL prospect.

Prediction: Utah 34 West Virginia 23

2017 Birmingham Bowl Preview: Texas Tech vs USF, 12-23-17

Two explosive offenses will face off in the Birmingham Bowl on Saturday.

Texas Tech (6-6) and USF (9-2) will pit two of the game's more efficient senior quarterbacks against each other, in what is expected to be a back-and-forth scoring affair.

USF’s quarterback Quinton Flowers threw for 21 touchdowns and six interceptions , a career-low, in 2017. In his first full season under center, Texas Tech’s quarterback Nic Shimonek tossed 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.

Former Texas head coach, Charlie Strong led USF to nine wins and his team lost two games by a combined 11 points. Texas Tech started the season 4-1 but couldn’t compete in the Big 12 and suffered four straight losses in the middle of their schedule.

When Strong was at Texas, he went 2-1 against Texas Tech.

Players to watch

Mazzi Wilkins

Wilkins, a junior cornerback, has a nose for the football and figures to have a lot of balls thrown his way against a pass oriented Red Raiders attack. Wilkins finished the season with three interceptions and a half sack. Wilkins' lanky frame allows him to get in and out of breaks and makes him a tough assignment for Texas Tech wide receivers.

Emilio Nadelman

Nadelman is one of the most lethal kickers in college football. Nadelman is 20/24 this season and didn't miss a field goal last season. In a game that should be high scoring and back and forth, Nadelman has the leg and accuracy to put the game away with a field goal from 40 yards plus.

Dylan Cantrell

Cantrell stands 6'3 and 220lbs and is a prototypical red zone target. Cantrell should be able to sky over the diminutive South Florida starting corners, who stand 5'8 and 6'0 respectively. Expect Kingsbury to give Cantrell a few jump ball opportunities in the Birmingham Bowl. Cantrell finished the season with six touchdowns.

Dakota Allen

After a stint at East Mississippi Community College and a starring role on Last Chance U, Dakota Allen has returned to Texas Tech and made himself one of the best linebackers in the Big 12. Allen leads a defense that led the Big 12 in turnovers forced. Allen had two interceptions and a forced fumble this season. An athletic linebacker, who is also willing to stop the run, bodes well against a balanced USF offense.

Prediction

Texas Tech 35 USF 38

---Troy Jefferson, DN Staff Reports

2017 SDCCU Holiday Bowl Preview: Washington State vs. Michigan State

Despite identical 9-3 records, two teams with different offensive styles will square off in this year's Holiday Bowl.

Michigan State and Washington State will meet on Dec. 28 in San Diego. Luke Falk, a 6-foot-4, 223-lb. senior quarterback, leads the charge for the Cougars. Junior running back L.J. Scott is the workhorse running back for Michigan State.

The Spartans come into the game on a two-game win streak and seemed to have righted the ship after a 3-9 season a year ago.

The Cougars were blown out in the Apple Cup but started the season 6-0, including a key win against USC.

Players to watch

Washington State

Luke Falk QB-Senior

Falk is the best player on the Cougars and possibly the best player in the conference. Mike Leach's air raid attack will try and spread out the Spartans and push the ball down the field. Falk's top two receivers from the regular season -Tavares Martin Jr. and Isaiah Johnson- Mack- have both left the team, which means Falk will have to find production elsewhere.

Renard Bell WR-Freshman

Renard Bell will be asked to pick up the production left by Martin Jr. and Johnson-Mack.  Bell, a freshman, worked the slot during the season and could cause trouble for the Spartans, who on occasion give up chunk yardage in the passing game. Bell's three catches for 101 yards were the difference in an early season win against the Trojans and in the Holiday Bowl, he could have the same impact.

Michigan State

Josiah Scott CB-Freshman

When Luke Falk struggles, it's because he tries to force the ball into tight coverage. Falk threw three interceptions against Washington and will have to beware of MSU's outstanding freshman cornerback. Scott's 11 starts this year were the most by a true freshman in the Mark Dantonio-era.  Dantonio, a former secondary coach, doesn't usually give playing time to younger corners unless he sees something special and Scott is something special.

L.J. Scott RB-Junior

L.J. Scott had an up-and-down season but out of the running back trio MSU employs, Scott is the most lethal.  Scott is the most NFL- ready prospect on the offensive side of the ball and finished the season with 788 rushing yards.  As long as Scott, who struggles with fumbles, can keep the ball off the ground he figures to have a strong game against a small Cougars defensive line. Look for MSU offensive coordinator Dave Warner to run the ball early and often in an attempt to keep the ball out of Falk's hands.

Prediction

Michigan State 28 Washington State 23

---Troy Jefferson, DN Staff Reports