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2018 NBA Draft Recap (w/Trades, Notes)

2018 NBA Draft Trades/Transactions/Notes:

  • Atlanta sends the draft rights of the third overall pick, Luka Doncic, to the Dallas Mavericks for draft rights of the fifth overall pick (Trae Young) and a future draft pick (1st Round pick in 2019)
  • Charlotte agrees to trade the rights of the 11th overall pick, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, to the Los Angeles Clippers for the rights of the 12th overall pick, Miles Bridges, and two future second-round picks
  • Philadelphia trades the rights of 10th overall pick, Mikal Bridges to the Phoenix Suns for the for the rights of the 16th overall pick, Zhaire Smith, and for the Suns 2021 first-round pick (via the Miami Heat)
  • Six of the top 16 draft picks were traded
  • Sacramento traded the 37th pick of the second round, Gary Trent, Jr., to Portland for two future second-round picks
  • Atlanta Hawks traded the draft rights of the 34th overall pick, Devonte Graham to the Charlotte Hornets for two future second-round picks
  • The Orlando Magic traded the rights of the 41st overall pick, Jarred Vanderbilt to the Denver Nuggets for the draft rights of the 43rd overall pick, Justin Jackson, and a future second-round pick
  • Philadelphia 76ers traded the draft rights of the 38th overall pick, Khyri Thomas, to the Detroit Pistons for two future second-round picks
Team

Round,

Selection

 

Player Position, School ‘Nasty’ Take:
1 (1) Phoenix Suns Deandre Ayton 7’1 250

C-Arizona

The Pac-12 Player of the Year made subtle improvements to his frame over the last year and a half while increasing his level of quickness and rise off the floor. A solid free throw shooter with an adequate face-up jumper, Ayton’s back to the basket game is an added bonus.
1 (2)

Sacramento Kings

Marvin Bagley III 6’11 234 PF-Duke If he can continue to expand his range, his offensive game may expand to new heights. He’s already a scrappy rebounder with quick hops. Bagley III will get to the free throw line but he has to improve when he gets there (62%). He set an ACC freshman record with 22 double-doubles.
1 (3)

Atlanta Hawks (Traded to Dallas Mavericks)

Luka Doncic 6’8 230

G-Real Madrid

Although he’s just 19 years old, Doncic averaged 16 PPG, 4.8 RPG and 4.3 APG for Real Madrid on his way to EuroLeague MVP honors in 2017-18. He will look to become just the second lottery international selection to make an All-Star team.
1 (4)

Memphis Grizzlies

Jaren Jackson, Jr. 6’11 236

PF-Michigan State

The Big Ten Freshman of the Year’s NBA bloodlines mesh with major shot blocking ability.   The conference’s Defensive Player of the Year shot over 40-percent from three-point range and led the Big Ten with three blocked shots per game. His ability to defend makes him an attractive option for a team that won just 22 games in 2017-18.
1 (5)

Dallas Mavericks (traded to Atlanta Hawks)

Trae Young 6’1 178

PG-Oklahoma

The Big 12 Freshman of the Year has range that extends from Oklahoma all the way to the Dirty South. Though he was not ranked as a consensus Top 20 player in the Class of 2017, he ended up leading the nation in scoring (27.4 PPG) and assists (8.7 APG). Draftnasty's Troy Jefferson predicted Doncic as an option.
1 (6)

Orlando Magic

Mohamed Bamba 7’0 225

C-Texas

The former Westtown HS (N.Y.) has gotten plenty of attention for his length, but he is an underrated rebounder with an expanding offensive skill-set. The second-team All-Big 12 selection has wiry strength and a high basketball IQ. He finished second in the nation with 3.7 blocks shots per game.
1 (7) Chicago Bulls Wendell Carter, Jr. 6’10 251

PF-Duke

The Bulls hit home with All-Rookie selection Lauri Markkanen a year ago and this year went after a player who scored in double figures in 30 contests in 2017-18.   The second-team All-ACC performer has an array of moves around the basket and an instinctive rebounder (9.1).
1 (8)

Cleveland Cavaliers

Collin

Sexton

6’1 ½ 183

PG-Alabama

The Cavaliers immediately increased its team speed with the selection of Sexton. He maintained a 4.0 GPA in school during his lone season on campus and had a knack for the big moment.
1 (9)

New York Knicks

Kevin Knox 6’9 212

SF-Kentucky

Knox’s toughness and natural scoring ability will provide a solid complement to Kristpas Porzingas. The first pick of the David Fizdale-era is solid in all facets of his game.
1 (10)

Philadelphia 76ers (traded the rights of this pick to the Phoenix Suns for the 16th overall pick, Zhaire Smith and the Suns 2021 first-round pick)

Mikal Bridges 6’7 210

SF-Villanova

The first of the four Wildcats expected to be drafted, Brigdes actually redshirted initially at Villanova. The 76ers needed another shooter with the possible departures of either J.J. Redick or Marco Belinelli, but instead acquired the rights to the Phoenix Suns 16th overall pick, Zhaire Smith. DraftNasty’s Troy Jefferson predicted Smith could end up with the 76ers.
1 (11)

Charlotte Hornets (pick made for the Los Angeles Clippers)

Shai

Gilgeous-

Alexander

6’6 180

PG-Kentucky

The 2017-18 second-team All-SEC selection recorded the third most assists for a freshman in the history of Kentucky basketball. Blessed with the ability to defend three-to-four positions, he will increase the flexibility for Doc Rivers’ defensive unit. He shot 81.7-percent from the free throw line as a freshman.
1 (12)

Los Angeles Clippers (pick made for the Charlotte Hornets)

Miles Bridges 6’6 220

SF-Michigan

State

Despite being 6-foot-6, he still averaged seven rebounds per game in 2017-18. Why? He has a strong, burly frame. The former Big Ten Freshman of the Year is a true high riser.
1 (13)

Los Angeles Clippers

Jerome

Robinson

6’5 188

SG-Boston College

Robinson becomes the first ever Eagles player to become a lottery selection and was a runner-up to Marvin Bagley III for ACC Player of the Year. He shot over 83% from the free throw line
1 (14)

Denver Nuggets

Michael Porter, Jr. 6’10 211

SF-Missouri

Porter, Jr. snuck into the final lottery selection and provides the wing depth that the Nuggets desperately need. Despite playing just three games for Missouri in 2017-18 due to back surgery, the former Gatorade Player of the Year has immense upside.
1 (15)

Washington Wizards

Troy Brown 6’6 ¾ 208

SF-Oregon

The Wizards are still in need of athletic big men, but they also needed someone who could matchup with opposing guards and forwards defensively. To that end, Brown fits the bill. His versatility included guard duties at the prep level.
1 (16) Phoenix Suns (traded this pick for to the Philadelphia 76ers and its 2021 1st round pick for the rights to the 76ers 10th overall pick Mikal Bridges-see below) Zhaire Smith 6’4 198

G-F/Texas Tech

After securing Ayton with the first overall pick, the Suns turned their attention to another guard for depth with the possible departure of free agent Elfrid Payton.   This pick was made for the 76ers in a trade that sent their 10th overall pick to the Suns in exchange for Smith’s rights. Smith’s outstanding leaping ability (41 ½” VJ) and floor speed will add an explosive element to the 76ers backcourt. Bridges expands the Suns’ defensive versatility.
1 (17) Milwaukee Bucks Donte DiVincenzo 6’4 ½ 200

SG-Villanova

The Bucks needed more scorers on the perimeter after finishing 13th in the NBA playoffs in three-pointers. DiVincenzo opened even more eyes at the NBA Combine after earning Most Outstanding Player honors in the 2018 NCAA Final Four. The Big East’s Six Man of the Year shot 40% from three-point range this past season.
1 (18)

San Antonio Spurs

Lonnie Walker IV 6’4 196

SG-Miami (Fla.)

Athletic shooting guards/wings were a possibility for the Spurs with the unenviable Kawhi Leonard situation. The team opted for a player who can play the two-guard or wing in Walker IV. He has to stay healthy and become more productive with the ball in his hands. His play strength is undeniable.
1 (19)

Atlanta Hawks

Kevin Huerter 6’7 194

SG-Maryland

Huerter led the Terrapins with 73 three-pointers in 2017-18. The shooting guard spot was a position the Hawks needed to target to go along with Kent Bazemore.
1 (20)

Minnesota Timberwolves

Josh Okogie 6’4 ½ 210 SG-Georgia Tech The third-team All-ACC selection is a high-riser who averaged over 18 points per game for the Yellow Jackets. With Jerome Robinson off the board, Okogie was one of the better shooting guards still available for the Timberwolves.
1 (21) Utah Jazz Grayson Allen 6’4 ½ 198

SG-Duke

The former Blue Devil fills a need for the team despite being somewhat of a surprise in this slot. He nearly put up 2,000 points in his career (1,996), but there are some questions about his ability to defend consistently. There are, however, few questions surrounding his competitiveness and athleticism.
1 (22) Chicago Bulls Chandler Hutchison 6’7 197

SG-Boise State

We felt the MWC Player of the Year could have been a possibility for the Spurs, but we also felt that the Bulls needed a guard with both Zach LaVine and David Nwaba currently free agents.   Will Hutchison continue to expand his range?
1 (23) Indiana Pacers Aaron Holiday 6’1 187

PG-UCLA

Blessed with NBA bloodlines (Brother, Jrue, plays for the New Orleans Pelicans and another brother, Justin, plays for the Chicago Bulls), this Holiday rarely took any days off for the Bruins. He led the Pac-12 in scoring in 2017-18 (20.3 PPG). The Pacers simply took the best player available at this stage of the draft.
1 (24)

Portland Trail Blazers

Anfernee Simons 6’3 183

SG-United States

With Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton both free agents, guard depth was important for the Trail Blazers. The former IMG Academy standout moves well without the basketball and finishes in transition.
1 (25)

Los Angeles Lakers

(from the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2017-18 trade that included Isaiah Thomas and Jordan Clarkson)

Moritz Wagner 6’11 241

PF-Michigan

There are few questions regarding Wagner’s ability to stretch the floor as a shooter.   The former Wolverine has good vision, works as a rebounder and possesses above average ability to execute in pick-and-pop situations.
1 (26)

Philadelphia 76ers

Landry Shamet 6’5” 188

PG-Wichita State

We talked about Shamet’s ability to extend the defense in our Detroit Pistons team needs. Shamet, a combo-type, is insurance if the team loses either Redick or Belinelli in free agency.
1 (27) Boston Celtics Robert Williams III 6’10” 241

C-Texas A&M

Williams III is one of the better shot blockers in the draft and he led the SEC in rebounding.   The team will look for him to be a rim-runner and lob specialist. It was a bit of a surprise he lasted until the end of the first round.
1 (28) Golden State Warriors Jacob Evans 6’5” 199

SG-Cincinnati

The first-team All-AAC performer is a stout defender and underrated passer. The Warriors continue to add players who can guard multiple positions.
1 (29) Brooklyn Nets Dzanan Musa 6’9” 195

SF-

Bosnia-

Herzegovina

Whether or not the team gets Charlotte C Dwight Howard in its proposed trade is still up for discussion. In the meantime, they needed a player capable of handling defensive responsibilities next to either Howard or Timofey Mozgov. Musa may not be a fit for those duties, but he averaged 12.4 PPG and was named the All-Adriatic League’s top prospect of the year.
1 (30) Atlanta Hawks Omari Spellman 6’9” 253

PF-Villanova

While Spellman averaged just under 11 points per game for the Wildcats, he did shoot 43-percent from three-point range. Aside from his ability to shoot, he has enough bulk to compete as an offensive rebounder.
2nd Round
2 (31) Phoenix Suns Elie Okobo 6’3” 180

PG-France

The Suns didn’t get their backup guard early but they do get a player who has some similarities to the aforementioned Payton (a free agent). He has more shooting ability at this same stage of his development.
2 (32) Memphis Grizzlies Jevon Carter 6’1 ½” 196

PG-West Virginia

Carter’s development as a scorer complements what may be the best defensive skill-set in the draft. He was twice named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and became just the fifth player in Division I history with 1,500 points, 500 rebounds, 500 assists and 300 steals.
2 (33)

Dallas Mavericks

Jalen Brunson 6’2 ¼” 198

PG-Villanova

Although he shot 41-percent from three-point range in 2017-18, some of Brunson’s best work came on the low block. His foot speed is a question mark.
2 (34)

Atlanta Hawks

Devonte Graham 6’1 ½” 188

PG-Kansas

Graham has the ability to go either right or left off the dribble to get separation for his pull-up jumpers. The Hawks continue to add playmakers to compete in the backcourt.
2 (35)

Orlando Magic

Melvin Frazier 6’6” 198

SF-Tulane

The AAC’s Most Improved Player led the conference in steals (2.2 per gm). He put together an outstanding NBA Combine performance.
2 (36)

New York Knicks

Mitchell Robinson 6’11” 215

PF-United States

One of the nation’s top recruits in 2017, Robinson never played college basketball and elected to train for the draft.
2 (37)

Sacramento Kings

Gary Trent, Jr. 6’5” 204

SG-Duke

During the NBA Combine, Trent, Jr. excelled shooting from the top of the key and posted a 39 ½” max VJ. He was one of the Blue Devils most consistent shooters in 2017-18.
2 (38)

Philadelphia 76ers

Khyri Thomas 6’3 ¾” 198

SG-Creighton

Known for his defense, Thomas’ 6’10 ½” wingspan gives him plenty of flexibility when it comes to guarding multiple positions. He’s capable of winning of finishing in transition or off the catch-and-shoot on the wings.
2 (39)

Philadelphia 76ers

Isaac Bonga 6’9 203

SF-Germany

Although this pick may not provide immediate dividends, Bonga,has good flexibility and impressive court vision.
2 (40)

Brooklyn Nets

Rodions Kurucs 6’10” 215

F-Lativa

Kurucs, a member of the 2017-18 Latvian National Team, averaged just over 10 points and nearly 3 RPG for FC Barcelona in 2017-18. He has a game that translates to the type of stretch-fours seen in the NBA today. He will need to work on getting his shot off quicker.
2 (41) Orlando Magic Jarred

Vanderbilt

6’9” 214

SF-Kentucky

If not for a left foot injury, Vanderbilt –one of the top players in the Class of 2017- may have made a bigger impact for the Wildcats in 2017-18. Where he did flash was as a rebounder. He averaged 7.9 rebounds per game in 14 games for the team.
2 (42) Detroit Pistons Bruce

Brown

6’5 194

SG-Miami (Fla)

Yet another prospect affected by a foot injury in 2017-18, Brown was probably more impactful as a shooter during his freshman season.
2 (43)

Denver Nuggets

Justin Jackson 6’6 ¾” 229

SF-Maryland

Jackson was a possible target for the Houston Rockets in our Southwest Division Team Needs. The 6-foot-7 Jackson shot 43-percent from three-point range and contains a 7-foot-2-inch wingspan. He eventually ended up getting traded to the Orlando Magic for the draft rights to Jarred Vanderbilt.
2 (44) Washington Wizards Issuf Sanon 6’4 185

PG-Ukraine

He’s dealt with minor injuries, but the 2018 Slovenian League Champion logged added minutes for the Petrol Olimpija team of the Premier A SKL league.
2 (45) Brooklyn Nets Hamidou Diallo 6’5 190

SG-Kentucky

Diallo posted the highest max vertical at the 2018 NBA Combine (44 ½”). If he can develop as a shooter, he has some similarities to Houston Rockets G Gerald Green. Diallo shot just 62% from the free throw line this past season and just 43-percent from the field
2 (46)

Houston Rockets

De’Anthony Melton 6’3 193

SG-USC

During his lone season of action at USC (2016-17), he averaged 1.9 steals per game.   Despite shooting 71% from the stripe, he connected on just 28.4% of his three-point shots.
2 (47)

Los Angeles Lakers

Sviatoslav

Mykhailiuk

6’8 195

SG-Kansas

Mykhailiuk shot 44.4% from three-point range for the Jayhawks in 2017-18 while averaging 14.6 points per game. The former Jayhawk has elite shooting abilities that Draftnasty's Troy Jefferson took notice of.
2 (48)

Minnesota Timberwolves

Keita Bates-Diop 6’8” 223

SF-Ohio State

Bates-Diop earned second-team All-American honors and was named the Big Ten Player of the Year.   Bates-Diop improved his scoring average by nearly 10 points from 2016-17.
2 (49)

San Antonio Spurs

Chimezie Metu 6’11 215

PF-USC

Metu has improved as a free throw shooter since he first arrived on campus. DraftNasty’s Jefferson felt Metu would be a fit for the Pelicans, but he’s going to a team in the division who can use his athleticism and length.
2 (50)

Indiana Pacers

Alize Johnson 6’8 217

PF-Missouri State

Johnson doesn’t have noteworthy length (6’8 ¾” wingspan) for his 217-pound frame, but he averaged a double-double (points, rebounds) in back-to-back seasons for the Bears.
2 (51)

New Orleans Pelicans

Tony Carr 6’4 ½” 198

SG-Penn State

The first-team All-Big Ten selection finished the season with four games of 30-plus points and shot 43.3% from three-point range. Carr’s 8’4” standing reach makes him bigger than his size would indicate.   He led the Nittany Lions to the 2018 NIT title.
2 (52) Utah Jazz Vincent Edwards 6’8 225

SF-Purdue

A solid spot-up shooter, Edwards improved his scoring average in each of his four years on campus. An effiicent free throw shooter (82% career), he is also effective beyond the arc.
2 (53)

Oklahoma City Thunder

Devon Hall 6’5 210

SG-Virginia

Hall is by no means a high-riser, but he was satisfactory in non-stationary shooting drills at the 2018 NBA Combine. He was an 89% free throw shooter in 2017-18.
2 (54) Dallas Mavericks Shake Milton 6’5 ½ 207

SG-SMU

In just over 36 minutes per game in 2017-18, Milton averaged 18 points per game. The 6’5 ½” Milton has nearly a 7-foot-1-inch wingspan and 8’3 ½” standing reach.
2 (55)

Charlotte Hornets

Arnoldas Kulboka SF-Lithuania Despite averaging just over 8 points per game, he shot nearly 37-percent from three-point range. He will likely be a pick for the Hornets down the road
2 (56)

Philadelphia 76ers

Ray Spalding 6’10 ¼ 215

PF-Louisville

DraftNasty’s Jefferson projected that Spalding’s 7’6” wingspan would be a fit for the Portland Trail Blazers. Instead, the 76ers get a prospect that averaged 8.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for the Cardinals in 2017-18.
2 (57)

Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Hervey 6’7 211

SF/PF-UT-Arlington

Hervey is yet another player that the Thunder project can improve as a shooter. He’s an underrated rebounder who Jefferson projected would be a possible target for another team in the Northwest Division (Denver Nuggets) as a small forward-type projection.
2 (58)

Denver Nuggets

Thomas Welsh 7’0 245

C-UCLA

Welsh, a career 80-percent free throw shooter, shot 40-percent from the three-point line as a senior while averaged 10.8 rebounds per game.
2 (59)

Phoenix Suns

George

King

6’6 220

SF-Colorado

The second-team All-Pac-12 selection nearly hit 200 three-pointers in college (181) and perhaps more impressively 5.4 rebounds per game (career).
2 (60) Philadelphia 76ers Kostas

Antetokounmpo

6’10 190

SF-Dayton

The younger brother of the Greek Freak in Milwaukee didn’t log many minutes for Dayton, but he did aveaged over a block per game.   He’s still not a shooter (51.6% free throws), but he contains a 7’2 ¼” wingspan and 9’2” standing reach.

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 NBA Draft Team Needs: Southeast Division

Washington Wizards

Team needs:

Athletic bigs

The Wizards are locked into contracts with Marcin Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, both of whom fit the traditional mold of a big man and struggle to guard more athletic centers defensively. Gortat is excellent in the screen and roll game with Wall, but is 34 years old and has seen a steady decline in offensive production the last three years. Ian Mahinmi hasn't fulfilled expectations after signing a five- year, $60 million guaranteed contract in 2014. Star point guard John Wall said he would like to see the front office target an athletic big in the offseason and DraftNasty concurs. Texas A&M's Robert Williams (see below) could slide to the 15th pick.   He has a 7-foot-6-inch wingspan and could provide excellent energy off the bench and play the five if the Wizards choose to go small and play Kelly Oubre at power forward. Williams, who is 20 years old, could be a long-term option alongside the Wizards young nucleus of Bradley Beal, John Wall, Kelly Oubre and Otto Porter.

Former Texas A&M center Robert Williams (No. 44 pictured with the ball) averaged 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in 2017-18 for the Aggies. In addition, he finished 13th in the nation in blocked shots per game (2.6).

Backup scoring guard

It's been well-documented that Wall and Beal can shoulder the offensive load but Washington has cycled through backup guards since the two have been together. Tomas Santoransky looked capable filling in Wall's absence last season and averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 assists and 3.2 rebounds in 22 minutes of action. However, Washington went out and signed Ty Lawson for the playoff stretch to add some scoring in the backcourt off the bench.  He shot just 34-percent and averaged five points in 19 minutes per game. If an athletic big isn't available at pick 15, look for the Wizards to target someone like Creighton's Khryi Thomas, who scored efficiently (15 points per game on 53-percent shooting and 41-percent from three-point range) and can matchup with opposing guards defensively alongside Satoransky.

Cap space: +25 million, $124 million

Free agents: Ty Lawson

Miami Heat

Face of the franchise

Miami lacks a draft pick and doesn't have a lot of cap space to sign a superstar in a superstar-driven league. Miami has a plethora of key young role players and could package a future pick and some of their young assets to free up cap space in order to make a play for a star in the future. Long story short, the Heat are paying a lot of money for a team that can't crack the top five in the Eastern Conference. This offseason should be relatively quiet for Miami compared to years past given the front office constraints. Look for the Heat to use this offseason to address financial problems. If the Heat are able to free up some money or trade into a draft pick, look for them to target a player who can create their own shot. Ohio State's Keita Bates-Diop could be a second round option that could develop into an NBA scorer. Bates-Diop is a mature bucket-getter, who would fit into Pat Riley's mode of acquiring polished college prospects.

Cap space: + 5 million, 105 million

Free agents: Wayne Ellington, Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem, Luke Babbit

Orlando Magic

Face of the franchise

Aaron Gordon is up for free agency and even with him, Orlando lacks a face of the franchise. The Magic have never been a team to make splashes in free agency, so don't expect them to sign a marquee player and enter the free agency sweepstakes.  They are more likely to hope they hit on the sixth pick in the draft.  With the teams ahead of them likely targeting big men, Orlando should be able to capitalize and grab a point guard.

Point guard

D.J. Augustin and Shelvin Mack have both enjoyed success in the NBA, but both are also journeymen who can't be counted on to log heavy minutes at point guard in a  point guard-driven league. Orlando has a lot of money tied up in wing players and could re-sign Gordon to bolster the front court.  Either way,  they could stand to use an upgrade at point guard. Oklahoma's Trae Young and Alabama's Collin Sexton are the two best point guards in the draft and both will garner heavy attention.

If the Magic choose to grab a frontcourt player in the draft in the event that Gordon leaves, Jeremy Lin could be a target.  Lin played with new head coach Steve Clifford during his time in Charlotte.

Cap space: -3.5 million, 95.5 million

Free agents: Aaron Afflalo, Mario Hezonia, Aaron Gordon, Marreese Speights

Atlanta Hawks

Shooting guard

Atlanta is coming off of a season of paying dead cap money for players who no longer play with the team anymore or never played for them (i.e. Jamal Crawford).  After agreeing to a buyout, Crawford never played for the Hawks in 2017.  The team could still use some scoring punch from the shooting guard spot. The Hawks have the 19th and 30th picks in the draft.  Villanova’s Donte DiVincenzo had a big game in the National Championship and can play on-and-off the ball.  After a positive NBA Combine performance, DiVincenzo should be available at pick 19 and would give the Hawks a quality scorer.  The Hawks could then use their 30th pick to address a secondary need like a wing to go alongside Kent Bazemore.

Cap space: -1 million, 100.1 million

Free agents: Malcolm Delaney, Damion Lee

Charlotte Hornets

Backup point guard

The Hornets are good enough to make the playoffs but not good enough to compete with the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They don’t have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to cap space. Charlotte has at least two more years of Kemba Walker, but currently don’t have another true point guard on the roster. Look for the Hornets to use their limited resources to bring in a backup. There may not be a viable option when they pick 11th in the first round.   They will likely look to take the best available player or trade out of the pick. If the Hornets do decide to stay put and draft a point guard, Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous Alexander is an option.  He is a 6-foot-6 point guard with a 7-foot wingspan.  His skill-set could make him a valuable defender capable of spelling Walker at times in Year 1.

Cap space: -18 million, 117 million

Free agents: Michael Carter Williams, Treveon Graham, Julyan Stone

*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.

--- Draftnasty's Troy Jefferson, Follow him @troy_jefferson on twitter.

Tuesday Throwback Report: Party Crasher in San Diego

There are a multitude of names that come to mind when one contemplates the prospects of elite NCAA basketball teams each season. Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, Connecticut, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse are just a few that break through the conscious initially. But San Diego State?

Laughably, one could have been locked away from all things hoops related for nearly a decade and still log that the likes of the Blue Devils and company would have a formidable presence in the midseason rankings. It’s simply that predictable sometimes.

But there are wrinkles. Just as easy as one might be on point in expecting the Jayhawks to be in early contention, one might also blunder and find that the Tar Heels are nothing more than average this season.  And in spite of this type of blunder being less likely, there have been times when North Carolina has found itself mending its wounds.

But San Diego State?

Amazingly, the Aztecs provide a wrinkle that is as much surprising as it is refreshing.  As it stands, San Diego State sits at the head table with top-ranked Duke and the usual suspects such as Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh and the Orangemen, who round out the top-five in the AP poll.

Head coach Steve Fisher’s Aztecs are a polished 17-0 and remain as one of only five teams in Division I with an undefeated mark. This in itself is not surprising.   It started three seasons ago when the Aztecs finished with a 20-13 mark and landed an NIT berth. A year later, San Diego State improved to a 26-10 record, advancing to the NIT semifinals.

The development didn’t hit a snag last season when the Aztecs ran off an impressive 25-9 record and emerged in the NCAA Tournament, where it fell short in the first round to Tennessee. Despite the early exit, San Diego State proved that it had promise, pushing the Volunteers in that contest before narrowly losing 62-59.

So no, that the Aztecs have torn through the season thus far is not startling.  That they are being given credit for doing so this early is a different story. Typically, a team like the Aztecs wouldn’t even be on the radar until March - two, three games into the Big Dance. Butler, for example, wasn’t even ranked at this point in the season a year ago. They, of course, went on to play for the national title against Duke.

And no, the rankings aren’t usually built with the San Diego States, the Butlers, the Davidsons, or George Masons in mind. But here the Aztecs are, boasting a higher ranking than powerhouses such as Connecticut (10th), Kentucky (13th), Louisville (18th) and Georgetown (22th). And here they are, 17 games into the season, demonstrating more staying power than elite programs like Michigan State, North Carolina, and Florida, who after opening the season ranked second, eighth, and ninth respectively in the nation, are now out of the top-25 altogether.

The picture cannot be painted that San Diego State came into the year as a dismissed program. After all, they were ranked a modest but respectable 25th in the country in the preseason AP poll. But Fisher’s squad wasn’t comfortable with modest and quickly launched a stone at the pollsters when it toppled then 11th-ranked Gonzaga 79-76 on November 16th.

Critics who devalue San Diego State’s schedule strength thus far should factor in that the Aztecs also knocked off Pac-10 stalwart California handily, 77-57, on December 8th, less than two weeks after the Bears had beaten then 20th-ranked Temple.  And those who condemn the Aztecs for competing in the Mountain West Conference should consider that Brigham Young also hails from that conference.

And the Cougars are as well off to a fast start, sitting at 16-1 with a No. 11 AP ranking. This not only bodes well for the Conference, having two highly ranked clubs, but it also means that the attention of the college basketball world should be captured when San Diego State and Brigham Young face off on January 26th and February 26th. What’s equally intriguing is that the highly touted Aztecs defense will get an opportunity to slow down NBA prospect Jimmer Fredette, who is averaging 24.9 points per game.

“This league is very good,” Fisher noted in a press conference this week. “We said last year of those teams that went in that it might have been the best ever. I think the depth is genuine; the disparity between 1 and 9 has shrunk significantly.”

Before matching wits with the Cougars, San Diego State will have their perfect record tested in the Mountain West. One such obstacle, for example, will come Wednesday, when the Aztecs takes on a potent 13-3 UNLV team.  Nevertheless, Fisher is as much excited about his team’s possibilities as he is its current place.

“We are pleased obviously with the undefeated mark, but I am happy that we appear to be getting better physically,” he stated.

One sign of this improvement is the recent Mountain West Player of the Week honor that was bestowed upon star forward Malcolm Thomas. It’s the third of such honors this season for the senior who earned the award after averaging 17.5 points per game, 12 rebounds, and two blocks, in wins over Utah and TCU. For the season, the 6’9’’ San Diego native is pumping in 12.3 points per contest, complimented by 7.6 rebounds. As well, Thomas is shooting a precise 59 percent from the field.

“It’s good to receive an award like that,” Thomas said Monday in the Aztecs weekly press conference. “But I have to give credit to my teammates. They give me the confidence to score, rebound, block shots, or do whatever I need to do to win. I really feed off their energy and that is why I get player of the week.”

The energy Thomas speaks of comes from what has thus far been a balanced act. Sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard leads the team in scoring and rebounding, pouring in 15.9 points per game and pulling in 9.6 rebounds. And senior guard D.J. Gay chips in with 11.8 points per contest.

Gay, for one, credits several factors for his team’s play so far.

“I think it has a lot to do with our condition, our athleticism, our ability to turn it up on the defensive end,” the senior professed. “We start to press and create havoc for the other teams and that’s just taking it to another level. Our ability to do that is the reason we are having the success we’re having now.”

And thanks to an anomaly in the national rankings, the basketball community at large is able to witness this striking success in January, rather than postponing credit until March. By then, the Aztecs are being asked to be great twice, as March Madness is a separate season in itself.

Assuredly, the Aztecs haven’t been overly dominant this year, but they’ve been consistent and resilient. Their unblemished mark could be broken Wednesday against the Running Rebels or sometime between now and their meeting against Brigham Young. And even then, it won’t change the fact that the Aztecs have been one of college basketball’s best teams this season.

What this team will or will not do in the NCAA Tournament is irrelevant. Most certainly, a team’s failure in the Big Dance does not undo what perhaps was gained during the regular season. Some will be quick to hold San Diego State to this standard, discrediting this run if Fisher’s crew folds early in the NCAA tourney, forgetting that at this point in the season a year ago Texas was ranked No.1 with a 15-0 mark. Kentucky was ranked second, also with an undefeated record (14-0).

As most recall, neither the Longhorns nor Wildcats played for the national title. In fact, none of the top five at that point even made the Final Four. Duke, the eventual champion, was ranked eighth. It is apparent that the rankings are not a forecast of who will win the national title; what they do provide is a glance at who is playing well. And without question, San Diego State fits the bill.

Gay, who Fisher calls his most important player, admits to recognizing this accomplishment, even while still trying to build upon it.

“We do take each game one at a time, but sometimes you have to realize the situation that we are in and be able to enjoy it,” he acknowledged. “To sit down and reflect on what is going on now and know that we are in a situation a lot of people would dream of being in, you have to be appreciative of that. We take time to think about it but we know that we still have a lot of work that needs to be done.”

-          Patrick Green, DraftNasty.com staff writer, has been writing professionally for more than a decade. He is the author of two novels, Josie’s Missing Syllabus and Son Down; and while both works deal with topics beyond the athletic landscape, each exposes a social scope involving sports as an underlying theme. Green has covered high school, college, amateur, and professional football during his career, having written for newspapers in Augusta, Ga., and Charleston, South Carolina. To learn more about Patrick Green, visit www.greeninkpub.com.  

Thirsty Thursday’s ‘Hot Spot’: Cavalier fans in the ‘Hot Spot’ with LeBron’s return

There are so many things for the NBA to consider later tonight when the Miami Heat travel to Quicken Loans Arena to face the Cleveland Cavaliers.

What type of fanfare will arrive at the game?  Were the tickets swallowed up by the most ravenous fans?  How are they being bargained off outside of the arena?  Will we have enough security on site?

There is one question that hasn’t been asked up to date about LeBron James’ much anticipated return to his former high school and professional stomping grounds.

Is this just what James and the Miami Heat need to get going after starting the season lethargically at 11-8?

As Aaron Goldholdhammer from ESPN 850 WKNR, Cleveland said on ESPN’s Mike and Mike this morning, “This is going to be kind of anti-climatic.  In the last few days, I’ve heard from a few fans that say I’m going to run out on the floor tonight, I don’t care if I get arrested.”

If you’re a Cavalier fan, the last thing you want to hear is that this is anti-climatic.  Especially after people in the streets burned jerseys, threw away James memorabilia and essentially blamed the league’s back-to-back MVP for a potential economic downfall.

Fans are energetic, focused and often insistent on making their points when they feel an opposing player is truly a villain.  But do they have the energy to remain as volatile for 48 minutes as say a Robin Ficker?

Ficker, infamously known as perhaps the most intimidating fan in the history of sports, was even given a nickname-“The Heckler.”  The former Washington Bullets’ diehard fan would often show up to the arena with more information on an opposing team’s players and coaches than an entire NBA staff.  Perhaps his greatest technique was his ability to have the exact same seat directly behind a team’s bench for an entire night.

Let’s face it, this was a guy who even got under the skin of Hall of Famers Charles Barkley and Pat Riley.  Barkley once talked about Ficker in his book. Take this excerpt from the renowned “Heckler” in an article in Dan Steinberg’s DC Sports Blog from November 1, 2006 as an example:

“Some people said there were two Pat Rileys,” Ficker recalled, “because I would make him beside himself.”

His research was never incredulous and it would often serve as the team’s sounding board during an era (1985-’86 through 1996-’97) when they were at least respectable, making the playoffs four times, this despite an eight-year absence in between appearances from 1988-’89 to 1996-‘97.   Through it all the man known as “The Heckler” displayed the venom expected from angry Cavs fans later tonight.

Despite his legendary antics, some owners and coaches didn’t feel his enthusiasm had a place in the game.  Although he was generally clean and didn’t have to be censored, he would show up with megaphones behind opposing benches and even read aloud quotes taken on individual players.  As stated by former Celtic legend Red Auerbach and found in an August 23, 1997 article (Ficker Won’t Be the Mouth That Roars at MCI) by Washington Post writer Thomas Heath-Ficker represented a “disgrace” to the game.  Even with his naysayers, Ficker was able to withstand his critics and stand the test of time for over a decade.

Cleveland Cavalier fans could take some pages from the legendary fan’s notorious capers later this evening.  While many expect them to be vile and disgraceful, the ‘Heckler’ proved time and again that you can have just as much success with good natured anguish and furor.   After all the Bullets simply weren’t that good.

And isn’t that really what the Cavs fans are upset about at the end of the day?  Sure, they feel betrayed by James, but to think that they are happy about his new team being three games over .500 when their own team is currently 3 games below .500 and losers of seven of their last ten games.  It seems perfectly symmetrical with Ficker’s true dispair as a Bullets’ fan for over 12 years behind opposing benches.  Years of futility, or the inevitable possibility in the Cavaliers' case, can make even the most diehard fans of their team very temperamental.  I'm experiencing it right now with the Detroit Pistons.  It's perfectly normal.

What an ingenious thought by Ficker or Cavs fans?  Fans actually showing some frustration over their team not meeting expectations for their own city or organization.   Still, anything the “Heckler” said didn’t involve foul language or need to be censored.  During the late ’80s, he was often featured on NBC’s NBA Inside Stuff and even during NBA highlights on CNN, sometimes even weekly.

But as he stated in that same Heath article (Ficker Won’t Be the Mouth That Roars at MCI) referenced earlier, “Anything I have said could be printed in a family newspaper,” Ficker said.  “I never said one thing I regret.”

Hopefully for the Miami Heat and the NBA we will be saying the same thing around 11:00 pm about the performance of the Cleveland Cavalier fans.  If not, the story involving the game could be a backdrop to a much dirtier scene surrounding it.

---Corey Chavous, DraftNasty staff reports

When It Comes Down to Seconds

Sometimes the first round is fulfilling enough. In other cases, one might welcome seconds. For National Basketball Association teams, it’s not often greed that brings them back to the table after the initial round of the NBA Draft; in most cases, it’s a necessity. Clemson F Trevor Booker (pictured above) is just one of many NBA draft hopefuls later tonight that hope this sentiment has validity.

When the NBA Draft takes place on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. in New York’s Madison Square Garden, history has shown us that it would be wise to stay tuned well after the first round concludes and the camera bulbs stop flashing.

Up to this point, three phases of the Draft have garnered considerable attention. This is no surprise nor is it ill-awarded. The top pick crowns the discussion. Unfortunately, little mystery is generally left in that debate leading up to Draft night. The lottery pot captures the next phase and the mid to late first round the last.

There is considerable energy given to these posts. After all, here is where one gets his Tim Duncan (1st overall pick in 1997), his Brook Lopez (10th overall pick in 2008), or his David Lee (30th overall pick in 2005). It’s safe to say that San Antonio, New Jersey, and New York, are as satisfied with their picks in 2010 as they were when they made them.

But the first round won’t always provide one with a player that will help bring his team and city four NBA titles or provide some glimmer of hope and excitement to a team that lacks any immediate prosperity. Because the first round is also where one gets his Greg Oden (1st overall pick in 2007), his Michael Sweetney (9th overall pick in 2003), and his Erick Barkley (28th overall pick in 2000), players who, for a variety of reasons, don’t end up helping to propel the teams that drafted them.

On Thursday night, the second round selections won’t generate the fanfare that their first round counterparts do, and on Friday morning, they won’t receive the front page headlines. But years from now, some of them perhaps may end up as celebrated sports figures while those that superseded them become barely faint memories, existing more as historical data than present day ball players.

There is a very practical reason for players to jockey for first round position. In a nugget, first round contracts are guaranteed and second round’s are not.

Outside of that, it’s merely texture. Prospects, of course, marvel at status and none likely would welcome openly a second round position if a first round spot could be granted. However, if a current prospect could paint a pattern of his NBA future, which wouldn’t in some way design it after Rashard Lewis, Manu Ginobli, Michael Redd, Gilbert Arenas, or Carlos Boozer’s career thus far?

It’s not the argument here that a prospect would aspire to Arenas’ off court troubles or Ginobli and Redd’s recent injury-plagued seasons. The sentiment is that each of the aforementioned products currently holds air in the discussions regarding the top tier players at their respective positions.

In fact, this summer Boozer will be one of the most sought after free agents in the league. Moreover, it’s impossible to mention the words sharp shooter in the NBA and not have Redd or Arenas in the conversation. And notably, Ginobli was a staple on San Antonio’s championship teams and Lewis is a major reason why Orlando has gone deep into the playoffs the last two seasons.

Yet, they were all drafted through the back door.

In the second round, Lewis was the 32nd pick in 1998, Ginobli 57th in 1999, Redd 43rd in 2000, Arenas 31st in 2001, and Boozer 34th in 2002.

Knowing this should factor into a Draft hopeful’s approach to Thursday night and beyond. Knowing this should impact the way fans approach Thursday night as well.

On Draft night in 1999, Spurs fans were probably asleep by the time Ginobli was picked up. Instead, they celebrated San Antonio’s first round selection earlier that evening, Leon Smith, who was taken with the 29th pick out of Martin Luther King High School. Today, most people don’t even remember Smith and that he played in just 15 NBA games and averaged 2.2 points per contest in the process.

They do know Ginobli’s body of work, however. Since joining the Spurs in 2002, the Argentine has averaged 15 points per game, four rebounds and four assists for his career, made the all-star team once, and helped lead San Antonio to three NBA titles. And in the playoffs, where most players’ games disappear, is where the lefty guard has excelled, pouring in 16 points per game and pulling down nearly five rebounds a contest. Ginobli’s presence in the sport is international, as he led his Argentina national team to a 2004 gold medal finish in the Athens Olympic Games.

Basketball fans remember this.  They don’t remember that Ginobli was the next-to-last player taken in the Draft (There were only 58 picks in 1999.)

This story parallels beyond Ginboli. Redd watched Milwaukee take center Jason Collier in the first round before him and Boozer saw Cleveland nab Dejuan Wagner. Collier was having a mediocre NBA career before his unfortunate death in 2005 and Wagner fizzled out of the league with several season crippling injuries.

All Redd has done is average 20 points per game in his nine year career, marking him as one of the most lethal shooters from behind the arc in the league’s recent history. Boozer, touted as a premiere power forward, has averaged a career double-double at 17 points and 10 rebounds a contest. In four postseasons with Utah, the Duke standout has been even better, pumping in 20 points per game to compliment a whopping 12 rebounds.

Lewis and Arenas have been explosive at times as well. Lewis, a 6-10 shooting forward, has made the all-star team twice, and has averaged nearly 17 points and six rebounds per game for his career, spent early with Seattle and presently with Orlando. And after two seasons in Golden State, Arenas rose into NBA stardom with Washington, and has posted monstrous numbers for his career, at 22 points per contest with nearly six assists.

Each of these players has made an all-star team at least once, has been pivotal in his team making the playoffs, and more than anything, has consistently improved through each NBA season.

They have proven that one doesn’t need to be a lottery choice to have success in the league and eventually get his number retired as shooting guard Jeff Hornacek did after 15 playing seasons, two in which he helped lead Utah to the NBA Finals. When Hornacek was a starter for the Jazz averaging 14 points per game facing off with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in 1997 for the championship, no one cared that he was a 46th overall pick.

It would be all too easy to point the finger at NBA executives, but the truth is they don’t always get it wrong. It would be difficult to argue that Boozer was going to be a better pro than Drew Gooden who was taken with the fourth overall pick in the same Draft or that Ginobli would be leaps and bounds better at shooting guard than the 20th overall selection Dion Glover.

Yes, it’s easy to call the card once it’s been shown, so those who voice adamantly that it was evident how these careers would play out are simply showmen.

It is fair to say that in some instances the decision makers get it wrong, and sometimes really wrong. But in other cases, perhaps players are drafted where they should be, and in the process of preparing themselves for their NBA careers, they challenge themselves to become better and through training thus do.

It’s anyone’s guess who this year’s breakout player will be, because as stated, the cards with the 2010 class are face down.

Some players do spark intrigue as candidates. Clemson’s Trevor Booker is one. As an undersized 6-7 power forward, the South Carolina native will likely go in the middle of the second round. However, the former Tiger demonstrated the athleticism and passion in college that may translate well to the pro game. In four years at Clemson, Booker averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game.

Alabama’s Mikhail Torrance is a unique prospect as well. At 6-5, the Crimson Tide product can play both guard positions well, something he did while at Alabama. Equally, Torrance has a nice touch from the perimeter and can also drive, elevate and finish at the rim. Interestingly enough, he dribbles primarily with his left hand and shoots with his right. In 32 games last season, the junior averaged 15 points, shooting 47 percent from the field, and dished out 5 assists.

While Booker and Torrance evoke images of promising NBA futures, there are dozens of others who might eventually fit the bill. They won’t be seated at a table near the podium, or be interviewed in the Green Room, or have an opportunity to shake Commissioner David Stern’s hand. In fact, most of them won’t even be in the building when their names are called.

But that won’t matter. A second rounder isn’t sentenced to obscurity but for one night. After that, he controls his longevity and his legacy. Because essentially, the NBA Draft decides how you go in; it doesn’t determine where you come out.

 

Patrick Green, DraftNasty.com staff writer, has been writing professionally for more than a decade. He is the author of two novels, Josie’s Missing Syllabus and Son Down; and while both works deal with topics beyond the athletic landscape, each exposes a social scope involving sports as an underlying theme. Green has covered high school, college, amateur, and professional football during his career, having written for newspapers in Augusta, Ga., and Charleston, South Carolina. To learn more about Patrick Green, visit www.greeninkpub.com.