Former Arkansas center Jaylin Williams was an integral part of the team’s back-to-back Elite 8 runs. This past season, Williams finished second in the SEC with 16 double-doubles. His combination of size and length made him one of the SEC’s most active defenders.
The 2020 Arkansas Gatorade Player of the Year has all of the tools to become a presence for a Thunder squad that needed another athletic big man. Williams finished the 2021-22 campaign nearly averaging a double-double (10.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG). He was twice named the SEC Player of the Week and was a terror on the defensive end versus LSU in late February.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.