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NBA Draft 2021: Biggest needs, potential prospect fits for all 30 teams entering the offseason

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The NBA is a copycat league, or so the saying goes. It’s basically impossible to duplicate the roster of the champion Milwaukee Bucks since it revolves around a once-in-a-lifetime, unique talent in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The idea, however, remains relatively similar to most teams around the league: Find a superior scorer and playmaker, preferably more than one, and surround them with shooting and defense.

As such, the premium on 3-and-D wings is not going away any time soon. At the top of the draft, you’ll find the franchise-caliber scorers and playmakers, but after that, the wings will likely start flying off the board. But even in a copycat league, each team has its own specific holes that they’ll look to fill in Thursday’s draft.

Here’s a look at the biggest needs for all 30 NBA teams, and some draft prospects who could be perfect fits.

  • Draft picks owned: 20, 48
  • Needs: Backup point guard, big depth

Coming off an incredible second half and postseason, the Hawks have solid depth at pretty much every position besides point guard. Bogdan Bogdanovic can handle a lot of the backup point guard minutes, but the Hawks could benefit from an additional playmaker and ball-handler in the backcourt behind Trae Young. They also could look to fill a short-term need at center, with last year’s lottery pick, Onyeka Okongwu, expected to be out at least until January after shoulder surgery. Adding a big could also be a hedge in case John Collins gets a monster offer in restricted free agency that Atlanta isn’t willing to match.

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  • Potential guard fits: Jaden Springer, Jared Butler, Miles McBride
  • Potential big fits: Isaiah Jackson, Day’Ron Sharpe, Jericho Sims
  • Draft picks owned: 45
  • Needs: Point guard, wing depth

The Celtics don’t have a first-round pick in the draft, but that doesn’t mean they can’t trade up if they feel the value is there for one of the prospects they’ve targeted. Trading away Kemba Walker leaves a gaping hole at point guard, but they probably won’t get a starting-caliber player at No. 45. Last season also showed how thin Boston’s wing rotation is behind Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, so they could certainly use some help there.

  • Potential guard fits: Tre Mann, Jason Preston, McKinley Wright IV
  • Potential wing fits: Joe Wieskamp, B.J. Boston, Aaron Henry
  • Draft picks owned: 27, 44, 49, 59
  • Needs: 3-and-D wing, backup guard

No matter how Brooklyn handles free agents like Spencer Dinwiddie, Jeff Green and Blake Griffin, they’re going to need to bolster their depth at guard and on the wing — particularly given the health issues they ran into last season. They might look to draft an older, win-now player at No. 27, and then perhaps package their second-round picks in a trade or to move up to get a prospect they really like. Whoever they select might not play much when the postseason rolls around, but they need to get there first, and they can use all the cost-controlled rotation players they can get.

  • Potential wing fits: Trey Murphy III, Josh Primo, Kessler Edwards
  • Potential guard fits: Ayo Dosunmu, Miles McBride, Cam Thomas
  • Draft picks owned: 11, 56, 57
  • Needs: Center, scoring guard

The Hornets might end up keeping free agent Cody Zeller, but it’s pretty clear that he’s not the ideal big for a LaMelo Ball-led offense. They could look to fill that position with a more athletic, rim-runner/shot-blocker type if there’s one available in the draft. With Malik Monk and Devonte’ Graham both restricted free agents, Charlotte could also use another scorer off the bench, and there should be plenty of options at No. 11.

  • Potential center fits: Usman Garuba, Kai Jones, Isaiah Jackson
  • Potential scoring guard fits: James Bouknight, Chris Duarte, Jared Butler
  • Draft picks owned: 38
  • Needs: Wing depth, backup center

With Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic as the offensive focal points, the Bulls need to add some wings, preferably of the two-way variety. That might be tough at 38, but they could always buy their way into the first round if the opportunity arises. Thaddeus Young can be the backup center, but Chicago might also look for a bigger body to help spell Vucevic.

  • Potential wing fits: Joe Wieskamp, B.J. Boston, Herbert Jones
  • Potential backup center fits: Santi Aldama, Day’Ron Sharpe, Jericho Sims
  • Draft picks owned: 3
  • Needs: Everything

The Cavs had the third-worst offense in the NBA last season and the fifth-worst defense, so any help on either side of the ball will go a long way. Fortunately, they’ll have their pick of an excellent prospect at No. 3 regardless of who’s off the board after the first two picks. Ideally, they’d get a wing or a big since they have Darius Garland and Collin Sexton in the backcourt, but that shouldn’t deter them from taking their highest evaluated prospect no matter which position.

  • Potential fits: Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs
  • Draft picks owned: None
  • Needs: Playmaking guard, 3-and-D wing
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The Mavs don’t have a pick in the draft thanks to previous trades, but they could always make a move to jump into the first or second round if someone they’ve targeted is still on the board. Ideally, they’d get a guard to help keep the offense afloat while Luka Doncic is on the bench, particularly since Tim Hardaway Jr. is an unrestricted free agent and could get some lucrative offers. On top of that, Dallas could always use more 3-and-D wings to place around Doncic as it attempts to advance past the first round of the playoffs.

  • Potential guard fits: Ayo Dosunmu, Nah’Shon Hyland, Josh Christopher
  • Potential 3-and-D wing fits: Trey Murphy III, Joe Wieskamp, Kessler Edwards
  • Draft picks owned: 26
  • Needs: Scoring guard, backup center

Even if Jamal Murray weren’t going to miss a chunk of next season following ACL surgery, the Nuggets still could have used backcourt help off the bench. Now it’s a must, and preferably it would be a player who could initiate offense while Nikola Jokic rests. Speaking of Jokic, Denver could use a viable backup center, unless Bol Bol is ready to make an unexpected leap into the rotation.

  • Potential guard fits: Cam Thomas, Ayo Dosunmu, Nah’Shon Hyland
  • Potential center fits: Usman Garuba, Kai Jones, Isaiah Jackson
  • Draft picks owned: 1, 37, 42, 52
  • Needs: Everything

Those at the cusp of a rebuild cannot be picky, and the Pistons will be happy to select a potential franchise-changing prospect (likely Cade Cunningham), with the first pick in Thursday’s draft. They could also package their three second-round picks for a chance to move up if a prospect has fallen lower than they think he should. Detroit is in prime position to take a big swing at the bottom of the first round or beginning of the second on a high-risk, high-upside project.

  • Potential fits (after No. 1): Josh Christopher, B.J. Boston, Greg Brown
  • Draft picks owned: 7, 14
  • Needs: 3-and-D wings, playmaking guard

It’s no secret that the Warriors are shopping their two lottery picks, but if a deal isn’t reached they’ll have plenty of options for win-now help, as is their stated goal. With Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins, the Warriors won’t need their picks to carry a heavy offensive load — the priority will be shooting, defense and basketball IQ. The offense fell off a cliff with Curry on the bench last season, so they could also benefit from a versatile playmaker in the second unit.

  • Potential wing fits: Moses Moody, Josh Giddey, Franz Wagner, Chris Duarte
  • Potential guard fits: James Bouknight, Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler
  • Draft picks owned: 2, 23, 24
  • Needs: Everything

The Rockets got a nice start to their rebuild by securing the No. 2 pick, and they have a couple of other late firsts to get some more prospects through the door. There’s no need to even consider positional fit with these picks — just take the best player on the board and hope their talent and your development staff can help turn them into long-term assets.

  • Potential fits (No. 2): Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs
  • Potential fits (Nos. 23, 24): Jaden Springer, Sharife Cooper, Isaiah Jackson
  • Draft picks owned: 13, 54, 60
  • Needs: 3-and-D wings, power forward

The Pacers’ defense fell off a cliff in the second half of last season, but that could at least partly be attributed to Nate Bjorkgren supposedly losing the locker room. It should be better under Rick Carlisle, but they could still use a stout defensive wing to help the cause. As always, it would help if that player were a capable 3-point shooter since Indiana was in the bottom half of the league in 3-point makes and percentage last season. They’re also a little thin at the four, though TJ Warren could fill that position in smaller lineups.

  • Potential wing fits: Franz Wagner, Moses Moody, Corey Kispert
  • Potential power forward fits: Jalen Johnson, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, JT Thor
  • Draft picks owned: 25
  • Needs: Point guard, bench scoring

The Clippers looked like a potential title favorite before Kawhi Leonard’s ACL injury derailed them, but there are certainly some positions of need. Particularly without Leonard for at least part of the season, they’ll need another playmaker to help take pressure off of Paul George. They could also use a heat-check scorer off the bench, something they’ve lacked since Lou Williams was traded last season.

  • Potential point guard fits: Jaden Springer, Sharife Cooper, Miles McBride
  • Potential bench scorer fits: Ayo Dosunmu, Cam Thomas, Nah’Shon Hyland
  • Draft picks owned: 22
  • Needs: Shooting, playmaking
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The Lakers’ flaws have essentially been the same for the last two seasons — the halfcourt offense can get stagnant at times due to a lack of shooting and playmaking. It’s hard to find that combination in one player, particularly at No. 22, but there should be some solid options that could fit the bill. Anybody the Lakers select will also have to be able to hold their own for the league’s best defense, which is no easy task for a rookie.

  • Potential fits: Jared Butler, Miles McBride, Ayo Dosunmu
  • Draft picks owned: 17, 51
  • Needs: Shooting, 3-and-D wings

The Grizzlies have a roster full of quality rotation players and a rising star in Ja Morant, but they were 25th in the league last season with 11 3-pointers made per 100 possessions. A full season from Jaren Jackson should help boost those numbers, but despite their strong percentage from behind the arc, the Grizzlies don’t have a lot of high-volume 3-point shooters. Memphis is also competitive and deep enough to afford to take a player who might not be able to contribute right away in search of upside.

  • Potential fits: Corey Kispert, Chris Duarte, Trey Murphy III
  • Draft picks owned: None
  • Needs: Wing depth, backup center

The Heat don’t have a draft pick, but they could trade for one if they see the right opportunity. With the Heat potentially declining Andre Iguodala’s $15 million option for next season, there could be an opening in the wing rotation that might be filled by one of the more NBA-ready prospects. Miami also needs some size, as all of their center options are on the small side.

  • Potential wing fits: Aaron Henry, Isaiah Livers, Aaron Wiggins
  • Potential center fits: Sandro Mamukelashvili, Jericho Sims, Neemias Queta

Milwaukee Bucks

  • Draft picks owned: 31
  • Needs: Backup point guard, wing depth

The Bucks traded away their first-round pick, but they end up with No. 31, which is literally as close to the first round as it gets. The champs don’t have a lot of glaring needs, but a ball-handler to come off the bench could certainly help (not sure if re-signing Jeff Teague is a priority). They could also use a versatile wing to add to the rotation to help bolster their stifling defense.

  • Potential point guard fits: Miles McBride, Tre Mann, Nah’Shon Hyland
  • Potential wing fits: Herbert Jones, Kessler Edwards, B.J. Boston
  • Draft picks owned: None
  • Needs: Wing/frontcourt depth, defense

The Timberwolves don’t have a draft pick, but they could make a move to grab a pick if they see someone falling who is high on their board. The wing rotation around Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell is kind of a mess, so if they can find a three or small-ball four at the right price, it might be worth pulling the trigger.

  • Potential fits: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Herbert Jones, Aaron Henry
  • Draft picks owned: 10, 35, 40, 43, 53
  • Needs: Shooting, defense

The Pelicans made the third-fewest 3-pointers per game of any NBA team last season and shot the fifth-worst 3-point percentage. For a team built around a force like Zion Williamson, that’s simply unacceptable. Look for them to get a shooter with the No. 10 pick, and perhaps aim for a diamond in the rough with one or more of the second-round selections. New Orleans was also a bottom-10 defense last season, so that’s another area of priority.

  • Potential fits: Moses Moody, Corey Kispert, Trey Murphy III
  • Draft picks owned: 19, 21, 32, 58
  • Needs: Shooting, playmaking

Coming off of a No. 4 seed and with a coach who’s not traditionally fond of playing rookies for extended minutes, it would be very surprising if the Knicks use all four of their draft picks. That being said, there are some players in the late teens and early 20s that could very much make an impact next season. It’s just a matter of what else is out there. Playmaking and shooting are areas of priority for the Knicks, who finished with the league’s eighth-worst offense.

  • Potential fits: Trey Murphy III, Ziaire Williams, Jared Butler
  • Draft picks owned: 6, 16, 18, 34, 36, 55
  • Needs: Everything

Get used to seeing the Thunder’s name in the draft quite a bit over the next several seasons. They’re in prime position to use their multiple first-rounders to trade up on Thursday if they want to get into the top of the draft. If not, they’ll have several swings to get a potential foundational piece to aid the rebuild. OKC, like most young teams where winning isn’t an immediate priority, shouldn’t be concerned with positional fit at all.

  • Potential fits: Scottie Barnes, Jonathan Kuminga, Alperen Sengun
  • Draft picks owned: 5, 8, 33
  • Needs: Everything
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On the precipice of a full rebuild, the Magic aren’t in a position to be picky in terms of fit. They’ll be looking for the best players available at No. 5 and No. 8, and might even dabble in trade talks given their strong draft capital. Everything is on the table for a team looking to get a potential future All-Star at the top of the draft.

  • Potential fits: Scottie Barnes, Jonathan Kuminga, Alperen Sengun
  • Draft picks owned: 28, 50
  • Needs: Shooting, playmaking

The 76ers’ needs might change a bit if they end up trading Ben Simmons, but as of now shooting and playmaking are priorities around MVP finalist Joel Embiid. They should be able to get someone helpful with the 28th pick, and it will be interesting to see if they target an older prospect who may be more ready to contribute right away.

  • Potential fits: Cam Thomas, Ayo Dosunmu, Nah’Shon Hyland
  • Draft picks owned: 29
  • Needs: Backup center, bench guard

The Suns are coming off of a magical year, and adding a key piece with No. 29 could help them finish the job next season. With Dario Saric expected to miss a significant part of next season due to a torn ACL, the Suns could use a big body to help with offensive rebounding and defense when Deandre Ayton sits. Cameron Payne is a free agent, so the Suns could also be in need of a reserve guard depending on how the negotiations go.

  • Potential center fits: Kai Jones, Isaiah Jackson, Day’Ron Sharpe
  • Potential guard fits: Sharife Cooper, Nah’Shon Hyland, Tre Mann
  • Draft picks owned: None
  • Needs: Defense, wing depth

Another team whose needs could drastically change depending on whether they make a trade, the Blazers have no draft picks — which would almost certainly change if they move Damian Lillard before the draft. If Lillard stays and they end up trading into the draft, they’ll need to do everything they can to improve on the league’s second-worst defense.

  • Potential fits: Herbert Jones, JT Thor, Aaron Henry
  • Draft picks owned: 9, 39
  • Needs: Defense, wing depth

With Harrison Barnes now more of a four, the Kings are incredibly thin on rotation wings, which is part of the reason why they had the league’s worst defense last season. Ideally, they’d get a two-way wing at No. 9, but they also need to draft for upside regardless of fit given their current level of contention.

  • Potential fits: Moses Moody, Franz Wagner, Josh Giddey, Keon Johnson
  • Draft picks owned: 12, 41
  • Needs: Wing depth, power forward

The Spurs have a stockpile of young, talented guards, and they need to balance that with some help on the wing and at the four. There should be plenty of opportunities to do that at No. 12, and the Spurs have a history of developing talent that could give them the confidence to select a player who might need a little more seasoning than other teams would be willing to give him.

  • Potential fits: Josh Giddey, Ziaire Williams, Jalen Johnson
  • Draft picks owned: 4, 46, 47
  • Needs: Frontcourt depth, point guard

The Raptors have a lot of decisions to make this offseason, and it starts with the No. 4 pick next week. If they keep it, there is going to be a potentially franchise-changing talent available. They could use it to bolster their frontcourt, or they could draft a guard to perhaps replace Kyle Lowry, who is entering free agency. 

  • Potential fits: Scottie Barnes, Jalen Suggs, Alperen Sengun
  • Draft picks owned: 30
  • Needs: Wing depth, backup big

For a team as successful as the Jazz were last season, they had a deceptively thin rotation. Assuming they re-sign Mike Conley, the biggest areas of need will be on the wing and in the frontcourt, especially since they’re reportedly looking to free up cap space by moving Derrick Favors.

  • Potential fits: Isaiah Jackson, Josh Christopher, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl
  • Draft picks owned: 15
  • Needs: Wing depth, shooting, defense

If the Wizards are going to keep Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook, they’re going to need to surround them with shooting and defense. Washington should have some 3-and-D options at No. 15, some of which possess enough upside to potentially become stars down the road.

  • Potential fits: Franz Wagner, Trey Murphy III, Corey Kispert


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