Tuesday, June 24, 2014

2014 NBA Draft Preview: Western Conference

All credit goes to guest writer, Nick Schwalbach. Follow him at @Lookin4Strage and visit his site Brew City Breakdown for more.

Click here for the 2014 Eastern Conference Draft Preview

Utah Jazz (25-57) SF, PF, 3 Pt Shooting (5, 23, 35)
The Jazz have a roster filled with good young pieces, but therein lies the problem, they don't have any players on their roster who should be the #1 option on a playoff team.  The Jazz also seem rather unsure about the futures of both C Enes Kanter and PG Trey Burke, both of whom have shown flashes of being above average starters but have been far too inconsistent thus far.  Going into the lottery, the Jazz would have loved to land a top 3 pick to draft SF Jabari Parker who is a Mormon.  Unfortunately for them they fell to #5 and will likely end up choosing either PG Dante Exum or PF Noah Vonleh, whichever the Magic pass on at pick #4.  With their 2nd selection, #23 overall, the Jazz will likely look to draft a wing shooter/scorer like SF TJ Warren or SG PJ Hairston.  With their 3rd and final selection in the 2014 draft, I look for the Jazz to draft either a PG or C that they can either stash over in Europe or in the NBDL for a few years to futher develop.

Los Angeles Lakers (27-55)- PG, SF, C (7)
The Lakers, like seemingly every other NBA team, are in on the Kevin Love sweepstakes.  Unfortunately for them, they don't seem to have the firepower (other than pick #7) to pull off such a deal and may be better off just waiting for him to become a FA following the 2014-15 season.  What the Lakers do have going for them is the return of SG Kobe Bryant and the #7 overall pick in this year's draft.  With the 7th pick in the draft could go in many directions.  They could trade down a few spots to draft a young SF like Kentucky's James Young or Duke's Rodney Hood to play alongside Kobe Bryant.  They could look to draft a PF like Kentucky's Julius Randle or Arizona's Aaron Gordon that they can play alongside Paul Gasol.  But what i ultimately think they decide to do, is to draft OK St PG Marcus Smart.  Kobe Bryant would seem to be the perfect mentor to the aggressive but sometimes ill tempered Smart.

Sacramento Kings (28-54)- SF, PF, 3 Pt Shooting (8)       
The Kings have 1 pick in the 2014 draft and a rather important one at that.  Sacramento seems to be running the risk of wasting C Demarcus Cousins prime years if they dont start hitting on some of their top picks.  That being said, the jury is still out on 2013 1st Rdr Ben Mclemore, whom I still think has All Star potential.  With their lone pick in 2014, #8 overall I think the Kings need to address 1 of 2 things: Wing Shooting or Low Post Scoring.  Some names to keep an eye on for the Kings are Creighton SF Doug McDermott, Kentucky PF Julius Randle, and Arizona PF Aaron Gordon.

New Orleans Pelicans (34-48)- 3 Pt Shooting, SF (N/A)
The Pelicans lost their 1st Rd pick, #10 overall, to the 76ers in the trade that landed them PG Jrue Holiday.  Unless they can somehow unload the contract of either SG Eric Gordon or SF Tyreke Evans, the Pelicans will likely not be making any picks in this year's draft.

Denver Nuggets (36-46) SG, PF, C (11, 41, 56)
Heading into the 2014 draft, the Nuggets find themselves in a rather precarious situation.  They have a talented roster but not one that really fits 2nd Yr HC Brian Shaw's triangle offense. (Looking at you Kenneth Faried) The Nuggetts seem to be set at the PG and SF positions, but they don't have a player at the other 3 positions that make you say "We don't need to upgrade there."  The Nuggets hold the #11 overall pick in the first round but may look to trade PF Kenneth Faried on draft night to a pick up another mid 1st rd pick. Regardless of what the Nuggets do with Faried, i'd look for them to target a big man who can spread the floor with pick #11.  Michigan St PF Adreian Payne would seem to be the perfect fit for them at #11.  With their 2 2nd Rd picks, the Nuggets will be sure to target a 3 and D wing like NBDL star SF Thanasis Antetokounmpo and backup big that they can stash in the NBDL or Overseas for a few years.  UWGB C Alec Brown would be a solid get with at #56.

Minnesota Timberwolves (40-42)- SG, SF, 3 Pt Shooting (13, 40, 44, 53)
Everything the Timberwolves do this offseason revolves around one player: PF Kevin Love.  If/when they decide to trade him, the T'Wolves will likely add to their 4 picks that they already have in the 2014 draft.  (Note: The rest of this particular preview assumes Minnesota has traded Love)  Minnesota now has a glaring hole at the PF position and an identity crisis.  Do they build around enigmatic but talented PG Ricky Rubio, or do they blow the whole roster up and start over?  Minnesota will likely choose to build around Rubio, C NIkola Pekovic, and the pieces that they acquire from trading Love.  In that case the T'Wolves should look to add a SG who can shoot the 3 ball to offset Rubio's lack of an outside game.  A quality fit at #13 would be either Kentucky SG James Young or Duke SF Rodney Hood.  With their 3 2nd Rd picks, #'s 40, 44, and 53 overall, I'd look for the T'Wovles to add high upside players in hopes that 1 of the 3 becomes a quality starter in the NBA.  A few players who would fit that particular mold are Int'l SG Bogdan Bogdanovic, Syracuse PF Jerami Grant, and Int'l PF Clint Capela.

Phoenix Suns (48-34)- SF, PF (14, 18, 27, 50)
Coming into the 2013-2014 season, most NBA pundits had the Suns pegged as one of the worst teams in the NBA and a front runner in the Wiggins/Embiid/Parker sweepstakes.  But, career years from PG Goran Dragic, PG Eric Bledsoe, and SG Gerald Green pushed the Suns to 48 wins and a win shy of the 8 seed in the playoffs.  Going forward the Suns have a roster full of young/high upside players at nearly every position.  That isn't to say that the Suns roster is set going forward. Despite Gerald Green's career year at the 2, Phoenix's roster is devoid of a true Wing scorer.  There are a few options at picks #s 14 and 18 who could fill that role for the Suns going forward: Kentucky SF James Young, Duke SF Rodney Hood, NC St SF TJ Warren.  The Suns roster also lacks any sort of post presence on defense. A player like Int'l PF/C Clint Capela would seem to be a perfect fit for the Suns at pick #27.  

Dallas Mavericks (49-33)- SF, C (34, 51)
The Mavs were supposed to take a step back in 2014, but the addition of SG Monta Ellis proved to be much more substantial that anyone expected.  Ellis had his most efficient scoring season in nearly 5 years and took some of the scoring load away from the aging shoulders of future HOF PF Dirk Nowitzski. But it was not all good news in Dallas last season as they would ultimately fall in 6 games to the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs, primarily due to a lack of front court depth and wing shooting.  Heading into the 2014 draft, the Mavs have just 2 2nd Rd picks, #'s 34 and 51 overall, and would do well to add a big body or 2 to bang in the paint against the likes of Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard.  Some players that the Mavs could be targeting include Michigan C Mitch McGary, Int'l PF Clint Capela, and Missouri SG Jabari Bird.

Memphis Grizzlies (50-32)- SG, SF, 3 Pt Shooting (22)
The Grizzlies have an aging roster that relies on it's team defense.  Outside of post scoring from bigs Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies lack the necessary scoring punch to get them over the hump come playoff time.  Heading into this year's draft the Grizzlies should focus on adding a SF who can score the basketball and preferably one who can stroke it from deep.  With their 1st round pick, #22 overall, the Grizzlies should keep an eye on NC St. SF TJ Warren, Michigan SF Glenn Robinson III, and Washington SG CJ Wilcox.

Golden State Warriors (51-31)- Post Defense (N/A)
The Warriors traded their 2014 draft picks to the Utah Jazz in a salary dump that helped them clear cap space to sign SF Andre Iguodala.  They likely won't be making any picks in this year's draft and won't be making any significant offseason moves unless they are able to swing a deal for Minnesota Timberwolves PF Kevin Love.

Portland Trail Blazers (54-28)- C (N/A)
The Blazers traded their 2014 draft picks in a deal that brought SF Gerald Wallace (now a member of the Boston Celtics) over from the Charlotte Hornets.  The Blazers don't have any young and cheap players that would net them anything more than a 2nd rd pick.  Don't expect Portland to be making any selections in the 2014 draft.

Houston Rockets (54-28)- PG, PF (25, 42)
When things are going right for the Rockets, they are an offensive juggernaut.  But no matter how well things are going for the Rockets, they likely still aren't playing any defense.  They are particularly bad when the backcourt features PG Jeremy Lin and SG James Harden, who is arguably the worst defender in all of the NBA.  C Dwight Howard is still holding down the paint, but even he can't make up for the ole defense played by the Rockets perimeter players.  That's why with their 1st Rd pick, #25 overall, i look for the Rockets to do 1 of 2 things, draft a defensive minded PG like Missouri's Jordan Clarkson or draft a defensive minded wing like Wichita St. SF Cleanthony Early or Clemson SF KJ McDaniels.  With their 2nd Rd pick I look for the Rockets to draft a Stretch 4 to help spread the floor for Dwight Howard.  Stanford's Dwight Powell and Baylor's Isaiah Austin would be a good fits there.  (Of course this is all moot if the Rockets are able to make a deal for Kevin Love or Carmelo Anthony)

Los Angeles Clippers (57-25)- SF, Backup PG, C (28)
The Clippers are the quiet darkhorse in the potential Lebron James sweepstakes this offseason.  To land Lebron, the Clippers would have to trade both C Deandre Jordan and SG Jamal Crawford and would likely have to trade their 1st Rd pick, #28 overall, in a salary dump of SF Jared Dudley.  But in the likely event that Lebron either accepts his player option or signs elsewhere, the Clippers will look to address one of the few weaknesses on their roster.  Those weaknesses being a lack of a backup PG and C (after expected FA losses) and the lack of a true 3 and D SF.  Players to keep an eye on who would fit those needs respectively: Uconn PG Shabazz Napier, Int'l C Jusuf Nurkic, and Michigan SF Glenn Robinson III.

Oklahoma City Thunder (59-23)- SG, PF (21, 29)
The Thunder came up short yet again, as they fell in six games to the Spurs in the Western Conference finals.  That being said, there are plenty of things for the Thunder to be excited about going forward.  The continued development of Kevin Durant (2013-14 league MVP), Russell Westbrook remaining healthy throughout the playoffs, and the emergence of big man Steven Adams, allowing for the Thunder to finally get rid of C Kendrick Perkins.  Heading into the 2014 NBA draft, the Thunder have very few weaknesses to address.  Those weaknesses being lack of front court depth and wing defense, particularly with SG Thabo Sefolosha being a FA this offseason.  A couple of names to keep an eye on for their 2 1st rd picks in this year's draft, #'s 21 and 29 overall, are Clemson SF KJ McDaniels, Michigan C Mitch McGary, and Michigan SF Glenn Robinson III.

San Antonio Spurs (62-20)- SG, C (30, 58, 60)
Fresh off an NBA Championship, the Spurs don't really have any glaring weaknesses on their roster.  Well, that is of course unless 1 (or 2 or 3) of the Spurs Big 4 chooses to retire this offseason.  But, while not delving more into that hypothetical, the Spurs are sitting pretty heading into the 2014 Draft.  They could use a PG to backup Tony Parker with Patty Mills likely leaving as a FA.  They could also use another big to backup Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter.  But all that being said, don't expect the Spurs to draft purely based on need.  Also, a Spurs draft wouldn't be complete without drafting a Euro playing that they can stash overseas for a few years.  All in all, with their 1st Rd pick, #30 overall, the Spurs will likely target one of Michigan C Mitch McGary, Wichita St. SF Cleanthony Early, or Clemson SF KJ McDaniels.  With their 2 2nd Rd picks, I fully expect the Spurs to draft a stretch 4 like Baylor PF Isaiah Austin and a player that they can stash overseas for further seasoning.

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