The 2019-20 NBA season is set to finally resume in late July, and the league has introduced a plan to start the 2020-21 season in December. While the league’s calendar looks much different this year, the NBA Draft will still be held on Oct. 15.
The NBA Draft always affects teams’ future success, but this year’s draft has higher stakes for some clubs. Whether they need an extra piece to launch them into title contention or some young players with the potential to become superstars, certain organizations simply cannot afford to pick the wrong prospects this year.
Here are five teams that can’t afford to strike out in this year’s draft.
5. Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers may seem like a strange pick for this list, but they need to capitalize on their opportunities in this year’s draft. Though their “trust the process” strategy that involved years of tanking eventually netted them franchise cornerstones in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, it hasn’t been enough to truly contend for a title. In fact, the franchise hasn’t even reached the Eastern Conference Finals since 2001.
The addition of Tobias Harris provided another All-Star level talent, and players like Josh Richardson and Al Horford added depth to the team’s rotation. Still, the 76ers need one or two more skilled players to push them over the edge. Namely, they need to draft some wings who can stretch the floor such as Saddiq Bey, Jordan Nwora, or Killian Tillie. If Philadelphia can improve its three-point shooting, they will be difficult to beat next season.
4. Orlando Magic
The Magic are currently holding down the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference and they’ll likely reach the postseason this year. However, they still don’t have the pieces to form a team built for success in the playoffs. At the moment, frontcourt players like Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic carry Orlando’s scoring load. Veteran shooting guard Evan Fournier has also been a volume scorer for the Magic for the past few years.
In order to climb the Eastern Conference standings, the Magic have to draft a point guard with potential. D.J. Augustin will probably retire soon, and Michael Carter-Williams‘s methodical pace and inside scoring don’t translate much. No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz improved in his third season, but his jump shot still needs a lot of work. Orlando should target floor generals with a shooting touch like Nico Mannion, Tyrese Haliburton, or Cole Anthony.
3. Washington Wizards
Though they’ve had top-20 draft picks in each of the past three years, the Wizards have not yet been able to crawl out of the Eastern Conference cellar. John Wall is set to return from his torn Achilles next season, and Bradley Beal has continued to play at an All-Star level in his absence. Rui Hachimura also showed promise in his rookie year, but the team is still facing the same problem: they need more talent on the wing.
Forwards Jerome Robinson and Troy Brown Jr. clearly need more time to develop, and it remains to be seen whether or not they’ll do so. In the meantime, the Wizards need to focus on drafting wings with potential such as Jaden McDaniels, Isaac Okoro, or John Petty.
2. New York Knicks
Just like the Wizards, the Knicks have remained out of playoff contention in part because of their inability to capitalize on draft picks. Their Frank Ntilikina gamble has failed spectacularly, and Kevin Knox II experienced a painful sophomore slump this season. New York needs to divert its focus away from aging free agents with problematic contracts and toward this year’s draft.
The Knicks already have a logjam in their backcourt and talented young big men in Mitchell Robinson, Bobby Portis, and Julius Randle. RJ Barrett also quietly had a stellar rookie season this year. To fill out the rest of their rotation and essentially fill the role Knox was supposed to play, New York needs to aim for polished three-and-D players like Devin Vassell, Bey, or Nwora.
1. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons’ trade in which they gave away franchise centerpiece Andre Drummond was beyond confusing, but they’ll have an opportunity to begin to rectify that move in October. Detroit has Blake Griffin for two more seasons, and his presence alone will keep them competitive. The newly-resurgent Derrick Rose will also be returning to lead the team next season.
Young forwards Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Sekou Doumbouya need time to develop, but the former has already shown signs of improvement. In this year’s draft, Detroit should look to select a replacement for Drummond. They need to aim for young big men with the size to protect the paint and rebound at a high rate like James Wiseman, Jalen Smith, or Vernon Carey.