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Every lottery team will enter the 2019 NBA draft with needs.
Some teams may not use their pick to address the specific holes on their roster. But it’s worth thinking about how certain prospects can help improve weak areas for teams.
For a few tanking franchises, their only need is talent. Others have talent, just not the right supporting cast to elevate the featured core.
Based on standings as of Tuesday, Feb. 12, we pinpointed each projected lottery team’s biggest need and which prospects they may target.
The Dallas Mavericks owe their top-five-protected first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks and therefore aren’t included.
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Biggest need: Talent
The New York Knicks have a ton of flexibility, but no certainty—not with free agency or even the team’s most valued players. As exciting as Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr. and Mitchell Robinson have looked at times, the Knicks can’t say for sure whether they have a single star prospect on their roster.
New York needs to draft the best player available without thinking about how he’ll fit next to Smith or Kevin Durant, a presumed free-agent target over the summer.
Zion Williamson would give them a player to build around as well as a versatile piece who’ll be able to fit with whoever they add in July.
If the Knicks don’t win the lottery, they’ll likely look to Duke’s RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish as well as Murray State’s Ja Morant, Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver and Indiana’s Romeo Langford as possible plan Bs.
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Biggest need: Two-way play
On paper, the Phoenix Suns’ biggest need is at point guard. If they don’t win the Zion Williamson jackpot, they’ll feel pressure to fill that hole by selecting Ja Morant, who’s averaging 23.9 points and 10.1 assists.
The potential issue with adding Morant stems from his defensive fit in a lineup that already features weak defensive links. The Suns rank 29th in defensive efficiency, and Morant, who’s 175 pounds, easy to screen and occasionally lackadaisical, won’t help keep opposing guards from penetrating.
Can the Suns flourish with their top three players—Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Morant—each possessing average defensive ceilings? Will Phoenix improve enough offensively to offset its defensive limitations?
Williamson would be ideal for his fit at the 4 and two-way play. Otherwise, whether it’s Morant, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Romeo Langford, Jarrett Culver, Nassir Little or Keldon Johnson, the Suns should feel confident in their pick’s ability to become a plus defender.
Reddish, Culver and Langford are the most attractive defenders of that group, though depending on where Phoenix ends up in the lottery, it may look to trade down. Given the perceived talent gap between Williamson and everyone else in the draft, the Suns might also consider trading their pick for a veteran who would provide stability right away.
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Biggest need: Talent
The Cleveland Cavaliers won’t be thinking about needs entering the draft. They’ll evaluate each prospect in a vacuum and take their highest-rated one, regardless of whether he plays the same position as Kevin Love or Collin Sexton.
Landing the No. 1 pick would help expedite the rebuild, but the Cavaliers should be preparing for a long road back to relevance regardless. Cleveland will enter asset-stockpiling mode for the next few years until they have a clearer picture of their roster.
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Biggest need: Playmaking/passing
The Chicago Bulls have weapons: Zach LaVine is averaging 23.1 points, Lauri Markkanen is coming on hot as of late, Otto Porter Jr. is now scoring from the wing and Wendell Carter Jr. is their promising center prospect. However, the Bulls still rank last leaguewide in offensive efficiency.
Though Kris Dunn has shown promising flashes during his time in Chicago, the Bulls either need a new lead guard or more playmakers in the rotation. They rank 27th in assists, last (tied) in secondary assists, 28th in potential assists and 27th in assist points created.
Morant, the nation’s leader in assists, will be an enticing target for his ability to create scoring chances and set the table.
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Biggest need: Defense
The Atlanta Hawks have put together a promising young core of Trae Young, John Collins and Kevin Huerter. They’ll want to fill holes during the draft with defensive-minded players.
Atlanta ranks 28th in defensive efficiency, allowing opponents to shoot 65.8 percent at the rim and score the third-most points (tied) leaguewide on second-chance opportunities. Opponents are also shooting a league-high 44.4 percent against Atlanta in the mid-range and 36.5 percent (seventh-highest) beyond 24 feet.
Atlanta could use a perimeter defender next to Young and a rim protector alongside Collins.
Based on early projections, the Hawks may want to target a wing defender with their first selection (Reddish, Culver, Langford) and Texas’ Jaxson Hayes or Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke with the top-five-protected pick they may receive from the Dallas Mavericks.
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Biggest need: Wing scoring/shot-making
Even with Marc Gasol, the Memphis Grizzlies were still missing a high-level scorer and shot-maker. With Gasol now gone, the team ranks 29th in offensive efficiency and 30th in three-pointers made per game.
Unless Memphis wins the lottery and takes Williamson, the roster will be built around Jaren Jackson Jr. moving forward. But the Grizzlies still need another key franchise cornerstone, preferably one who can create his own shot and snipe from distance.
Assuming they can’t land Williamson, the Grizzlies will presumably be all over Barrett, who’s averaging 23.1 points as a freshman at Duke.
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Biggest need: Frontcourt talent
John Wall‘s Achilles injury will set the Washington Wizards back years. But as long as they continue to build around Bradley Beal, finding him frontcourt help should remain a priority.
If the best player available to the Wizards is a wing, that would work as well. But they’d ideally find a cornerstone forward or center they can build with.
Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter stands out as a logical target for his shooting potential (45.1 percent from three) and ability to defend 3s and 4s.
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Biggest need: Guard/wing play
Though DJ Augustin has been serviceable, he isn’t a realistic ball-handler to build around over the next few years. And at this stage, there is too much uncertainty surrounding Markelle Fultz to rely on him.
If Fultz isn’t the answer, the Magic would benefit greatly from finding their point guard of the future.
Morant would be an obvious target, particularly since Orlando ranks 28th in points off drives per game. He’d give them an explosive, attacking guard to put more pressure on defenses. Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland, who’s recovering from a torn meniscus, should also receive strong consideration for his scoring and shooting.
The Magic may also consider other guards even if they aren’t lead playmakers. Morant and Garland jump out as bigger needs due to their experience running offenses, but if Barrett or Reddish were available, Orlando shouldn’t overlook them. Evan Fournier’s ceiling is limited, and the Magic could lack talent at both wing spots with Terrence Ross entering free agency.
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Biggest need: Talent
Unless the New Orleans Pelicans have a deal in place for Anthony Davis, they’ll have to approach the draft as if their roster is empty. Jrue Holiday will still be there, but he’s versatile enough to play off whoever New Orleans selects or acquires via trade.
If the Pelicans wind up making a predraft deal with the Los Angeles Lakers that includes Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma, they’ll likely need big-man depth and interior defense.
Hayes and Clarke make sense as shot-blocking rim runners. But depending on how far the Pelicans fall down the standings and how high their pick is, there may be higher-upside prospects worth coveting.
If they land in the top five, the Pelicans should select the most talented prospect available rather than one who fits a roster that may or may not be in place by draft night.
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Lynne Sladky/Associated Press
Biggest need: Guard play
Goran Dragic’s knee injury has forced the Miami Heat to convert Justise Winslow into a point guard. As a result, they’d ideally draft a scorer or playmaker who can relieve pressure in the backcourt.
Dragic turns 33 in May and the Heat are stuck in quicksand, which suggests a mini-rebuild may be necessary.
Even with Winslow showing growth as a facilitator, he and Dion Waiters aren’t a realistic pairing to lead Miami’s offense, which ranks 25th leaguewide.
Morant and Garland could be trade-up targets for Miami, but Culver, Langford, Virginia Tech’s Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson will deserve consideration later in the lottery.
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Biggest need: Depth
The Minnesota Timberwolves don’t have one particular need to address in the draft. They’ll just want to find a player who they can rely on for efficient offense and serviceable defense, even if his ceiling falls short of a high-end starter.
Regardless of who they draft in the late lottery, Minnesota’s offense will continue to feature Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. The Wolves should look to strengthen their second unit, particularly both wing positions and center, as their bench ranks 22nd in scoring and 29th in shot-blocking.
It may even be worth looking at Tyus Jones’ brother, Tre, who’d add needed passing and defense to the rotation. Hayes and Hunter could be defensive targets as well, particularly with Taj Gibson entering free agency.
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Biggest need: Shooting
Regardless of whether the Los Angeles Lakers trade most of their rotation for Anthony Davis, they’ll still need more shooting. As of now, they rank last in the NBA in catch-and-shoot percentage (33.7 percent) and 26th in three-point percentage (33.9 percent).
Trading for Reggie Bullock at the deadline was a sign the front office acknowledges the team’s big need.
Since the Lakers likely won’t find any All-Star-caliber scorers late in the lottery, they should covet prospects with skill sets made to support LeBron James and whoever else they keep around beyond this season.
A 41.3 percent three-point marksman who ranks in the 88th percentile out of spot-up situations, Alexander-Walker went to L.A. in Bleacher Report’s latest mock draft.
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Biggest need: Talent
Trading Tobias Harris signified the Los Angeles Clippers’ desire to create cap space, add picks and prepare for free agency, even if it meant throwing away the rest of the season.
The Clippers’ roster could look far different after July, which should take needs out of the equation during the draft. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari are both versatile enough to shift positions if needed.
The Clippers will only be targeting talent, whether it’s at guard, forward or center.