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NBA Team Pre-Draft Needs - Pacific Division

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Our look at each NBA team's pre-draft needs hops over to the Western Conference and the Pacific Division, where only two teams out of five finished with more than 30 wins.  As with the Atlantic Division, some of the identified needs will be position-specific, while others will have more to do with a specific skill (defense, three-point shooting, etc.).

The draft remains the cheapest and smartest way to build a team, though (assuming the GM knows what he's doing), and the past few seasons have seen large numbers of rookies contributing immediately.  Some (including DraftExpress) have called this year's draft extremely strong, so that trend should continue.  When evaluating team needs, I'll look at who will/will not be under contract next season, as well as the team's recent draft history.  Any contract information I use comes from ShamSports.

Before I continue, though, I want to address something that was raised over e-mail.  I have been listing draft picks with the team associated with the draft slot, even if that player was drafted for another team or was immediately traded away (such as with Jeff Green and the Celtics).  One reason I did that was to help illuminate different teams' strategies and attitudes regarding draft picks.  To look at another example from yesterday, center Roy Hibbert was drafted by the Toronto Raptors in 2008, then dealt to the Indiana Pacers for Jermaine O'Neal (there were other parts involved in the trade, but you see what i'm getting at).

Hibbert, it seems to me, is pretty close to what Toronto needs now, a young big man who can block shots and some rebounding potential who would serve as an in-house option to replace Chris Bosh up front should Bosh leave via free agency.  Listing Hibbert as a Raptors draft pick is one way of indicating that the team made a "win now" move that failed to pay off in more ways than one (given that neither O'Neal nor the other player Toronto received in that trade, Nathan Jawai, are with the team now).

So with all that said, let's see what the Pacific Division teams should be looking for.

Sacramento Kings [picks: lottery (15.6% chance at #1), 33]

Players under contract for next season

PG: Beno Udrih/Tyreke Evans
SG: Evans/Francisco Garcia
SF: Omri Casspi/Andres Nocioni/Donte Greene/Dominic McGuire (Qualifying Offer)
PF: Carl Landry/Nocioni/Jon Brockman (Qualifying Offer)
C: Jason Thompson/Spencer Hawes/Brockman

Recent draft picks: PG Tyreke Evans (2009 1st round); F Omri Casspi (2009 1st round); F Jeff Pendergraph (2009 2nd round); F/C Jason Thompson (2008 2nd round); PG Sean Singletary (2008 2nd round); F Patrick Ewing Jr. (2008 2nd round); C Spencer Hawes (2007 1st round)

Calm down, people (oh, you are calm).  Evans is listed as a shooting guard up there because according to 82games, he played a larger percentage of his team's minutes there than at point guard.  This isn't meant to fuel the is he/isn't he really a point guard discussion, just a reflection of the fact that Sacramento's most effective lineup may include both Evans and Beno Udrih.  If one were to ask Kings fans what their biggest need was, the answer would overwhelmingly come back "center" (I know this because it actually happened).

That's true enough; according to Hoopdata, the Kings were fifth-worst in the league in opponent field goal percentage at the rim, letting teams make 64.3 percent of their shots inside (you may need to click on the column header to see it for yourself).    They also were sixth-worst in block rate, with just 4.6 blocks per 100 possessions.  However, I also look at that lineup and see a need for some backcourt depth.  The roster is very front-court heavy, and drafting a center to push everyone else down a position (Thompson at PF, Landry to SF, Casspi to the bench I guess) doesn't really fix that.  While the lottery is similarly weighted towards big men, there could be some decent backcourt options available when Sacramento drafts in the second round (someone like Dominique Jones might fit the bill).

Needs: Interior defense and shotblocking, backcourt reserves

Golden State Warriors [picks: lottery (10.4% chance at #1), 35]

Players under contract for next season

PG: Stephen Curry/Monta Ellis/C.J. Watson (Qualifying Offer)
SG: Ellis/Anthony Morrow (Qualifying Offer)
SF: Kelenna Azubuike/Reggie Williams
PF: Corey Maggette/Vladimir Radmanovic (Early Termination)/Anthony Tolliver (Qualifying Offer)/Anthony Randolph/Brandan Wright
C: Andris Biedrins/Ronny Turiaf/Chris Hunter (Qualifying Offer)

Recent draft picks: G Stephen Curry (2009 1st round); F Anthony Randolph (2008 1st round); F/C Richard Hendrix (2008 2nd round); G Marco Belinelli (2007 1st round); F Jermareo Davidson (2007 2nd round); F Stephane Lasme (2007 2nd round)

The Golden State D-Leaguers have several players who may or may not be extended qualifying offers (and I'm assuming the team's leaning towards "not" with most of them, but you never know), and that's probably okay.  Those defensive stats I cited for the Kings hold true here, except that Golden State was even worse.  But hey, at least they can defend the perimeter, right?  What's that, you say they were third-worst in the league in opponent three-point percentage?  I see.  So defense would be a need, then.  Coach Don Nelson also seems to be unhappy with center Andris Biedrins for a variety of reasons both real and imagined, so it probably would help to get someone in there who Nelson likes.  Of course, for all we know that could be, like, Damion James.

Needs: I'd say "defense," but who's kidding whom?; some kind of organizational philosophy and/or a new coach

Los Angeles Clippers [picks: lottery (2.3% chance at #1), 54]

Players under contract for next season

PG: Baron Davis/Bobby Brown (Qualifying Offer)
SG: Eric Gordon/Mardy Collins (Qualifying Offer)
SF: Ad Space Available
PF: Blake Griffin
C: Chris Kaman/DeAndre Jordan (Unguaranteed)

Recent draft picks: PF Blake Griffin (2009 1st round); SG Eric Gordon (2008 1st round); C DeAndre Jordan (2008 2nd round); F Al Thornton (2007 1st round); PG Jared Jordan (2007 2nd round)

The four players the Clippers have fully under contract for next season are actually pretty decent (assuming Baron Davis cares), the problem is that there are only four of them.  And even then, I don't think the Clippers should shy away from drafting a point guard or a center if one were to be the best player available.  Chris Kaman is an all-star caliber center, but his contract is up after the 2011/2012 season, and having an in-house option groomed and ready to go couldn't hurt.  Davis, for his part, has proven somewhat unreliable in a Clipper uniform.  The biggest problem as I see it looming over the Clippers' draft is that they're currently without a coach, and for all we know could remain so up until the draft, so recommending individual players doesn't make sense until we know what kind of system they're going to run.  The Clippers were the fourth-worse three-point shooting team last season at 33.6 percent, so someone to help stretch the floor and prevent defenses from collapsing on Griffin would work here.

Needs: Three-point shooting; pretty much anything except for PF and probably SG

Phoenix Suns [picks: 46, 60]

Players under contract for next season:

PG: Steve Nash/Goran Dragic
SG: Jason Richardson/Leandro Barbosa
SF: Grant Hill (Player Option)/Jared Dudley/Earl Clark/Taylor Griffin (Unguaranteed)
PF: The space where Amar'e Stoudemire used to be/Channing Frye (Player Option)/Clark
C: Robin Lopez/Frye/Dwayne Jones (Unguaranteed)

Recent draft picks: F Earl Clark (2009 1st round); F Taylor Griffin (2009 2nd round); F Emir Preldzic (2009 2nd round); C Robin Lopez (2008 1st round); Malik Hairston (2008 2nd round); G Rudy Fernandez (2007 1st round); F Alando Tucker (2007 2nd round); G D.J. Strawberry (2007 2nd round)

The Suns actually look pretty set to me, ignoring Stoudemire's situation for a minute, as a #3 playoff seed probably should.  Sure, players like Nash and Hill will be a year older when their bodies already are starting to break down a little bit (or in Hill's case, have built back up but probably could go at any moment again), but they also have some solid young talent in Dragic, Barbosa and Lopez, the latter of whom has been much better than I personally expected.  

Even assuming Stoudemire leaves the team (and I believe everyone - meaning the internet - is in agreement that he's one of the free agents most likely to switch teams), Nash's age means Phoenix won't really be committing to a re-tooling effort for a few seasons, so it's not like they're going to find Stoudemire's immediate replacement at the bottom of the second round.  For comedy's sake they could try and pick up Alade Aminu, but that's not under the purview of this draft series.  Both the RU and DraftExpress mock drafts have the Suns taking solid college players with each pick, and that's fine.  However, the Suns were dead last in the league in opponents' turnover rate, which partly probably has something to do with their defensive system, but it also wouldn't hurt to get a few people on the roster who can create turnovers.

Needs: Re-sign Dwayne Jones (how'd that get in there?); it's trite, and less true than it used to be, but I'll still say defense

Los Angeles Lakers [picks: 43, 58]

Players under contract for next season:

PG: Jordan Farmar (Qualifying Offer)/Jordan Farmar (Qualfying Offer)
SG: Kobe Bryant/Shannon Brown/ (Player Option)Sasha Vujacic
SF: Ron Artest/Luke Walton/Adam Morrison (Qualifying Offer)
PF: Pau Gasol/Lamar Odom
C: Andrew Bynum/Gasol

Recent draft picks: PG Toney Douglas (2009 1st round); PG Patrick Beverley (2009 2nd round); F/C Chinemelu Elonu (2009 2nd round); G Joe Crawford (2008 2nd round); Javaris Crittenton (2007 1st round); PG SUN YUE (2007 2nd round); C Marc Gasol (2007 2nd round)

Much like the Suns, the Lakers are probably drafting too late to get someone who can make an immediate, significant contribution.  The problem is that the Laker bench is probably weaker than Phoenix's.  (You can probably take the "probably" out of that sentence.  And that one.  The first one, not the second one.  Probably, not sentence.  Let's move on.)  Derek Fisher isn't listed above because his contract runs out when this season does, although I'm assuming the Lakers re-sign him.  That's fine, I guess.  He certainly knows the offense, although at this point I'm not sure who in the league he can guard.  

Given Fisher's...seniority and the current uncertainty over Farmar's situation, a point guard could work as long as there was one available who could come in and learn the Triangle fairly quickly.  As you can see from their list of recent draft picks, the Lakers have sort of been trying to address that position for a few years, sort of.  I might also look for a big man to play spot minutes if D.J. Mbenga and Josh Powell aren't to be re-signed.

Needs: Point guard and/or big man