Part 1: Western Conference
It is always fun to put on your GM hat and predict what teams will do on draft night and beyond. Will they look to trade valuable pieces of their core to move up in the draft? Will they look to acquire a veteran presence to get their team to the next level?
There are endless options for each team to explore. It all depends on the Front Office and the vision they have for the future of their franchise. Some teams are in a ‘Rebuild’ phase where they are looking to completely overhaul the team and start fresh.
Others are in a ‘Re-tool’ phase where they believe they are 1 or 2 pieces away from Championship contention and are simply looking to fill those voids.
Then there is everyone in between… Not sure if they will re-tool for the upcoming season, or completely blow it up and start anew.
In this article, I will predict what each Western Conference Team will look to do come Draft Night on November 18th.
- Dallas Mavericks
The Mavericks have had some buzz surrounding them since they were knocked out of the playoffs this past season. This is a team that is right on the cusp of contention in the tough Western Conference. The big thing for the Mavericks is their health. If they can stay healthy for an entire season and into the playoffs, they will be contenders. We saw that play out this year. They made their bid to compete in the Western Conference Finals without Kristaps Porzingis and a hobbled Luke Doncic.
The Mavericks have shown interest in acquiring Zach Lavine, Spencer Dinwiddie or Victor Oladipo to pair with Luke and Kristaps. A move for either of these players would likely cost them their #18 pick in the first round. However, if the opportunity presents itself to acquire one of these young stars, I think they would pounce on it.
Look for the Mavericks to be major players in free agency as well. They have been tied to numerous free agents who could help take the offensive load off Doncic and Porzingis. Names like Serge Ibaka or Paul Millsap come to mind. These are veteran players who will be able to groom this young Mavericks roster into bonified winners.
- Denver Nuggets
Fresh off their unexpected run to the Western Conference Finals, the Denver Nuggets find themselves in a great position moving forward. They have two superstar players in Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, both of which played unbelievably well throughout the Bubble in Orlando.
However, they may lose multiple pieces that helped them get to where they were last season. It looks as if they will lose the services of Paul Millsap and Jeremy Grant to free agency. Two players who played major roles in the Nuggets deep playoff run.
The Nuggets have always been able to find their ‘Diamond in the rough’ on draft night and that is what I anticipate again this season. I believe the Nuggets will hold firm with their pick at #22 and take a player they believe can step in and contribute right away to fill the void of their casualties to the free agent market.
- Golden State Warriors
It is widely known across the NBA that the Warriors are more than willing to trade the #2 pick in this draft. This team was ravaged with injuries last season and they looked like polar opposites compared to the Warriors of 2018–19. Losing Kevin Durant to free agency combined with Injuries to key players like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson landed them the #2 overall pick in a widely underwhelming draft class.
I do believe that the Warriors will find a trade partner for their #2 pick. The only question is… ‘Who pulls the trigger to trade with them’ Rumors suggest the Knicks, Bulls and Pistons could look to relieve the Warriors of the #2 selection.
Although this draft is comparably ‘weaker’ than drafts of years past, the #2 overall pick still holds weight. The Warriors are in a great spot and will trade away this pick come draft night. It should net them a player in return that will contribute to their immediate future success. It will be interesting to see which team takes the bait to move up to #2 and how much they are forced to give up.
- Houston Rockets
Where to begin with the Houston Rockets… Recent reports are suggesting that the Rockets have had issues stemming from their star players all the way to their coaching staff. The Rockets should be very active on draft night.
Russell Westbrook has just requested a trade and James Harden could be on his way out as well… It is looking like a full on rebuild situation for Houston and draft night 2020 is the first step in that direction.
I believe both Westbrook and Harden will be moved on draft night or shortly thereafter and we will see an entirely revamped Rockets team taking the floor in the 2020–21 NBA Season.
- Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers find themselves in a tough situation. They underperformed in the playoffs this past season with their two-headed monster of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Once they were eliminated, the rumors started to swirl. Chemistry issues began bubbling to the surface.
I expect to see the Clippers very active on draft night. I would not be shocked if Paul George is on the move. What they will receive in return is up in the air. He is still highly regarded as a top talent in the NBA even with his crunch time struggles.
The Clippers do not hold a first-round pick so I would anticipate the goal of a Paul George Trade would be to land a spot in the top 15 picks of this draft. Somebody will take the bait.
- Los Angeles Lakers
The reigning NBA Champion LA Lakers hold the 28th pick in this draft. With LeBron James as the Head Coach, GM, Owner and Star player I find it hard to predict what they will do…
With two superstars like LeBron and Anthony Davis, it does not really matter what they do. They will make a deep playoff run with those two players alone.
If I had to predict, I would say they hold firm with the 28th pick and select the best available fit. Plenty of talent will remain late in the first round. Look for them to take a flyer on players like Tre Jones, Jaden McDaniels or Theo Maledon if they are left on the board at 28.
- Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies go into this draft without a 1st round selection… However, they have numerous young players to build around. Most notably, Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
Not owning a 1st round pick does handicap them a bit. Their first pick in this draft will not come until the middle of the 2nd round. I don’t anticipate the Grizzlies making much noise on draft night as they have solid group to build around and really no need to make any drastic changes.
The Grizzlies will hold firm with their pick and select the best available… Who knows, they could land the steal of the draft with guys like Cassius Stanley, Nico Mannion, or Killian Tillie projected to go off the board right around that Grizzlies pick.
- Minnesota Timberwolves
Holding the #1 overall pick in this draft, the Timberwolves are in a powerful position. They could go several different directions. While it has been reported that they are open to trading out of the #1 pick, I do not think it happens.
Now, the question begs itself ‘Who do they select with the #1 overall pick’
While the options seem to come down to one of three players: LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman or Anthony Edwards. I believe the Timberwolves make the correct move and select LaMelo Ball with the #1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft. I would be shocked if they trade out of the #1 selection.
- New Orleans Pelicans
After landing the top prize of last years draft, the Pelicans will look to bolster this young roster with veterans. Therefore, I think the Pelicans will trade their #13 overall pick in hopes of acquiring a talented veteran that can take the young players on this roster under their wing.
This roster lacked the veteran leadership needed to excel last season. It was evident in the Bubble where the Pelicans lost numerous close games. Games they may have won with the help of veteran leadership.
The #13 pick and Derrick Favors or Jrue Holiday should be plenty of value to entice a team to part ways with a valuable veteran. Keep your eye on the Pelicans on draft night. They could be major buyers.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves in a great position. They look to be on the path of cashing in on Chris Paul who they acquired before this past season. They will hand the keys to the offense to Shai Gilgeous- Alexander, the young point guard that improved under the tutelage of Chris Paul.
Currently holding the #25 pick, I expect them to package that in the deal to send Chris Paul to Phoenix. This would land them the #10 pick where their options are vastly improved. If this scenario does come to fruition, I would expect the Thunder to look at a big man in this draft. With a top 10 pick, their options will boil down to the best available big. They will be looking at guys like Precious Achiuwa from Memphis or Jalen Smith out of Maryland.
- Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns were the underdog story of the NBA Bubble. They went undefeated in their 8 games but still missed the opportunity to compete in the playoffs. With recent buzz surrounding the Suns and Chris Paul gaining momentum, I will lean into that.
I expect a deal to be made on or before draft night that lands Chris Paul in Phoenix. This would make for a dominant ‘Big Three’ of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and CP3.
Look for the Suns to part ways with their #10 overall pick in the Chris Paul deal. They will look to add a young project piece from this draft by trading into the 2nd round.
- Portland Trailblazers
Portland holds a pick just outside of the Lottery. At pick #16, they could land a sleeper in this draft. Whether that is R.J. Hampton, Saddiq Bey or Tyler Bey (Unrelated).
The Blazers have their core players set in stone with Dame Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic. If I were the Blazers, I would sit back and be content with the #16 selection. They could easily find a piece that can contribute immediately.
I would expect them to look for a Small or Power Forward that will have every opportunity to get minutes during their rookie season.
- Sacramento Kings
The Kings find themselves in a familiar position this year. Another lottery selection. Albeit, this year they are at the back end of the top 14 picks, currently holding pick #12. They seem to have their young guards of the future in De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic and will look to build the team around them.
Sacramento does have a few assets they could look to part ways with. The first one that comes to mind is their sharp-shooter, Buddy Hield. He has been at the center of trade talks dating back to last years deadline.
Expect the Kings to explore a trade up scenario to secure one of the top big men in this draft. Whether that is Onyeka Okongwu out of USC or Obi Toppin out of Dayton to place alongside Marvin Bagley. I expect to hear the Kings name mentioned in trade rumors leading up to and during the 2020 NBA Draft.
- San Antonio Spurs
A perennial contender for the last 20 years, it looks like the Spurs are finally coming back down to earth. The options for this team are wide open. It is looking like they will part ways with Demar Derozan. Their star acquisition from the Kawhi Leonard trade.
While Derozan should net the Spurs a quality asset or two in return, his value is diminished. Look for the Spurs to make a draft night deal that includes Derozan. They would presumably look to move up to a higher selection in hopes of drafting a gem to jumpstart a rebuild.
The Spurs have always drafted well and have shown to be successful in developing their young talent. They hold their highest pick in recent history at #11. I expect them to move up in the 1st round of this draft if they find the right deal for Derozan. In addition, look for them to try and acquire a second pick in the 2nd round.
- Utah Jazz
Utah made plenty of storylines when the NBA shut down in March. There seemed to be a fallout between their young, star athletes when Rudy Gobert’s negligence led to Donovan Mitchell contracting Covid-19. Speculation began to arise. Will they part ways with Rudy or Donovan?
While it does seem like the issue has been resolved, I still believe Rudy Gobert will be traded on draft night. To whom and for what is still unclear. However, any team hoping to contend will jump on the chance to land an All- NBA defender for less than market value due to the strained relationship.