For the past two seasons, the Atlanta Hawks have not been able to get past LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. As long as LeBron is in Cleveland, the Hawks have little chance to make a deep playoff run unless the roster is severely upgraded. The Hawks have two starters that are unrestricted free agents in Al Horford and Kent Bazemore. If one or both of them leave, they would obviously need a SG/SF and a big man in the draft. If they re-sign both players, then they would need to look into drafting somebody that can come off the bench and make an immediate impact, as production off the pine is a major issue for the Hawks.
The Boston Celtics had a great season, being the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, despite having no star player. Although, Isaiah Thomas was an All-Star, this was his first time doing so and has yet to prove he can do it on a yearly basis. After exceeding expectations all year, the Celtics were blessed with the third pick the NBA Draft, making their chances of becoming Eastern Conference contenders very strong. The biggest hole they need to fill is getting a big man, whether it’s a PF or C. They currently have several young and talented bigs, but not one of them was a consistent contributor for the entire season. If they choose not to go with a frontcourt player, they could take another route and draft wing to come off the bench, especially with Evan Turner being a free agent. The Celtics do not have the greatest bench and find themselves lacking talent-wise once their starters come off the floor.
The Brooklyn Nets had a rough season, battling through injuries and losing Joe Johnson midseason to the Miami Heat. The Nets actually have a pretty solid starting lineup. Their biggest need coming into the draft is at SG, ideally they can select one that can be inserted into the starting lineup right away. The Nets also need some players to produce off the bench for them, so they could draft a sixth man to help add punch to their rotation. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was hurt most of last season and will be huge for the Nets next season if he can stay healthy. The Nets have a lot of growing to do, but this draft could help fill some of those needs.
The Charlotte Hornets had their best season under the Michael Jordan era, going 48-32 and grabbing the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference standings, but they are going to have a busy offseason. Five of the Hornets’ best players are free agents, including four starters in Nicolas Batum, Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams, and Courtney Lee. Jeremy Lin was their best player off the bench and will also be a free agent this season. If the Hornets decide to re-sign all five players, then they need to draft a player to come off the bench and help deepen the rotation of the team. Depending on whom they re-sign, the Hornets have an open playing field of drafting at any position as needed.
The Chicago Bulls missed out on the playoffs this season for the first time since 2008 due to injuries to multiple players on the team. This season they have a big decision to make in what to do with free agents Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. All signs point to the Bulls not bringing Noah back to the team, but Gasol is a different story. Gasol was second on the team in minutes and points per game, and led them in Blocks and rebounds. With Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler in-and-out of the lineup with injuries, Gasol was their go-to guy and did not disappoint. I would be surprised if the Bulls let Gasol go, but if they did, they would need a big man immediately to replace him. If they re-sign Gasol, they would need to focus on their role players that come off the bench. Right now they have some nice young guys in Bobby Portis, Doug McDermott, Tony Snell, and Justin Holiday. With Aaron Brooks being a free agent, the Bulls need to draft a backup PG to Rose.
Of course the biggest concern for the Cleveland Cavaliers is the future of where LeBron James hangs his jersey. James is a free agent this year, but I doubt he will put the Cavs nation through heartbreak again by leaving to pursue more rings. Right? James will most likely stay with the Cavs, but if they don’t win a championship this season, he will expect some changes to be made in order to make him want to stay. J.R. Smith is also a free agent, but he had a good enough season this year to get re-signed by the Cavs. So most likely, the Cavs need a bench. They have no consistent impactful players that can come off the bench and produce on a nightly basis. Unfortunately for the Cavs, they have no draft picks this year, so they will have to make all their moves through free agency and trades, but as long as they keep James, they will always be contenders for a title.
The Detroit Pistons made it to the postseason for the first time since 2009 and have a really solid core led by Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. The Pistons have two picks this draft and need to add some players to help Stanley Johnson off the bench. The Pistons have a great young team and obtained Tobias Harris from the Magic midseason, so they did not have a full season to play together. They also had injuries to players (Jodie Meeks) who were expected to be key contributors and still made the playoff despite all of this. Next season, the Pistons will without a doubt be better than the last season, but they must use their draft picks wisely. The Pistons have all of their main players under contract, so they will not be losing anybody important.
The Indiana Pacers have both their big men, Jordan Hill and Ian Mahinmi, as free agents this offseason. Mahinmi will probably get a new deal with the Pacers after he had a solid season. If they decide to part ways with both, they would obviously need a big man to play along rookie standout Myles Turner. Ty Lawson is also a free agent and they will most likely not re-sign him. The Pacers have two picks (one in the first round and one in the second) and need to possibly go with a backup PG to George Hill. Either way, the Pacers need to use their picks to pick up a PG and a C.
The Miami Heat will have a busy offseason and have some tough decisions to make, as they have six key free agents. Those players are Joe Johnson, Luol Deng, Dwyane Wade, Hassan Whiteside, Tyler Johnson and Gerald Green. Wade and Whiteside are pretty much guaranteed to come back to Miami. The other four are up in the air, although they should probably sign all of them back with Chris Bosh’s playing future in jeopardy. The Heat finished third overall in the Eastern Conference despite having multiple players with injuries, including Bosh who missed most of the season. The Heat also will have Johnson for a full season if they choose to re-sign him. The Heat have no draft picks this year, so they should strongly consider re-signing their free agents.
The Milwaukee Bucks disappointed many when they did not make the playoffs this season, after having high expectations prior to the season starting. The Bucks finished 33-49 due mostly in part to injuries and head coach, Jason Kidd, having too much talent and not knowing what to do with it. The Bucks have a number of free agents this season, but none of those players have really produced on a consistent basis. The biggest name that stands out is O.J. Mayo. Mayo had a lot of hype coming into the league, but has yet prove he can be a consistent rotational player in this league. In addition to worrying about free agents, the Bucks have three draft picks, including the tenth overall. The Bucks need to use that pick to select a big man, especially with Miles Plumlee being a free agent. If the Bucks can get a solid big man that can play defense and rebound, they should easily make the postseason.
New York Knicks
Despite Phil Jackson and the Knicks picking up players like Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez, the emergence of Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks still sucked. The Knicks have no draft picks, which means they will probably suck again next season, unless their new head coach, Jeff Horacek, can work some magic. To make matters worse, their main role players in Derrick Williams, Sasha Vujacic, and Afflalo are all free agents. The Knicks need to make some pickups and trades during this offseason or they will find themselves out of the playoffs once again.
The Orlando Magic traded one of their best players in Tobias Harris midseason, which shocked fans and NBA pundits alike. The Magic have three draft picks, including the eleventh overall pick. They need to use to select a SG/SF combo player that can excel at both positions. Although the Magic have a solid starting lineup, they need some players off the bench to come in and produce. With three picks, the Magic have a chance to make their team much better than last season.
The Philadelphia 76ers have the pleasure of having the No. 1 overall pick, after having the second overall last season. The 76ers can’t mess this pick up with Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram being the obvious choices. In addition to that, Ish Smith, who was one of the best 7ers players this season, is a free agent. The 76ers should not even second guess this and re-sign him. Prior to Smith, the 76ers had one win on the season and that is not a typo. Although they only finished with 10 wins, that’s nine more then they had before Smith arrived. The 76ers also have two more first-round picks and could make this 76ers competitive again if they use the picks wisely. The 76ers have enough big men, so they should look to add talent to the roster at the guard and wing positions. With some good young players like Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington, and Joel Embiid the 76ers could be in the playoff race in the next three to five years.
The Toronto Raptors worst nightmare of breaking up their backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan may become a reality as DeRozan opted out of his contract, making him a free agent. The Raptors also have Bismack Biyombo and Luis Scola, who are free agents that they need to consider re-signing. Despite being the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference and making the Eastern Conference Finals, the Raptors have the ninth and 27th picks in the first round. Regardless of if the re-sign DeRozan, the Raptors need a SG and a big man to help push them to compete with Cleveland, if LeBron signs back of course. The Raptors had their best season in franchise history and it still was not good enough to win a championship. With two first-round picks, they may be able to make a run the NBA Finals.
The Washington Wizards finished the season 41-41, despite one of their best scorers, Bradley Beal, missing half of the season. Speaking of Beal, he is free agent and wants a max deal, although he has not played a full 82 games in his entire NBA career. Beal is worthy of a max deal, if he could actually remain healthy. The Wizards have no draft picks, due to them acquiring Markieff Morris from the Phoenix Suns. The Wizards have a great starting lineup, and just need to add some role players that can produce consistently off the bench. If Beal can stay healthy, the Wizards can be a top three team in the Eastern Conference.