Here's a look at the NBA teams that need the most out of this year's draft:
6. Detroit Pistons
In Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons have a promising man to build their future. But wise as their head coach and team president is, their circumstance is still thorny. Detroit already has a number of young pieces they’ll need to pay big money this summer or next, with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Reggie Jackson at the top of the list. They’ve also been a poor destination for quality free agents for the better part of this century, and have a glaring hole at the wing spot. If they find the right small forward in this draft, the Pistons will have every bit of the core they want for the coming years, with youth across the lineup, so long as they can secure what they’ve already got.
Best fits: Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson
5. Sacramento Kings
The Kings have the one major piece that most other stalled teams would kill for: A bonafide superstar, in the mercurial character of DeMarcus Cousins. A slew of poor decisions aside from drafting and re-signing the hyper-talented big man, however, has left Sacramento in a bad way. The team is saddled with culture problems after giving Cousins as many coaches as he’s had seasons—and even more point guards—plus a number of weighty salaries owed to middling players. The only way that an organization as dysfunctional and clueless as this one can find their way out of so deep a hole is by getting lucky with the ping pong balls.
Best fits: Emmanuel Mudiay, D’Angelo Russell
4. Charlotte Hornets
The schadenfreude parade has long waltzed all over Michael Jordan’s post-Chicago Bulls career. The Hornets’ owner has made a number of questionable draft selections, including high picks spent on Adam Morrison and Sean May. Jordan’s greatness on the court was so staggering that you just knew the audience would turn around and satirize him for any failures he had off of it. But the hard truth, more recently, is that Charlotte has simply had rotten luck in the draft. Missing out on Anthony Davis after a historically bad season especially stands out as an instance of the basketball Gods seeming not to favor M.J.’s franchise. Jordan and Co. have had a better record in free agency in recent years, but what they really need to turn things around is a superman.
Best fits: Mario Hezonja, Kristaps Porzingis
3. Los Angeles Lakers
Who ever thought it could get this bad for the Lakers? It would often seem that Kobe Bryant’s squad exists just as a reason for him to keep his celebrity alive, these days, and that the organization’s front office has all but given up on the now, and staked their claim in a post-Kobe future made up of fertile draft prospects and big-name pickups in free agency. The former part of that equation involves the further development of Jordan Clarkson, and a hopefully resilient recovery from Julius Randle, who had a season-ending injury early on in his rookie season. Things can always turn around quickly when you’re the most storied team in the sport, but more steps toward a brighter tomorrow must start occurring today.
Best fits: Karl-Anthony Towns, Justise Winslow
2. New York Knicks
Tire fire, rubbish yard, pity party… choose your bit of negative hyperbole. The Knicks have been a mockery of themselves for the past two seasons, and Phil Jackson has a lot of work to do in repairing their creaky state. New York City will always be a draw for certain free agents, because it’s New York City, but the Knicks haven’t actually been able to land any top birds for some time. Jackson may be able to change that (he was able to convince Carmelo Anthony to stay, after all) but what he does in the draft is arguably more important. The team’s new, aging president needs to prove he has the vision everyone talks so much about by seeing something special in someone.
Best fits: D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns
1. Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets weren’t even a bottom-five team last season, in terms of wins and losses. When measured with a longer view in mind, though, it’s not hard to say that they’re in a perhaps worse position than anyone. A mismatched roster full of questionable contracts and personalities plus no superstar-level talent, Denver is as unanchored as they come. A new head coach may be able to complete the incredibly complex equation that is shaping this crew into one that could fight for the final playoff spot in the staggering Western Conference, but that’s the absolute ceiling here. A team this lacking in direction needs a godsend to change course for the better.
Best fits: Willie Cauley-Stein, Justise Winslow
— John Wilmes