After the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA championship, that doesn’t mean the NBA calendar stops. The calendar goes on with free agency starting August 2nd but first the NBA draft happens July 29th. The draft is typically where teams are built that is especially the case with small market teams. In this draft there is certainly some difference makers at the top which is not the case every year.
#1 Detroit Pistons- The Pistons hold the number one overall pick following a 20-52 season this year. While they need some help and especially some stars to gain more fan attention, they have a couple nice pieces as well. Detroit signed forward Jerami Grant last summer from the Denver Nuggets in what now looks like a team friendly 3 year 60-million-dollar contract. In his first season with Detroit Grant averaged a career high 22.3 points per game and shot 35% from three on 6.1 attempts per game. Forward Saddiq Bey was a pleasant surprise for the pistons this year as well. After being acquired in a draft day trade from the Nets, Bey started 53 games as a rookie averaging over 12 points per game 4.5 rebounds per game. Bey landed on the All Rookie first team and finished fourth in rookie of the year.
If Detroit can add presumed #1 pick Cade Cunningham to the group, they can compete for a play in tournament spot sooner than later. In his one year at Oklahoma State Cunningham averaged 20.1 points to go along with 6.2 rebounds,3.5 assists and 84.6% from the free throw line. Cunningham shot 40% from three as well and Cade didn’t have much help on his team and still put up good numbers. Cade is a three-level scorer that any team in the league would be lucky to have and be an instant impact player. Cade had a performance vs eventual National Champion Baylor in the Big 12 tournament that showed just how great of a player he is. He scored 25 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Cade shot 7-16 from the floor and 4-10 from three but he turned it on in the second half scoring 20 of his 25 points and upsetting Baylor to reach the Big 12 conference championship.
Pair him with some pieces like Grant and Bey and you have a nice core. Cade controls the pace on the court very well similar to a guy like Luka Doncic does although Cade isn’t on that level as a passer. Cade is a no brainer at #1 and could set Detroit up for years of success in the eastern conference.
#2 Houston Rockets- When James Harden forced his way out at the start of this season everything changed for Houston moving forward. Considering that Harden is without a doubt a top 10 player the return Houston got left a lot to be desired. They received a first round pick from Cleveland via Milwaukee and four first rounders and four pick swaps from the Nets. While that is a lot of draft ammo those picks won’t be very high as the Nets will be good as will the Bucks. A year prior Houston traded two firsts and two pick swaps to OKC for Russell Westbrook and while they were able to keep this pick as it was top 4 protected it still will be a problem moving forward in the draft.
That makes this pick incredibly important and Houston can’t miss with it. Houston is a more attractive free agent destination than some, but you still need good players for someone to want to come join as we’ve seen with the Knicks for years now. In today’s NBA you need a guard that can score at a minimum and that is where I think this pick should head towards. That player very well may be Jalen Green who played in the G-League last year after his high school career.
Last year in G League, Green averaged 17.9 points per game on 46.1% from the field and 36.5% from three. That is pretty good considering he was just 18 playing against players much older and experienced than him. With more volume and more reps Green will increase those numbers and only improve as a player. While Green may not be what James Harden was you need to find someone who can replace some of what he provided. Green can certainly do some of that and someone like Green will be attractive for free agents to come and play with. If you don’t have scoring from your backcourt, you stand no chance in the current NBA. Green can also score from all three levels which is extremely valuable with the volume in which the three-point shot is shot now.
#3 Cleveland Cavaliers- Since LeBron James left in free agency during the 2018 summer the Cavs are 60-159. This is a big draft for Cleveland as they are a team that will need to build in the draft vs building in free agency. Cleveland even with LeBron has had problems attracting free agents. They need to draft someone they can build around and hopefully a star will want to play with them. They have drafted guards Darius Garland and Colin Sexton the last couple years, but they don’t seem to be a great fit together. There have been rumors that Sexton is on the trade block as he seeks a rookie extension. That could free up some space for Garland to be able to operate more in his space without Sexton clogging the backcourt next to him. The Cavs were able to get center Jarett Allen from Brooklyn in the James Harden trade for just a first round pick they obtained from Milwaukee. After joining Cleveland Allen averaged 13.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and over a block per game. That is a very nice piece for Cleveland but the problem with it is now Allen is a restricted free agent and seeking around 100 million dollars.
The Cavs may be better off letting someone else give him that money and agreeing to a sign and trade and getting a pick back. They are in a major rebuild and giving Allen that kind of money may not be the best choice for them. They are in a perfect spot to draft a versatile big Evan Mobley from USC with this pick. As good as Allen was Mobley brings more to the game than just points and rebounds like a traditional big. In his one season at USC Mobley averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.9 blocks while shooting 57.8% from the field.
Mobley brings something to the table similar to Miami’s Bam Adebayo but even more offensive skill coming out of college. Bam is a great defensive player and Mobley may not be quite at that level, but I see some similarities and shows even more on offense than Bam. If Cleveland drafts Mobley at worst they have a guy that can hold down the big position for years to come and is a great foundation piece. Best case they found their next star and someone to build around. Cleveland hasn’t always taken the safe pick in the draft but if they do so this time it will pay off in some way at least.
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