Before the 2020 NBA Draft, we wrote about each team’s needs and priorities. With the draft now behind us and free agency set to open, let’s see what needs were filled and what priorities still remain for each team.
The Hawks drafted Onyeka Okongwu in a bit of a surprise at the draft. Frontcourt didn’t seem big on Atlanta’s needs list, but it all came into focus soon after. Travis Schlenk dealt DeWayne Dedmon to Detroit for Tony Snell. Snell will help fill the Hawks need for more shooting. Atlanta now opens free agency with the most cap space in the NBA. They’ll look to fill rotation spots with quality veterans to supplement their young core.
Boston accomplished their goals at the draft. They added shooting with Aaron Nesmith and a developmental point guard in Payton Pritchard. The Celtics were also able to move their third first round pick for future picks. And they got off some salary already by shedding Vincent Poirier. Gordon Hayward opted out of his contract with Boston, so his situation is tops on the priority list. The Celtics will hope he re-signs, or that they can move him via sign and trade to bring in help. If Hayward walks, look for Danny Ainge to be aggressive with the Mid-Level Exception to bring in veteran help up front and on the wing.
The Nets traded their first round pick in a deal that brought back wing help with Landry Shamet and Bruce Brown. Shamet should fit nicely as a shooter around Brooklyn’s stars, while Brown brings a defensive component to the perimeter. The Nets want to retain Joe Harris, and will be active in trade talks. Sean Marks will likely use the Taxpayer MLE to fill the team’s hole at power forward.
Charlotte got LaMelo Ball in the draft and is thrilled to have him. He brings playmaking and size to a fun, but small backcourt of Devonte Graham and Terry Rozier. The Hornets have about $19 million in cap space, but they aren’t looking to get involved with the expensive free agents. They’ll eat a bad deal or two, or work as the third team in a salary-shedding deal.
Chicago was going to select the best player available in the draft and they added wing Patrick Williams. Williams flew up draft boards, but he should be a great fit between the Bulls young bigs and guards. In free agency, the shopping list is pretty short. Adding another wing shooter would be good, but don’t expect any big moves. That probably comes next summer.
The Cavs got a great fit with their developing roster in Isaac Okoro. He may already be the best defender on the team. Cleveland will be active in trade talks, as they could move Kevin Love or Andre Drummond. It’s more likely that Cleveland makes moves around the edges. Finding castoff players, and seeing if they can develop with more playing time is a good strategy for the Cavaliers.
Dallas had a nice draft day. The main goal was to add perimeter help and the Mavs doubled-down. They drafted Josh Green and then added veteran guard Josh Richardson via trade. The Richardson trade cost Dallas Seth Curry, so look for them be in the market for a shooter in free agency. The Mavericks also confirmed that Kristaps Porzingis will miss the early part of the season, so they could add some depth up front as well.
The Nuggets managed to turn one late first-round pick into two players at the draft. They drafted Zeke Nnaji to bring some youth to their frontcourt. Then Tim Connelly traded a future pick to snag RJ Hampton a few picks later. In free agency, Denver would like to re-sign Jerami Grant and Paul Millsap. And they could use another wing shooter as well.
Just like at the draft, Detroit needs everything. The Pistons were one of the most active teams, making several deals. They walked away with three first round picks and added their point guard of the future in Killian Hayes, an athletic big in Isaiah Stewart and solid all-round forward in Saddiq Bey. Troy Weaver took on considerable money to do, which makes it tight if the Pistons are to re-sign Christian Wood. That’s priority one to watch for Detroit.
Golden State Warriors
A pall was cast over what should have been some exciting days in the Bay Area, when Klay Thompson was injured. It’s been confirmed that Thompson tore his Achilles and will miss a second straight season. Golden State acted quickly to add Kelly Oubre using their big trade exception. They drafted James Wiseman, who is a perfect fit as a center prospect. The question now? How much more can the Warriors spend to fill out what is already a historically expensive roster?
The Rockets are in a tough spot. They did some moving at the draft, as they traded Robert Covington and then spun off newly re-acquired Trevor Ariza to create flexibility under the luxury tax. But James Harden and Russell Westbrook both want to be traded. Rafael Stone’s first season as GM is going to be as tricky to navigate as anyone’s. Nothing else much matters until the Harden and Westbrook situations are resolved and that may stretch into the regular season and beyond.
Indiana had a predictably quiet draft night. They’d like to re-sign Justin Holiday in free agency, but are uncharacteristically working right against the luxury tax. The Pacers are rumored to be interested in bringing Gordon Hayward home, but it would have to be via a sign and trade. They have several players who could interest Boston, so there may be something to those rumors.
The Clippers got a little more wing playmaking in a trade where they added Luke Kennard for Landry Shamet. Kennard hasn’t been able to stay healthy, but if he can, he’ll be a nice addition to LA’s backcourt. JaMychal Green opted out and Montrezl Harrell is a free agent. The Clippers need to retain at least one of them. Also, look for the team to re-sign free agent forward Marcus Morris after giving up a first round pick for him.
Los Angeles Lakers
The champions traded their draft pick and Danny Green to add Dennis Schroder. That fills a need for another guard. Now, it’s about re-signing their own free agents. Anthony Davis is a lock, with the only question being how many years. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the next priority, followed by Avery Bradley. After that, the Lakers are filling out their bench with their exceptions and veteran ring chasers.
Ever since the Grizzlies moved to Memphis, they’ve needed to add shooting. They traded into the first round to draft Desmond Bane, who should help in that department. The Grizzlies can now focus on adding depth to their young roster. They don’t have a lot of holes in their rotation, so look for specifically targeted upgrades.
Miami got the most-Heat player possible in the draft with Precious Achiuwa when he fell to #20. He’ll bring energy and a great work ethic to the frontcourt behind Bam Adebayo. In free agency, Miami will probably retain their own players in Goran Dragic and Jae Crowder, but on short-term deals. That allows the Heat to run it back this season, while maintaining 2021 cap space.
The Bucks made their big move to agree to a trade for Jrue Holiday. Milwaukee sent New Orleans all of their draft capital moving forward to send a sign to Giannis Antetokounmpo that they intend to spend for a contender. The Bucks tried to arrange a sign and trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic, but amidst tampering allegations, that seems to have fallen apart. The key move for Milwaukee remains getting Giannis to sign the super max extension. Everything else is sort of gravy if that happens. That said, they do have lots of 20-21 roster spots to fill, so expect to see them court veteran ring chasers.
Minnesota added Anthony Edwards with the first overall pick, and he was the right pick for them. They have the ballhandler and the big and needed another wing. Later in the draft, Minnesota brought Ricky Rubio home via trade and added a draft and stash player in Leandro Bolmaro. Then they added Jaden McDaniels as well. Minnesota can now turn their eyes towards re-signing their own free agents.
New Orleans Pelicans
New Orleans swung the big trade that sent Jrue Holiday to Milwaukee for Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and a boatload of draft picks. They added Kira Lewis at the draft as nice guard prospect. With Bledsoe, Hill and Lewis joining Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart and Nickeil Alexander-Walker in the backcourt, that’s a spot to keep an eye on for trades. And of course, the first priority is getting Brandon Ingram re-signed to a max contract. That should happen shortly after free agency opens.
New York Knicks
The Knicks new front office got off to a nice start. Obi Toppin wasn’t a perfect pick for them, but he’s a New York kid and should be a good NBA player. Later, they added Immanuel Quickley, who was a sleeper in the draft. And the Knicks made the smart move to eat a questionable salary by taking on Ed Davis in exchange for future draft assets. With the second-most cap space in the league, New York is making waves about chasing Gordon Hayward. The Knicks are probably better off slow-playing it by using their cap space to eat more bad deals in exchange for young players and draft picks.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder only have six players remaining from last season’s roster. That’s how much wheeling and dealing Sam Presti has already done. And there is more to come. OKC has added a ton of extra draft picks and could pick up even more if they trade Steven Adams or flip Al Horford after acquiring him from Philadelphia. This is the teardown year for the Thunder. Look for the roster continue to be churned throughout the entire season.
Orlando added Cole Anthony at the draft to give them some backcourt depth. He was a top prospect before a rough freshman season at North Carolina. If he can regain his form, the Magic got a steal. Orlando already signed last year’s first rounder Chuma Okeke, after he sat out his first NBA season. Evan Fournier opted in, so the Magic may mostly run it back. They’re tighter to the tax line than usual, so that makes using the full Mid-Level Exception a bit of a question mark.
In our draft preview, we wrote “Let me know if you’ve heard this before, but the Sixers could use some more shooting. That’s what Daryl Morey will target in his first draft leading Philadelphia’s front office.” Mission accomplished. Philadelphia added Danny Green and Seth Curry via trade and then drafted Isaiah Joe in the second round. That’s two shooters coming in. Morey also snagged Tyrese Maxey in the first round and he’ll bring offense and playmaking to the Sixers bench. After trading Al Horford in the Green trade, Philadelphia needs to add a backup big, but the market is flush with good veteran options.
With the huge trade for Chris Paul, the Suns signaled they are making a long-awaited playoff push. Phoenix drafted big man Jalen Smith, which may mean they are expecting to lose Aron Baynes in free agency. Phoenix traded some depth in the Paul deal, so they’ve got to fill out their bench some. Look for them to re-sign Dario Saric and to use the Mid-Level Exception to target a veteran power forward and another wing.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland made a great move to trade their mid-first round pick and a future first to add Robert Covington. He’s better than any player they could have added at the draft. Now, the Blazers have the full MLE, the Bi-Annual Exception and a $7M trade exception to keep filling out their bench. Portland could be in play for several players and can offer both money and playing time.
The Kings were lucky to have Tyrese Haliburton fall to them in the draft. He was thought to be a top-8 player and Sacramento got him at #12. Haliburton size and ability to play on and off the ball makes him an ideal third guard with De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield. As things turn to free agency, Sacramento has to figure out Bogdan Bogdanovic’s restricted free agency. It wouldn’t be the worst thing if he simply returned, but look for sign and trades to be in play as well.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs did well to pick Devin Vassell in the draft. He’s a wing with good size and shooting ability. He should fit in well around San Antonio’s stable of young ballhandlers. DeMar DeRozan opted in as a free agent, so that makes re-signing Jakob Poeltl the top priority. The Spurs may not make any big, flashy moves, but they’ll make solid ones that keep them in playoff contention.
Toronto drafted Malachi Flynn as their developmental point guard behind Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, assuming the latter is re-signed. That’s the first order of business for the Raptors. After VanVleet’s status is resolved, the Raptors can turn towards new deals for Serge Ibaka and possibly Marc Gasol. Look for those be short-term deals to allow Masai Ujiri to have some flexibility for the summer of 2021.
The Jazz needed size and added Udoka Azubuike to fill that need. He’s a perfect backup behind Rudy Gobert, especially considering Utah moved on from Tony Bradley. The Jazz also shed Ed Davis’ contract to New York. That freed up enough room under the luxury tax that Utah can re-sign Jordan Clarkson and use their full MLE to bring in additional depth.
Washington got a really nice player when Deni Avdija slid to them at #9. He should be a great fit on the wing alongside Bradley Beal, John Wall and last year’s first rounder, Rui Hachimura. In free agency, the Wizards can focus on re-signing sharpshooting big Davis Bertans, and then using their exceptions to add depth. With better health, Washington should be back in playoff contention in the Eastern Conference this season.