Team Needs: Southeast Division

Team Needs: Southeast Division
May 31, 2005, 12:40 am
Atlanta Hawks

Patrick J. Austin

Draft Picks: #2, #31, #59

Background: To say this was a bad year would be an understatement. It was, by far, the worst season in franchise history. We finished in dead last, and lost more games than the expansion Charlotte Bobcats. I was embarrassed to tell people I was a Hawks fan. There were some bright spots, though. Josh Smith's amazing performance at the dunk contest gave all Hawk fans hope. The improvement of Josh Childress after the all-star break was a pleasant surprise. Al Harrington's production, after moving exclusively to power forward, skyrocketed. This trio could be our foundation for the future.

Team Needs: It's obvious the Hawks need a true point guard and a legit center. Fortunately, Atlanta has a high first round pick in a draft that's loaded with promising point guards, and we'll be armed with over twenty million dollars of cap space in a free agent market featuring a plethora of talented big men. I believe we'll see both of these holes filled.

GM's Draft Strategy: Billy Knight's draft strategy seems to be taking players who are long, versatile, and athletic. In 2003, he drafted Boris Diaw, a 6'9 point guard/shooting guard/small forward. Last year, he selected the aforementioned Josh Childress and Josh Smith, along with Royal Ivey, Donta Smith, and Victor Sanidkzie(later traded to San Antonio for this year's fifty-ninth selection). Childress and Josh Smith are both very long, agile talents who can play multiple positions. Royal and Donta Smith are in the same mold (i.e. providing good size for their position and versatility).

Personal Analysis: With the second overall pick, I believe we'll take Chris Paul. As stated earlier, we need a top-flight point guard and Paul is the best of the bunch. He's not very big(listed at 5'10) but he's lightning quick and can shoot the ball well from outside.

With our second round picks, I'd like for us to use the old adage--best player available. Forget about positions and just take the best talent on the board. I believe we'll take one of the more mature college players with our top second round pick (maybe Ronny Turiaf or John Gilchrist) and then go foreign with our low second round pick (maybe Uros Slokar or Marcelo Huertas).

Other Considerations: We have a future first round pick coming from Boston via the Los Angeles Lakers either in 2006 or 2007(at the latest). I could see us using this in a trade to acquire a mid-first round pick in this draft. You could also see us try and use our high second round pick to move up into the lower portion of the first round. There are some teams who'd like to avoid paying a guaranteed rookie contract for four years and would prefer to move down to the second round. We could be there to take advantage.

Charlotte Bobcats

David Mosley

Draft Picks: #5, #13

Background: Last year marked the first season in the history of the Charlotte Bobcats, who finished the season tied for the second worst record in the league at 18-64. Despite losing 64 games last year, the Bobcats scrappy play kept them close in most of their games, losing many on last second heartbreakers. Coached by Bernie Bickerstaff, who is also the team's general manager, the Bobcats have developed a reputation around the league as a tough team that will play hard to the last second of the game. The one thing that Bickerstaff really tried to impress on the players last season was the need to play every possession with intensity and tenacity. This is the type of atmosphere the Bobcats plan to keep into the future.

Team Needs: At this point in the franchise, basically every position not played by a guy named Emeka is a position that needs improvement. Specifically, the Bobcats need to find the following things, either through the draft or free agency.
1. A young point guard to groom – Brevin Knight was fantastic last season but he has his limitations. He is small, isn't a good outside shooter, and is injury prone. The ideal situation would be to draft a young point guard for a re-signed Knight to tutor next season before relinquishing the starting job.
2. A go-to scorer at shooting guard or small forward – The Bobcats tried just about everyone at shooting guard in their search to find a decent scorer to compliment Emeka Okafor and Primoz Brezec. They are still looking. The lack of a go-to scorer on the wings was a major factor in the Bobcats many blown 4th quarter leads.
3. Depth in the paint – With Okafor, Brezec and Melvin Ely the bobcats have a decent nucleus of young talent in the frontcourt. Now they just need to keep adding depth, and young projects that might eventually become an upgrade over Brezec at center.

GM's Draft Strategy: In his days with Seattle, Bickerstaff helped bring in players such as Nate McMillan, Gary Payton and Derrick McKey. In Denver he drafted guys like Dikembe Mutombo and Mark Macon. Last year with the Bobcats he drafted Emeka Okafor and Bernard Robinson. As you can see, Bickerstaff has always had a preference for tough, long, athletic players with high character and great defensive skills. Bickerstaff talked openly last season about needing players that can score and shoot. It's possible he might stray from his previous draft habits and look towards a pure scorer, a smaller, quicker point guard,or even a European prospect, but when the day is done I'm betting he stays true to his tendencies and drafts more of the same.

Personal Analysis: Like I said before, Bickerstaff has a very good idea of the type of players he likes and the type of players he wants to bring to the Bobcats. With the 5th pick in the draft, I expect Bickerstaff to be deciding between point guards Deron Williams and Raymond Felton and high school sensation Gerald Green, who is the most the likely of the three to be gone before the Bobcats pick. All three players fit a need of the Bobcats, but only Williams fits the type of player that Bickerstaff has usually drafted. Personally, I would love to see Felton become a Bobcat. His Carolina roots give him the edge over Williams. The Bobcats are in serious need of rebuilding a broken fan base and passing on local hero Felton would probably not be the quickest way to win the fans back.

With the 13th pick, I expect Bickerstaff to draft the ever popular best player available. If the Bobcats take a point guard at #5 then obviously look for them to draft a wing player, like Danny Granger, Antoine Wright or Martell Webster or add frontcourt depth with someone like Charlie Villaneuva (remember the UCONN connection), Hakim Warrick, or one of the many European centers. If the Bobcats draft Green then Jarrett Jack becomes a possibility.

Other Considerations: It has long been rumored that Bickerstaff is in love with either Marvin Williams or Chris Paul or both. He was obviously disappointed when the ping pong balls robbed him of the chance to draft either outright. Bickerstaff has already starting dropping hints that he is more that willing to trade the 5th and 13th picks or move one of the picks along with taking back some salary in order to secure one of the top 3 picks. Don't be surprised at all to see the Bobcats end up with Williams or Paul at the end of draft night.

Miami Heat

Eric Vogel

Draft Pick: #29

Background: The Miami Heat have performed up to, and perhaps a little beyond, expectations this season. When the Shaquille O'Neal acquisition occurred, the Heat let go of a lot of talent, but they quickly replaced it with players who complimented Shaq and Dwyane Wade. They continued their penchant for finding point guards, digging out two gems in Keyon Dooling and Damon Jones from the fringe of the league. Udonis Haslem, a Pat Riley pet project, emerged as a viable starter. Veteran, Eddie Jones successfully moved from shooting guard to small forward. NBA journeymen Alonzo Mourning, Christian Laettner, Shandon Anderson, and Michael Doleac all made significant contributions to Miami's Eastern Conference dominance. Miami won 59 games with one of the most efficient and high scoring offenses in the league. Their defense forced opponents to shoot 42.7% from the field, making them fourth in the league in that category.

Team Needs: A team like Miami doesn't have a lot of needs if they can stay intact, but staying intact will be much easier said than done.

Power Forward: Udonis Haslem's free agency, and the feel Miami gets for his willingness to stay or go, will have a lot to do with the way they approach the open market. If he leaves, a starting caliber power forward is the top priority, but that's a big if. Miami has a lot to offer him, and he has to know that this is a great position for him to be in. I doubt he'll leave for anything near the MLE (Mid Level Exception) equivalent that Miami can offer him. If a team wants him, they'll have to overpay for him.

They also have to make a decision on the oft injured and over the hill, Christian Laettner. When he's been there, he's been a great contributor, but at 35 staying healthy was impossible. I can only imagine how his 36th year will treat him.

Point Guard: This area, in particular, could pose a serious problem. Both Keyon Dooling and Damon Jones have player options in their contracts. Both players have played above expectations and well above their dollar value. If both opt out (which is expected), Miami will be looking everywhere for a new floor general. Moving Dwyane Wade back to PG is always an option should this happen, but a backup will still be needed.

Small Forward: While Eddie Jones has played above and beyond expectations (especially in the playoffs) while slotted out of position at the small forward position, a tall, long, athletic small forward who can shoot the three and play adaquete defense could really help Miami's depth, especially if Damon Jones and Dooling opt out and Wade is moved back to the PG position. That will in turn move Eddie Jones back to his natural position at the two, leaving a gaping hole at small forward that will have to be addressed.

GM's Draft Strategy: Pat Riley is very hard to predict. His draft strategy has changed greatly over the years. It used to be that a draft pick was only good as trade fodder to the Armani wearing guru, but in recent years, Riley has gone from NBA ready players at the top of the draft (Caron Butler and Dwyane Wade), to high school projects in the middle of the draft (Dorell Wright).

Riley has recently stated that he admires the way the Pacers were rebuilt, while never suffering a rebuilding year. They did that by acquiring projects and developing them while they won games, incorporating them into the rotation wherever possible. That is Riley's model, now.

Personal Analysis: I believe Miami will find a way to keep Alonzo Mourning, Udonis Haslem and Damon Jones. It is my opinion that Mourning will resign for the minimum. He's expressed an interest in playing again, but only for the Heat. Haslem and Miami will come to a reasonably quick and lucrative contract agreement, keeping him here for six more seasons. Damon Jones will decide that staying in one place for more than one season, something he's never done before, is worth it. Replacing Keyon Dooling and Christian Latterner will cause them more worry.

Miami has a $1.96 million traded player exception and the MLE with which to replace or retain both Dooling and Laettner. It is my belief that the traded player exception will be a more difficult commodity to move, at least for a quality player. That means the two most glaring needs, point guard and power forward, will have to be filled with the MLE. It is my hope that they will re-sign Dooling for about half of the MLE, using the other half on a replacement power forward. Laettner has been great, but he's not capable of playing an entire season. Replacing him has to be a priority. Zaza Pachulia might be a perfect replacement.

With the 29th pick in the draft, I want Miami to snare a young, talented small forward that fits Miami's style of play. He needs to be athletic and show the ability to pass, defend, know his role and hopefully knock down the open three. Mickael Gelabale is a strong possibility here if he is around. He fits all of those to a T, and can still be left overseas for another year if Miami is able to fill its needs elsewhere.

Other Considerations: Miami is in a position to sit back, relax, and develop their drafted players. With Damon Jones and Keyon Dooling both as potential free agents, logic would dictate that Miami should draft a point guard, but that's not a typical Riley move. Point guards can be found and developed from anywhere, and Wade could always be moved back to the position. Drafting the best player available is finally a solid option for the Heat, and considering where they are drafting, that might not be such a bad idea.

Orlando Magic

Fraser MacKinlay

Draft Picks: #11, #38, #44. The Magic also have the option of switching second round picks with the Clippers, who pick at #32.

Background: The Magic had high hopes coming into the season. They were coming off the worst record in the league in 03-04, so there was no where to go but up. The problem children had been dealt away, and the new GM was instilling a team-first mentality that everyone thought was necessary. The first half of the season went just as planned, as Orlando won more games before the all-star break then all of last season and were in the thick of the playoff hunt. The Magic then entered a tailspin, going 7-18 in March and April, with two 7 game losing streaks thrown in for good measure. There were many reasons for the breakdown, but two of the biggest were the Mobley-for-Christie trade and the firing of Johnny Davis. Both of these moves clearly had an adverse effect on team chemistry. The Magic now see themselves back in the lottery, but with a solid lineup and a new coach for next year, many fans still have high hopes.

Team Needs: The Magic have several players who are definitely in their long-term plans. Jameer Nelson and Steve Francis should be the starting backcourt next year and for the foreseeable future. Hedo Turkoglu has proven that he is worth the large contract he signed prior to last season and should continue to thrive in his sixth man role. Last but not least is former number one pick and franchise power forward Dwight Howard, whose rookie campaign showed signs of greatness. Throw in a handful of decent veterans still under contract (Grant Hill, Kelvin Cato, Doug Christie, Tony Battie) and you see the Magic have a pretty well rounded team. There most glaring holes however are:

Shooting Guard: Francis is the purported starter here, but he is and always will be a shoot-first point guard, not a true 2-guard. With Christie likely gone after next season, it would be smart to go after a tall defender type who plays well off the ball and won't ask for too many shots. A player who can hit the three ball would be nice too.

Center: Cato and Battie are serviceable at best, so the Magic will be on the lookout for a frontcourt mate for Howard. Howard has shown that he can handle much of the offensive responsibilities, but despite his shot blocking stats, Howard is far from a star defender. A low-key, do-the-dirty-work type defender would be an ideal match in the paint for the star power forward.

GM's Draft Strategy: (DC)Recently, Orlando GM John Weisbrod resigned, leaving Orlando without a GM for the moment.

Personal Analysis:
I expect the Magic to use a combination of styles when approaching this draft. They will of course be looking at the character guys, but expect team need and talent to also be taken into consideration. Who the team picks with its first rounder will likely determine how the team drafts in the second round. I can see three likely scenarios going down on draft night for the Magic:

Scenario 1: Take a center with the lotto pick. As stated above the Magic may seek a young center to pair with Dwight Howard. There are several players whom the Magic will be targeting should they follow this path. Fran Vazquez would be an ideal choice. He is a versatile big man who can play both center and power forward, will bring defensive intensity that was lacking last year, and won't have trouble with being the 5th scoring option. Should the Magic get the center they want in the first round, I could see them drafting a couple of wing players and maybe a big man in the second round, hoping one will pan out and make the 12 man roster. Possible second round choices include Julius Hodge, Francisco Garcia, Eddie Basden, Lawrence Roberts, Wayne Simien, Mindaugas Katelynas and Nik Zissis.

Scenario 2: Take a guard with the lotto pick. This is another weak roster spot for Orlando, so upgrading it could be an option. Gerald Green would be an interesting pick, but he probably won't last till Orlando's spot and the front office may be leery of picking two high schoolers in a row. There are several other players who could be available but may not be worthy of such a high pick, at least not right now. Players who would need to improve their stock to warrant the selection include: Francisco Garcia, Antoine Wright, Rudy Fernandez and Kennedy Winston. Trading down the board to get one of these players wouldn't be a bad idea either. The second round would be open game for the Magic should they follow this route. They almost assuredly would pick a center with one of their selections however, some possibilities include: Yiannis Bouroussis, Erazem Lorbek and Channing Frye.

Scenario 3: Take a combo forward with the lotto pick. This idea may be far-fetched, but could end up being the best option. It's clear the Dwight Howard has all the tools to be a premier center in this league and should the Magic staff decide to slide him over to the 5 full time in the future, it would make sense to take a power forward to play alongside him. This player would need some 3 skills as well, because Dwight will more than likely play more power forward at least for the next season or two. Possible combo forwards who will be available are: Charlie Villanueva, Hakim Warrick, Andrea Bargnani and Angelo Gigli. The second round choices would then most likely be wings and/or centers from the lists above.

Washington Wizards

Aaron LyricalRico Archer

Draft Pick: #49

Background: The Wizards just ended their best season in 25 years. The team made a 20-win improvement over last year and made it to the second round of the playoffs. Two players were named All-Stars (Arenas/Jamison), and a third (Hughes) could have been. The team battled through a great many player games lost to injury and made quite a few comeback wins.

The Wiz made a trade on draft night four years ago to acquire Brendan Haywood in exchange for a future first round pick, and this year it's time to pay the piper. The pick has changed hands a number of times, and has ended up with the Nuggets. But that's okay because the Wizards have enough young talent. What the team was missing all year was veteran savvy and experience. That's not something you get from the draft so I'm not disappointed in only having a second round pick.

Team Needs: 80% of the starting lineup is set. But with the impending departure of Kwame Brown, the Wizards have gaping hole at power forward that must be filled if they are to take the next step. A tough defender who's active on the boards would really be what the doctor ordered. If that player also has a reliable mid-range jumper it would be awesome, but I don't see that as priority since Washington is such a shooting team already. This need will have to be filled using the Mid Level Exception or via a trade.

The team also needs more production from the bench. Of course, if the Wizards can sign or trade for a starting four, the bench will automatically be bolstered because Jared Jeffries (the current starter) will be moved to a reserve role. Still, there is a glaring need for a capable third guard. Jarvis Hayes is an athletic swingman, but he doesn't have the ball handling or playmaking skills to effectively compliment Larry Hughes and Gilbert Arenas. Free agent guards Juan Dixon and Steve Blake are unlikely to be retained, in my opinion.

Perhaps the team's biggest need is better defense. Much of that falls on coaching and strategy, but acquiring defensive minded role players would go a long way to making the Wizards a better defensive team overall. Any (really all) acquisitions made this offseason need to be geared towards defense.

GM's Draft Strategy: This is a tough question because of two reasons. First, the Washington organization has been the doormat of the Eastern Conference for the last two decades. Thus most of the previous drafts have focused on potential stars taken in the high lottery, not late second round picks like this year. Second, the current GM Ernie Grunfeld has only been with us for two years, so it's hard to gauge what direction he's going to go in.

The good part about having Grunfeld is that he's been known for great second round picks, Michael Redd being his most famous. If anyone can bring in someone at #49 who'll help the Wizards it's Ernie Grunfeld.

Personal Analysis: I expect the Wizards to draft the best player available with their lone second round pick, regardless of position. Historically, the Wizards haven't had strong international scouting, so I would expect an American player with extensive college experience that could contribute right away. Names like David Lee, Jason Maxiell, and Julius Hodge come to mind as players that could be available at that spot. It's so hard to predict a pick that low since anything can happen in the first 48 picks.

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