We have spent several weeks and many words discussing Bucks draft workouts and the team’s needs heading into next Thursday’s NBA Draft. But what about the teams Milwaukee will compete with most often next season? While the other teams in the Central Division had varying degrees of success and failure last season, all of them have needs to address.
Here is a team-by-team breakdown of what to expect from the other Central Division teams in next week’s amateur draft.
Draft Picks: 28 (from Heat), 30 and 43 (from Jazz)
The reigning Central Division champions finished with the best record in the league last season at 62-20 and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bulls appeared on course for the NBA Finals until LeBron James used his height, athleticism and lateral quickness, all of which seemed to disappear against the Mavericks, to slow down Derrick Rose and take the series in five games.
After watching shooting guards Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer flounder on the offensive end (the only time either player scored in double figures was Brewer’s 10 points in game five), it is clear the two-guard position is most in need of an upgrade. The team certainly understands this, as evidenced by the rumors that circled around the trade deadline about OJ Mayo heading to the Windy City.
Unfortunately for Chicago, the success of last season means they will have to wait until the end of the first round to make their initial selection. By trading James Johnson to the Raptors, the Bulls acquired the Heat draft pick sent to Toronto for Chris Bosh. As a result, the Bulls have two of the last three selections in the first round.
With picks at the end of the round, it is hard to forecast what players will be available with the expected unpredictability of this year’s draft. Some possible options for the Bulls include high scoring Charles Jenkins of Hofstra, potential packed Josh Selby of Kansas or athletic Travis Leslie of Georgia.
Draft Picks: 15 and 32
The Pacers surprised many and snuck in the playoffs as the 8th seed. With the odds heavily stacked against them, Indiana kept almost every game close before losing to the Bulls in five games.
The Pacers appear to have the two key positions on the basketball court filled for the foreseeable future. With Darren Collison and Roy Hibbert, Indiana has two young, productive pieces to build around. Add former all star Danny Granger, surprisingly adequate Tyler Hansbrough and last year’s rookie Paul George to the mix, and the Pacers looked poised to contend for a playoff spot for years to come.
However, when you look beyond the starters, there is not much to be excited about. With a first round pick just outside the lottery in a weak draft, Indiana has the perfect opportunity to improve their bench depth.
If George steps into the starting lineup after coming off the bench for 42 of the 61 games he played last season, the Pacers will need to replace the scoring punch he brought to the second unit. Luckily for Indiana, the second leading scorer in the NCAA last season is expected to be available at their pick. Marshon Brooks, a senior out of Providence, averaged 24.6 points per game in his final college season and has the size at 6’5’’ and confidence to succeed at the NBA level.
Jimmer Fredette’s name has been connected to Indiana at times as well.
Draft Picks: 8, 33 (from Raptors) and 52 (from Nuggets)
The Piston’s roster is a mixed bag. They have young guys with potential (Greg Monroe and Austin Daye), veterans who look past their prime (Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince) and average players with big contracts (Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva).
As a result, Detroit could go in almost any direction next Thursday. They could draft a big who likes to bang down low to pair with the more finesse Monroe, they could seek a pass-first point guard to go with the scoring ability of Rodney Stuckey or they could simply take the best player available.
With low expectations in Detroit, do not be surprised if they take a gamble on a European prospect with a high ceiling like Jan Vesely or Donatas Motijunas. Bismack Biyombo has also been mentioned as a possibility.
Draft Picks: 1 (from Clippers), 4, 32 and 54 (from Thunder)
Cleveland’s rebuilding effort got a huge jolt when they won the NBA Draft Lottery with the pick acquired from the Clippers in the swap of our old buddy Mo Williams for Baron Davis.
Depending on how you look at it, the Cavaliers are either a general manager’s dream or nightmare. The roster is essentially a clean slate, free to be molded anyway a GM sees fit. In addition, expectations will remain low for the next couple years, allowing you to stockpile draft picks and young talent. On the flip side, there is likely a lot of losing in Cleveland’s future and a lot of pressure to make the right draft decisions. If one of the players GM Chris Grant selects in the top five this year busts, he could be out of a job.
It is almost a foregone conclusion the Cavaliers will take Kyrie Irving out of Duke with the first overall pick. Irving has the name recognition and skill set to serve as the centerpiece of Cleveland’s rebuilding effort.
It is the fourth pick where things could get interesting. The Cavs might try another Lithuanian big man following the success Zydrunas Ilgauskas had with the team and select 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas, as DraftExpress predicts. Other options include Enes Kanter or Vesely. Whatever Grant does, he makes his decision knowing his job likely hinges on the development of the player he chooses.
Obviously the draft is unpredictable. Nothing is guaranteed until David Stern announces the selections on draft night. No matter how the draft shakes out, one thing is certain. There will be several new, young faces on the court when the Bucks take on their Central Division opponents next season.
Josh Hilgendorf is a contributor to the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook (right sidebar).