Eastern Conference Team Needs

March 10, 2021

By John Henry Robison V

I will be reporting on DraftID on a regular basis regarding the NBA Draft.  Over the next few months, I will be providing Big Boards, Mock Drafts and Prospect Evaluations.  This, my first entry for the site, is going to briefly evaluate each NBA team to provide prospective of each team’s immediate and future needs.  For ease, I will be sorting teams by the Conference Standings as of March 7, 2021.  This entry will focus on the Eastern Conference and my next, soon after, will focus on the Western Conference.  As we are already at the All-Star break and only two weeks away from the trade deadline, some teams will look much different by April 1st. As reports of trades and player acquisitions, for example, Blake Griffin planning to sign with the Brooklyn Nets, some information in this entry could be obsolete very quickly.  It is impossible to accurately predict the upcoming transactions, but this entry will hopefully give the reader perspective of what could occur in the NBA over the next few days, weeks and months.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Philadelphia 76ers

-Strengths: improved play of Joel Embiid

-Weaknesses: Shooting and floor spacing

The 76ers have looked great this year.  Embiid is having an MVP calibre season and Ben Simmons has continued to grow as an elite defender and playmaker.  Although I like their stretch 4, Tobias Harris, as he adds much needed shooting; I feel as though the team could benefit from having more 3&D wings.  Ben Simmons has not developed a consistent 3 point shot and as he and Embiid are only scoring in the paint.  Adding depth, specifically a wing who can shoot and defend could benefit the team.  


2. Brooklyn Nets

-Strengths: A Big 3 of Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Kevin Durant

-Weaknesses: Defense & the Center position

It appears that Blake Griffin will be joining the Nets.  He is going to provide shooting and rebounding (as well as post offense when healthy).  This move is definitely going to help the Nets.  It is clear that the Nets have no problem scoring, but they are a very mediocre team defensively and I am unsure if Blake will provide the ‘rim protection’ needed to improve the team defense.  Deandre Jordan is only playing 20 to 24 minutes a game and losing Jarrett Allen in the James Harden trade puts the team very thin at the center position.  Acquiring another Center may help bolster their team’s overall defense and help them contend in the playoffs.


3. Milwaukee Bucks

-Strengths: Greek Freak

-Weaknesses: Depth

The Bucks made a great move this past off-season to acquire All-sStar guard Jrue Holiday, however, the trade required the Bucks to lose some of their depth. Acquiring another Center to relieve Brook Lopez as well as another wing would definitely help this team.  Their second unit does not have a primary scorer or a rim protector and I think that the team is far too dependent on the scoring of Antetokounmpo and Middleton to advance past the second round of the playoffs.


4. Boston Celtics

-Strengths: young wing tandem of Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum

-Weakness: Rim Protector 

The Celtics best lineup (Walker, Smart, Brown, Tatum and Theis) is a very small group to say the least.  If the Celtics plan to return to the Eastern Conference Finals or further, they need to strengthen their front count.  Whether it is via trade of free agency, the Celtics need to add size.  They could benefit from another Power Forward or Center who could provide rebounding and defense.


5. New York Knicks

-Strengths: The great play of Julius Randle

-Weaknesses: The lack of a true SuperStar

I am not surprised that the Knicks are in playoff contention as Julius Randle has played at an All-Star level, averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists.  I have also liked the improvement of RJ Barrett, but his production and efficiency still has much room for improvement. Regardless, I do not see this team advancing past the first round of the playoffs.  A playoff team with a mediocre roster is not in position to rebuild from the draft, so it will be up to the Knicks front office to land an elite free agent or make a monumental trade to improve this team.  The team’s early success this year will make New York a more favorable option for free agents again and playing along a potential star like RJ Barrett or Julius Randle is appealing as well.  The fate of this franchise depends on the team’s ability to land an elite player or seeing RJ Barrett reach his full potential.  The Knicks are definitely a team on the rise and their roster transaction by the start of next year’s season will be very exciting to watch.  I am not optimistic of the team’s success this year, but the Knick’s goal needs to be to improve the roster and regain its status as a contender (which we have not seen since a brief window with Carmelo Anthony a decade ago).


6. Miami Heat

-Strengths: Shooting, Defense, Jimmy Buckets and Mr. Bam

-Weaknesses: Stretch 4 and post defense

I loved this Heat team last year.  Jimmy Butler became my favorite player in the ‘bubble’ and I loved watching their run to the NBA Finals.  Unfortunately, this year they are nowhere as good as dominant.  I love their nucleus of Dragic, Herro, Robinson, Butler and Bam, however, there is a void.  The team lost Jae Crowder to free agency last off season.  Crowder provided shooting, rebounding and toughness that is sorely missed by the team this year.  I do not like the Heat’s second unit center Kelly Olynik, who is a mediocre rebounder and defender at best.  The Heat need another person to rebound and defend if they expect to get back to the NBA finals this year.  I was hoping they would land Blake Griffin, but as he is going to the Nets…the Heat need to quickly make an acquisition for another Power Forward or Center if they intend to contend this year.


7. Charlotte Hornets

-Strengths: Backcourt

-Weaknesses: Center

I have loved watching Rozier, Ball and Hayward this season; their offense is electric.  I am also a fan of their young forwards Miles Bridges and PJ Washington.  My concern for this franchise is that I do not see a long term answer at Center on their roster.  The Hornets roster consists of Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo, both of which are entering free agency next season.  They have both played decently this season, but are not the reason for the team’s surprise success…thus I am providing my first trade deadline proposal.  They need to package Zeller and draft assets to the Pacers for Myles Turner.  Myles Turner could provide an improvement at Center and allow Biyombo to continue contributing as a second string center.  I am not sure if this move increases the Hornets’ chances for advancing in the playoffs this season, but acquiring Turner immediately gives the franchise its long term answer at Center and can allow the team to build a contender over the next few years.


8. Toronto Raptors

-Strengths: Defense and Shooting

-Weaknesses: Center position

After a slow start, the Raptors have played very well as of late.  They have a solid team, but second unit Center Aaron Bynes does not meet my standard.  I’d like to see them improve that position providing a better backup center for Chris Boucher.  I like this team continuing to compete for the playoffs this season but adding another center, a strong shot blocker, would definitely improve the team.


9. Chicago Bulls

-Strengths: Zach Lavine

-Weaknesses: Zach Lavine

The Bulls best player is Zach Lavine.  If Zach Lavine is your best player, then how good can you be?  It appears that the answer is not good enough to make the playoffs but not bad enough to earn a top 5 draft pick.  Drafting in the late lottery will do the Bulls nothing.  They need to move on from Lavine and Otto Porter and focus on developing their young players.  Rarely do I suggest tanking, but if Lavine has trade value by all means move on, acquire draft picks and try to land an elite prospect in next year’s draft


10. Indiana Pacers

-Strengths: Starting five 

-Weaknesses: Second Unit

The Pacers have a solid starting lineup, but it appears center Myles Turner’s time with the team is nearing an end.  It is time for the Pacers to trade Turner, acquire draft assets and solid young players, and focus building around Sabonis.  They potentially have their next ‘franchise guy’ now and need to build a team around Sabonis to maximize long term success.


11. Atlanta Hawks

-Strengths: Shooting

-Weaknesses: Perimeter Defense

The Hawks should be a playoff team.  They have a very talented roster with Trae Young, John Collins, Clint Capela and Bogdan Bogdanovic.  In addition, they have some solid veterans in Rondo and Danilo, as well as some promising young players like Onyeka Okongwu, De’Andre Hunter, Kevin Huerter and Cam Reddish.  Some of their shortcomings this year can be attributed to injuries, and the recent replacement at head coach of Nate McMillian can provide optimism for the remainder of the season.  However, I do not see them having success unless Trae Young improves defensively, but he finally has a great coach in McMillian, who hopefully can help him improve.  The Hawks put up great offensive numbers and are an elite defensive team, however, if they plan to be the Warriors of the East, they need to focus on improving individual and team defense.


12. Washington Wizards

-Strengths: Bradley Beal

-Weaknesses: Team direction

I do not expect the backcourt of Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook to be the Wizards’ long term solution.  It is unclear if the team can trade Westbrook or if he would agree to a buyout, but something needs to change in Washington. The Wizards are going to be an interesting trade deadline team…will they trade Beal?!?!  Will they rid their roster of Westbrook?!?  The Wizards are a team that should be trading players for draft assets, but more often than not the Wizards pride themselves on marginally improving, leading to consistent mediocrity.


13. Cleveland Cavaliers

-Strengths: Collin Sexton and Jarrett Allen

-Weaknesses: Forwards and shooters

The Cavs acquisition of Jarrett Allen has changed their team’s focus.  They are actively attempting to trade Andre Drummond and I could see more veteran players being traded by the deadline as well.  Point Guard Collin Sexton and Center Jarrett Allen are the two pieces on the Cavs roster to build around.  They should be receiving a high draft pick and should look to get a solid wing or forward to build around those two promising young players.  The Cavs might not be very good for a while, but at least they have two positive pieces to build around moving forward.


14. Orlando Magic 

-Strengths: Nikola Vucevic and Wing scoring

-Weaknesses: Point Guard play and Health

The Magic should not be the second worst team in the East.  At the very least, they have a better roster than the Cavs and the Wizards (in addition to the lowly Pistons).  The Magic were set back by the injury to Jonathan Issac and have yet to see a breakout performance from Aaron Gordon in his place.  Vucevic, Fournier and Ross have been very productive offensively this year and I do like a lot of pieces on their roster.  It is hard to judge this team without Jonathan Issac, but there is one glaring hole on the team.  The Magic have been weak at Point Guard for many years now, essentially since the prime of Jameer Nelson a decade ago.  Is a healthy Markelle Fultz or a young Cole Anthony the team answer at point guard? I do not expect the team to make any moves to improve prior to the deadline, but instead evaluate their current roster to see what they need to address in the off season.  Do they need to yet again draft a young Point Guard of the future? Is it time to move on from Aaron Gordon?  There are a lot of questions surrounding the Magic that should be answered this off season if they want to continue improving their roster around Nikola Vucevic.  


15. Detroit Pistons

-Strengths: Jerami Grant

-Weaknesses: Entire Roster especially Guards

This past offseason the Pistons signed Nuggets Forward Jemari Grant and he has produced in his expanded role and been a strong point for the franchise.  I am unsure if he is putting up empty numbers on a bad team or if he is a potential star forward for the team.  I am sure of one thing though, everyone else on this roster needs to go…the Pistons are in a full rebuild.  They need to acquire draft assets and take the best possible prospects regardless of position.  Their roster will look very different by next off season and the team is poised to be very better for the next few seasons.  Pistons fan need to have patience because this is going to be a 5 year, 76ers-style rebuild.