Thursday, June 25, 2009

Draft a good place to find good big men to fill big holes


Before the last two seasons, there was a stretch in which either Shaquille O'Neal or Tim Duncan won eight of the nine NBA championships. This year, we saw the Orlando Magic become an elite team with the development of Dwight Howard.

The best formula for winning in the NBA starts with a dominant big man, but the likes of Shaq, Duncan and Dwight don't come around often.

Blake Griffin isn't on that level, but he can be an All-Star and make an impact. And he's much more of a sure thing than anyone else in this Draft. So even though the Clippers already have too many big men, they're set to take Griffin with the first pick.

Here are the lottery teams that could use some help on the frontline the most (first round picks in parentheses).

1. Memphis Grizzlies (2 and 27)

Under contract: Marc Gasol, Darko Milicic, Darrell Arthur

With a solid, young core of Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay and Gasol, the Grizzlies are missing only their power forward of the future. And by getting the second pick in the lottery, they miss him again. With Griffin off the board, the Grizzlies could reach a bit and fill their need with Arizona's Jordan Hill, because Hasheem Thabeet isn't an obvious fit next to Gasol. They also could trade down and get Hill a few picks later.

2. New York Knicks (8)

Under contract: Al Harrington, Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries

In Mike D'Antoni's system, a traditional big man isn't needed, but the Knicks do need some sort of interior presence, especially on defense, even if they bring back restricted free agent David Lee. Hill might be a good fit, but of greater need is getting someone who can run the offense, and with plenty of point guards to go around, the Knicks may have to find a big man elsewhere.

3. Sacramento Kings (4 and 23)

Under contract: Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes, Kenny Thomas

The Kings have used their last two lottery picks on Hawes and Thompson, and both have shown promise. But you always need more than two bigs, so the Kings could do worse than bringing another big man into the fold.

4. New Jersey Nets (11)

Under contract: Brook Lopez, Yi Jianlian, Ryan Anderson, Josh Boone, Sean Williams

With Lopez, the Nets should be set at center for years to come. Their other bigs each have various skills, but none is close to being a total package, and none provides the defense and rebounding the Nets need. Five years after he left, this team is still missing the skills of Kenyon Martin.

5. Milwaukee Bucks (10)

Under contract: Andrew Bogut, Amir Johnson, Kurt Thomas, Dan Gadzuric

Before his season was cut short by a back injury, Bogut was starting to look like one of the better centers in the league. Tuesday's trade of Richard Jefferson frees up more money to resign Charlie Villanueva (who is a restricted free agent), but if he goes elsewhere, Milwaukee has a hole at the four.

6. Charlotte Bobcats (12)

Under contract: Boris Diaw, Emeka Okafor, Nazr Mohammed, DeSagana Diop

The Bobcats are solid up front but could use some athleticism to complement Okafor and Diaw. The have a greater need on the perimeter.

Other lottery teams

7. Toronto Raptors (8) -- As they stand, the Raptors need depth beyond Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani, and they may need insurance should Bosh bolt in 2010.

8. Golden State Warriors (7) -- With the way they play, the Warriors don't need a full complement of big men. But should they ever go traditional ...

9. Phoenix Suns (14) -- Shaq's on his way out, but Robin Lopez is waiting in the wings.

10. Oklahoma City Thunder (3 and 25) -- Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic and Nick Collison are a solid trio, but Hasheem Thabeet could make the OKC frontline even stronger.

11. Indiana Pacers (13) -- Roy Hibbert finished his rookie season strong and Troy Murphy had the best season of his career.

12. Los Angeles Clippers (1) -- They don't need another big man, but they're getting one anyway.

13. Minnesota (5 and 6) -- In Kevin Love and Al Jefferson, the Wolves have a terrific young frontline duo.

Non-lottery teams most in need of a big

Detroit (15) -- Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and Kwame Brown are all unrestricted free agents.

Atlanta (19) -- Zaza Pachulia is a free agent and they've got Al Horford playing center.

Utah (20) -- Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur can opt out of their contracts and Paul Millsap is a restricted free agent.

Cleveland (30) -- Anderson Varejao will likely decline his player option. The rest of the Cavs' frontline is long in the tooth.

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