NBA playoff draft, part 1: Bottom seeds address glaring needs

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The NBA has an abundance of talent. Because of this, there are many great players that get left out of the playoffs every year. The playoffs are the most anticipated part of the season, but talented players like Devin Booker and Zach LaVine haven’t had a chance to play in a meaningful playoff game yet. But what if there was a hypothetical scenario in which star players who didn’t make the postseason could still play?

COVID-19 has sent the NBA season into disarray and questions are still being asked about the fate of the 2020 season. With so much uncertainty, why not try something new, albeit unlikely?

What if each playoff team — if the playoffs were to be played with today’s standings — is required to pick up one player that didn’t make the playoffs? Players with season-ending injuries like Klay Thompson cannot be drafted, since this is for this year’s playoffs. The playoff team with the worst record picks first and so on. Conferences don’t matter, so a team from the East can choose a player from the West. If two teams have the same record, the team ranked lower receives the higher pick. Here’s how the 2020 playoffs draft would play out.

With the first pick, the Orlando Magic select Stephen Curry. He’s the best player available and hasn’t missed the finals since 2014. Curry will provide a huge boost to their three-point shooting. The Magic are ranked 25th in three-point percentage and 23rd in three-pointers made per game. His playoff experience and shooting ability would be very valuable to Orlando in the playoffs.

The Brooklyn Nets choose Damian Lillard with the second pick. He’s also a proven stud in the playoffs — Lillard led his team to the Western Conference Finals last season, averaging 26.9 ppg in 16 games. He has two iconic game-winners in his playoff career, and both shots advanced his team to the next round. He’s accustomed to playing with another scoring guard, so he and Spencer Dinwiddie should have no problem leading the way for Brooklyn.

The Memphis Grizzlies land Bradley Beal with the third pick. The Grizzlies are in need of another wing scorer opposite of Dillion Brooks. Beal averaged 30.5 ppg this season, good for second behind James Harden. He’s an elite scorer and underrated playmaker that will relieve some pressure off of Ja Morant, an excellent fit for both parties.

Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks get Karl-Anthony Towns to replace their recently injured center, Dwight Powell. The Mavs shoot the second-most threes per game behind Houson, and Towns has shot 40% or better from behind the arc for the past three seasons. Having bigs that can shoot and defend is proven to be a winning formula. Last year, the Toronto Raptors utilized Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka in the same fashion and it led to a championship. Having two all-star caliber big men will allow the Mavericks to compete with the taller teams like the Lakers and Bucks.

The 76ers steal Devin Booker with the fifth pick. Ben Simmons has been disappointing in the playoffs. Last year he averaged 13.9 ppg in 12 playoff games and eclipsed double-digit assists just once. While Simmons is great defensively, he’s too much of a liability on offense. Booker has averaged more than 26 points and 6 assists the past two seasons. His ability to create offense for himself and his high free-throw percentage will help the 76ers win close games in the playoffs.

The Indiana Pacers are a defensive-oriented team who can use help on the offensive end. Indiana brings in Brandon Ingram to fulfill that need. Ingram is averaging a career high in points, assists and free-throw percentage. Aside from his maturing offense, Ingram’s 7’3” wingspan allows him to be disruptive on the defensive end. His length will prove to be a valuable asset when facing lengthy teams like the Bucks and Sixers. Pacers head coach Nate McMillan will have no problem integrating Ingram into the rotation.

Small ball is their game, but the Houston Rockets need a little more size down low. Kevin Love will be their center during the playoffs. Love’s ability to throw accurate outlet passes after a defensive rebound fits Mike D’Antoni’s system perfectly. And more importantly, Love is shooting 39.5% on catch and shoot threes this season. He’ll get plenty of open looks with Harden and Russell Westbrook, so expect that number to go up in the playoffs.

The Oklahoma City Thunder bring in DeMar DeRozan with the eighth pick. They already have exceptional guards, but they need a better small forward than Terrance Ferguson if they want to compete in the West. DeRozan gives the Thunder the ability to match up with players like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. DeRozan’s game also plays to the Thunder’s strength. OKC is currently fifth in field goal percentage. They want to win by taking high percentage shots. DeRozan is shooting 52.6% from the field this year, which is exceptionally high for a wing player. Chris Paul and DeRozan are in the latter half of their careers, but they can still compete at a high level.

This concludes the first eight picks of the 2020 NBA draft, but there’s still plenty of talent waiting to be picked up. Do you agree with my picks? Who do you want your team to pick up? Check back tomorrow for the eight remaining picks.

Nico Alba covers men’s golf. Contact him at [email protected].