Most analysts say you shouldn’t draft for fit. Instead you should take the best available prospect, because you never know how your roster is going to shake out over the following years. That holds true for the top of the draft, for sure, but once you get into the mid-to-late first round, finding the perfect fit can be a way to bolster your team’s chances for the upcoming season.
The deep 2022 NBA Draft will provide ample opportunity for teams to select a franchise-changing player, but not every organization is looking for a player with the same skill set. Most teams need wings — the most coveted position in the game right now — but some are lacking in the backcourt or at the center position.
We decided to take a look at all 30 NBA teams to evaluate their biggest needs, then we chose some prospects who might fill in those gaps. This should give you an idea of what players teams might be zeroing in on as Thursday’s draft approaches. We also tried to limit the possible fits to players who might realistically be on the board when the team picks.
- Draft picks owned: 16, 44
- Needs: Backup point guard, wing defense
It’s been four years and the Hawks still haven’t figured out how to score when Trae Young sits. It’s been four years and the Hawks still haven’t figured out how to defend when he plays. The recipe here is simple: flank Young with as many perimeter defenders as possible and then find someone who can imitate his incredible shot-creation for 10-15 minutes per night.
- Potential guard fits: TyTy Washington, Dyson Daniels, Johnny Davis
- Potential wing fits: Ochai Agbaji, Jake LaRavia, Blake Wesley
- Draft pick owned: 53
- Needs: Dribbling, shooting
Boston has All-Defense-caliber players at every position, so the only real avenue for improvement here is going to come on offense. The Bucks nearly beat the Celtics by leaving their worst shooters wide open. The Heat pressured their ball-handlers across the entire court in an effort to generate turnovers. A guard that can shoot and dribble would be a welcome addition.
- Potential fits: Ryan Rollins, JD Davison, Jordan Hall
- Draft picks owned: None
- Needs: Defense, a shooting big man
Moving forward, Brooklyn needs to ask a simple question about every addition it makes: Does this player make sense next to Ben Simmons? The Nets have all of the shooting they’ll ever need to flank him offensively, but they’re realistically going to have to find a reliable starting center at some point, and if he can’t shoot, things are suddenly going to get cramped for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. At this point, Simmons is the only plus-defender Brooklyn has under contract. Some upgrades on that side of the ball are needed. If they see someone who fits the criteria slipping in the draft, they might spend the money to buy a pick.
- Potential defensive fits: Jabari Walker, Christian Koloko, Wendell Moore Jr.
- Potential big fits: E.J. Liddell, Nikola Jovic, Justin Lewis
- Draft picks owned: 13, 15, 45
- Needs: Center, wing defense
The Hornets have had LaMelo Ball for two years and neither of his starting centers could jump. That’s just poor roster-building, and as neither could defend either, James Borrego was fired for his inability to generate stops with the meager talent he had. Fortunately, there’s quite a bit of overlap between lob-catchers and rim-protectors, so finding someone who can do both appears feasible. Miles Bridges is athletic enough to be a wing stopper, but that hasn’t materialized yet.
- Potential center fits: Mark Williams, Jalen Duren, Tari Eason
- Potential wing fits: Ochai Agbaji, Malaki Branham, Blake Wesley
- Draft pick owned: 18
- Needs: Defensive size, shooting
The Bulls just used Alex Caruso to defend Giannis Antetokounmpo for a significant chunk of a playoff series. If that doesn’t show you how badly this team needs a big defender, either at center or forward, nothing will. The Bulls finished dead last in 3-point attempts, and while some of that is the fault of the coaching staff, another deadeye shooter or two could help drag the Bulls into the 21st century.
- Potential defensive fits: Jalen Duren, Mark Williams, Tari Eason
- Potential shooting fits: Malaki Branham, Ochai Agbaji, Jalen Williams
- Draft picks owned: 14, 39, 49, 56
- Needs: A defensive guard, small forward
The three defenders who spent the most time on Trae Young in Cleveland’s season-ending play-in loss to Atlanta, according to NBA matchup data, were Caris LeVert, Lauri Markkanen and Rajon Rondo. Each were ill-suited for different reasons, but until Isaac Okoro starts living up to his potential, the Cavs didn’t have many better options. Cleveland’s twin towers affords it some defensive flexibility, but somebody here needs to be able to defend the best opposing perimeter player, and unless they’re leaving a seat open for a certain Akron native bound for free agency in 2023, a starting-caliber small forward would be helpful. Markkanen cannot hope to hold up there defensively in the playoffs.
- Potential guard fits: Dyson Daniels, Blake Wesley, Jalen Williams
- Potential small forward fits: Johnny Davis, Malaki Branham, Ochai Agbaji
- Draft picks owned: 5, 36
- Needs: Everything but point guard
Cade Cunningham? Great. One cornerstone down, several to go. Detroit can go in practically any direction from here. Saddiq Bey looks like a long-term fixture on the wing, but as Boston has proven, you can never have too much there. Isaiah Stewart probably isn’t going to be Detroit’s starting center when the Pistons are ready to win. Someone other than Cunningham will have to create shots. To be honest, Detroit’s draft will come down to its plans for its veterans. Is Jerami Grant getting traded? Will they pursue DeAndre Ayton? Figure that out, and draft from there. The Pistons pretty much can’t go wrong with any path they take.
- Potential fits (No. 5): Bennedict Mathurin, Keegan Murray, Shaedon Sharpe
- Potential fits (No. 36): Christian Braun, Jaylin Williams, Jabari Walker
- Draft picks owned: 6, 31, 58
- Needs: Wings, rebounding
The Pacers solved their logjam at center by trading Domantas Sabonis, but in the process created a logjam at guard. Sooner or later, some combination of Malcolm Brogdon, Buddy Hield, T.J. McConnell, Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton probably will be playing elsewhere, but for now, let’s just say the back court is settled. The wings are not. Isaiah Jackson and Oshae Brissett may get there, but for now, there isn’t a starting-caliber forward on the roster, and if the next forward they bring in can help supplement Myles Turner’s poor rebounding, then all the better.
- Potential fits (No. 6): Keegan Murray, Bennedict Mathurin, AJ Griffin
- Potential fits (Nos. 31, 58): E.J. Liddell, Jaylin Williams, Jabari Walker
- Draft pick owned: 27
- Needs: Backup center, half-court shot-creation
Dewayne Dedmon isn’t going to cut it in the playoffs, and despite all evidence suggesting otherwise, P.J. Tucker is eventually going to age. Someone needs to be able to play center when Bam Adebayo can’t. A healthy Tyler Herro might have given the Heat just enough shot-creation to squeak past the Celtics, but as Pat Riley discussed at his season-ending press conference, Miami needs two-way players. In a perfect world, the Heat would have someone who could serve Herro’s basic offensive function without dragging down the defense.
- Potential center fits: Christian Koloko, Jaylin Williams, Khalifa Diop
- Potential shot-creator fits: Jean Montero, Trevor Keels, Bryce McGowens, Jaden Hardy
- Draft pick owned: 24
- Needs: Switchable forwards, ball-handling
The Bucks never properly replaced P.J. Tucker, and they paid for it in the postseason. They need someone who can credibly be paired with Giannis Antetokounmpo in the front-court when they decide to go small, and as dominant as their two-time MVP is, we saw just how limited their offense can be without Khris Middleton in the Boston series. Another ball-handler here would greatly improve the team’s ability to make a deep playoff run.
- Potential forward fits: Jake LaRavia, Patrick Baldwin, Tari Eason
- Potential guard fits: Bryce McGowens, Jalen Williams, Jaden Hardy
- Draft picks owned: 11, 42
- Needs: Point guard, a shooting big man
Jalen Brunson is a good player, but when a team is so desperate for a point guard that it hires his father and sends top executives to scout him courtside in the first round of the playoffs, you should get some idea of how thin they are at that position. Kemba Walker didn’t cut it, Derrick Rose is getting older and the Knicks don’t seem ready to hand the keys to Immanuel Quickley as a starter. Julius Randle often functions as a point guard offensively, but the floor gets very cramped for him when he needs to play with another traditional big man. In a perfect world, the Knicks would be able to find a 3-and-D center to play next to him.
- Potential point guard fits: Dyson Daniels, TyTy Washington, Jean Montero
- Potential big fits: Ousmane Dieng, Nikola Jovic, Tari Eason
- Draft picks owned: 1, 32
- Needs: Everything
Franz Wagner is a Swiss Army knife, but everyone else is expendable. Wendell Carter Jr. had a strong season. If the Magic think Chet Holmgren is the best prospect in the draft, they should still take him. They have a million young guards and none of them have stood out. Wagner can play with anybody as long as they’re good. That’s the Magic’s mission: Get good players.
- Potential fits (No. 1): Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr., Paolo Banchero
- Potential fits (No. 32): Jaden Hardy, Nikola Jovic, Leonard Miller
- Draft pick owned: 23
- Needs: Wings, backup center
Here’s a fun fact about Philadelphia’s second-round series against Miami: though the 76ers lost the first two games of the series on the road, they actually outscored the Heat in the 65 minutes they played without DeAndre Jordan. If Andre Drummond was their backup center in the postseason, things might have ended very differently. Instead, Philly’s endless search for a proper Joel Embiid backup continues. More pressingly, Danny Green was their only 3-and-D player in the postseason, and he’s likely going to miss next season. James Harden teams badly need a steady supply of such role players, so unless the 76ers think Matisse Thybulle can learn to shoot in the next three months, finding a few of them will be paramount.
- Potential wing fits: Blake Wesley, Jalen Williams, MarJon Beauchamp
- Potential center fits: Mark Williams, Walker Kessler, Christian Koloko
- Draft pick owned: 33
- Needs: Shooting, center
I’d like to state my personal distaste for Toronto’s continued flirtations with every center on the trade market. In an increasingly homogenous league, fans deserve one weird team. Alas, the Raptors appear unsatisfied with Precious Achiuwa and Chris Boucher, so center it is. More practically, a team planning to add a center to a core that already includes two shaky 3-point shooters in Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam could use a bit more marksmanship on the perimeter.
- Potential shooting fits: Kennedy Chandler, Wendell Moore Jr., Christian Braun
- Potential center fits: E.J. Liddell, Christian Koloko, Ismael Kamagate
- Draft picks owned: 10, 54
- Needs: Point guard, a mobile big man
First it was John Wall, then it was Russell Westbrook, then it was Spencer Dinwiddie, then it was … Raul Neto? Yea, Bradley Beal is going to need a new backcourt-mate, and Kristaps Porzingis, physically limited as he is after years of injuries, is going to need a partner up front that can cover enough ground to justify an immobile rim-protector.
- Potential point guard fits: Dyson Daniels, TyTy Washington
- Potential big fits: Jeremy Sochan, Jalen Duren, Tari Eason
- Draft pick owned: None
- Needs: Two-way wings
What Dallas really needs is a second star next to Luka Doncic, and they knew they weren’t getting that at No. 26 in the draft. Instead they added Christian Wood as a versatile big man and traded that pick. If the Mavs decide to get back into the draft, they should look for shooting and defense around Luka, so 3-and-D wings are always a commodity.
- Potential wing fits: Ochai Agbaji, Jalen Williams, Jake LaRavia
- Draft pick owned: 21, 30
- Needs: 3-and-D wings, backup big
Most understand at this point that the Nuggets fall off a cliff when Nikola Jokic is on the bench, and part of that is because they don’t have a reliable backup center. They might be able to snag one (or someone that eventually develops into one) at this stage in the draft. With Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. presumably back in the fold next season, the Nuggets are going to have to ramp up the defense, and there are some wings that could help with that who should be available in the late first round.
- Potential wing fits: Jalen Williams, Blake Wesley, Wendell Moore Jr.
- Potential big fits: Tari Eason, Mark Williams, Nikola Jovic (can you imagine?)
- Draft picks owned: 28, 51, 55
- Needs: 3-and-D wings, center
The Warriors have a unique situation with established talent capable of making the NBA Finals combined with a nice core of young players to usher in the next generation. That should allow them to take a big swing at No. 28 (they snagged Jordan Poole with the same pick in 2019), and look for 3-and-D wings to surround all that playmaking. Depending on the status of James Wiseman, they could also look for another athletic big, since that is a clear need on this roster.
- Potential wing fits: Wendell Moore Jr., Dalen Terry, MarJon Beauchamp
- Potential center fits: Christian Koloko, Jaylin Williams, Khalifa Diop
- Draft picks owned: 3, 17
- Needs: Everything
Beggars can’t be choosers, and the Rockets are in the early stages of a total rebuild. They’ll take whatever talent they can find regardless of position, and they’ll have a great start with one of the three most prized players in the draft. They’ll also be able to find a potential diamond in the rough at No. 17 if they decide to keep the pick.
- Potential fits (No. 3): Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr., Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivey
- Potential fits (No. 17): Ousmane Dieng, Patrick Baldwin, TyTy Washington
- Draft pick owned: 43
- Needs: Playmaking guard, big depth
Unlike most teams, the Clippers have a treasure trove of excellent wings (when healthy, at least), but they lack creation from their guards outside of Reggie Jackson and potentially Jason Preston. They could also benefit from some depth at center and power forward, given that Isaiah Hartenstein is a free agent and the Clippers might get outpriced.
- Potential guard fits: Ryan Rollins, JD Davison, Jean Montero
- Potential big fits: Jaylin Williams, Jabari Walker, Khalifa Diop
- Draft picks owned: 35
- Needs: 3-and-D wings, backup big
The Lakers bought an early second-round pick, so they’ll likely look for shooting and defense to surround LeBron James, Anthony Davis and (maybe?) Russell Westbrook. The center position is also a question mark, and there should be some decent options for them at 35.
- Potential wing fits: Wendell Moore Jr., Kris Murray, Justin Lewis
- Potential big fits: Christian Koloko, Jaylin Williams, Walker Kessler
- Draft picks owned: 22, 29, 47
- Needs: 3-point shooting
The Grizzlies are one of the deepest teams in the NBA, so it’s hard to find obvious holes on their roster. One thing they do need is reliable shooters, and they should be able to get with one of their first-rounders. If free agent Tyus Jones‘ price tag gets too high, they could also search for a reliable backup point guard to spell Ja Morant.
- Potential fits: Jake LaRavia, Jalen Williams, Kennedy Chandler, Wendell Moore Jr.
- Draft picks owned: 19, 40, 48, 50
- Needs: Wing depth, Power forward
The Wolves had a promising season, and now they’ll look to continue improving along the fringes with a great draft. They have obvious needs on the wing, and could also use a power forward to either start along Karl-Anthony Towns or come off the bench. They’ll have some interesting choices at No. 19, and could find a gem with one of their late second-rounders if they decide to keep the picks.
- Potential wing fits: Blake Wesley, Ochai Agbaji, Patrick Baldwin
- Potential power forward fits: Jalen Duren, Tari Eason, Jake LaRavia
- Draft picks owned: 8, 41, 52
- Needs: 3-and-D wings
The Pelicans have quite a core with Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and the potential return of Zion Williamson, so they need to keep surrounding them with shooting and defense. New Orleans has a pretty full roster, so it will be interesting to see if they flirt with packaging No. 8 with some assets for a win-now player, but if they keep the pick they’ll have some good options to help right away.
- Potential fits (No. 8): AJ Griffin, Bennedict Mathurin, Johnny Davis
- Potential fits (Nos. 41, 52): Christian Braun, Justin Lewis, Kris Murray
- Draft picks owned: 2, 12, 30, 34
- Needs: Everything
Everyone knows OKC’s deal by now — collect as many assets as possible while losing as many games as possible. There are plenty of assets to be collected in this draft, and they’ll have a shot at a crown jewel at No. 2. We’ll see if they hold onto No. 12, but if they do they should get their hands on a solid player.
- Potential fits (No. 2): Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr., Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivey
- Potential fits (No. 12): Jalen Duren, Jeremy Sochan, Dyson Daniels, Ousmane Dieng
- Potential fits (Nos. 30, 34): Jaden Hardy, Dalen Terry, Nikola Jovic
- Draft picks owned: None
- Needs: Backup guard, big depth
The Suns are likely to contend for a title again next season, so they probably won’t get an impact player unless they shock the world by trading into the top 10. They could buy a late first-rounder, though, if they feel they can get someone who could help right away. They could use another ball-handler and playmaker off the bench, as well as a big in case they choose not to match offers for Deandre Ayton in free agency.
- Potential guard fits: Bryce McGowens, Jaden Hardy, Trevor Keels
- Potential big fits: Christian Koloko, E.J. Liddell, Jaylin Williams
- Draft picks owned: 7, 46, 57
- Needs: Scoring/shooting, defense
The NBA world will have its eye on the Blazers heading into the draft, as they could look to move No. 7 in search of win-now players to help get back into contention and appease Damian Lillard. If they keep the pick, they should be able to get a solid prospect, but perhaps not one who will make the immediate impact the franchise needs. They basically need help at every position surrounding Lillard, so they should just choose the prospect who’s highest on their board.
- Potential fits (No. 7): Bennedict Mathurin, Shaedon Sharpe, Keegan Murray, AJ Griffin
- Potential fits (Nos. 46, 57): Christian Koloko, Christian Braun, Justin Lewis
- Draft picks owned: 4, 37
- Needs: 3-and-D wings (or best available)
The Kings seem committed to the pairing of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis, so they should look to fill in the wings with 3-and-D players. The problem is, they can’t pass up Jaden Ivey if he’s available at No. 4. Not exactly the best fit, but he’d be the best prospect available, and the Kings have no business turning that down.
- Potential fits (No. 4): Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray, Bennedict Mathurin
- Potential fits (No. 37): Christian Braun, Wendell Moore Jr., Harrison Ingram
- Draft picks owned: 9, 20, 25, 38
- Needs: 3-and-D wings, big depth
San Antonio currently has three first-round picks, but that could obviously change as the draft nears. With Dejounte Murray and a host of guards in the backcourt, they’ll probably look to fill out the frontcourt with wings and bigs using whichever picks they decide to keep.
- Potential fits (No. 9): AJ Griffin, Jeremy Sochan, Ochai Agbaji
- Potential fits (Nos. 20, 25, 38): Patrick Baldwin, Ousmane Dieng, Blake Wesley, Jalen Williams
- Draft picks owned: None
- Needs: 3-and-D wings, Big depth
The draft could wind up being more important to the Jazz than usual if they decide to make a big trade and go in a different direction. The problem is, they don’t have a pick — not yet, anyway. They could always buy into the first or second round to find an attractive prospect. In their case, they’ll probably be looking for wing help or a rotation big.
- Potential wing fits: Wendell Moore Jr., Christian Braun, Max Christie
- Potential big fits: Christian Koloko, E.J. Liddell, Jabari Walker