When it comes to the draft, it's understood that general managers will almost always take an upside player over an experienced college player that could add immediate rotation depth or fill a need. There's a reason for this: The NBA's salary structure and trade restrictions make it very difficult to add significant talent throughout the season, so most GMs hope to get lucky by adding someone who could become a major asset in time.
So you end up with situation like last year's, when USC's Taj Gibson lasted until the 26th pick, while Ohio State's B.J. Mullens went two picks ahead of him. Granted, Mullens is almost four years younger, but he hadn't come close to matching Gibson's production in college. And sure enough, Gibson was of six players to receive rookie of the year votes this season, while Mullens played in 13 games, total.
I don't have a problem with that strategy. I understand the logic behind most of the upside picks -- and Mullens could be better than Gibson in time. But that strategy sets a lot of GMs up to fail.
Looking back on last year's Insider D.R.A.F.T. Initiative series, the success rate of selections in the 20s is traditionally poor.
So with that said, while teams still should generally try to take the best player available -- especially at the top of the draft -- there are a few teams that should put need first. Here are four examples to watch in June.
The early speculation is that Minnesota would be happy to see Wesley Johnson available at No. 4, but is SG/SF the biggest need? Maybe not, based on a conversation I had with GM David Kahn about the Al Jefferson-Kevin Love dynamic in the post.
"We have to have a significant third person to make it work," Kahn said. "I think on offense they played beautifully together; on defense the matchups are very problematic."
The Wolves could fill that need if either Derrick Favors or DeMarcus Cousins is available at No. 4. Offensively, Cousins is ahead of Favors, but defense is the concern, and with Favors being the better athlete, he's the better fit.
Drafting either Favors or Cousins would also give Minnesota a potential luxury: the chance to trade Jefferson or Love in exchange for a better perimeter player than they'd find in the draft. I have spoken to a couple of teams that are hoping to steal either Love or Jefferson from Minnesota this offseason, banking on the fact that the Wolves will be frustrated by the challenges of playing together. Don't expect Kahn to just give one away, though; he knows how valuable it is to land a big who can score. "I think people around the league try to trick people, even though it rarely works," he said.