The quintessential draft question.
As we speed through the various draft profiles and player comparisons, it might be useful to have an answer to this fundamental question at the back of our minds. This post will hopefully frame the draft debate, in certain terms of what type of player we should target.
The need vs. value debate is probably most prominent in football (baseball being another beast altogether with the farm process skewing it almost 100% towards value). Football rosters are relatively large, but there are certainly a few important skill positions (LT, QB come to mind) that require immediate attention and correction of flaws. You won't find too many GM's who will publicly support drafting for need, but in practice, teams tend to fill holes, especially in later rounds.
NBA teams obviously field far fewer players, and thus, one might imagine, skew more towards need-based strategies. To an extent, this is true. Last year, New Orleans needed a backup point guard and they honed in on Darren Collison, even if he wasn't the "best player available" by many analyses. That decision paid off in the short term and looks certain to pay off in the long term too.
We covered the Hornets' 2010 needs a couple weeks ago. The Hornets could stand to add a front court player, a small forward, or even another wing player to complement Marcus Thornton. A peak into the future at New Orleans' contract situations at each position.
2014- Emeka Okafor
Power Forwards (1)
2011- David West
2012- James Posey
2012- Julian Wright
2011- Darius Songaila
2011- Peja Stojakovic
Shooting Guards (2)
2011- Marcus Thornton
2011- Morris Peterson
Point Guards (2)
2014- Darren Collison
2013- Chris Paul
Next summer, when the expirings come off the books, this will be the roster at the start of the offseason:
Paul/Collison || N/A (Thornton?) || Posey/Wright || N/A (West?) || Okafor
West will likely opt to pick up his early termination option, and while that certainly doesn't preclude a return tothe Hornets, it's possible 2010-2011 will be his last in New Orleans. Thornton isn't technically under contract after next summer, but it's hard to envision a scenario where New Orleans doesn't extend him.
To me, the upcoming contract situation provides us two takeaways. Those that advocate picking a big instead of a forward simply because big man is more of a need position may be slightly off. Wright's position with the team is unclear, and Posey morphs into a valuable expiring deal in 2011-2012. The long term outlook is equally hazy in each spot. Guard is really the only area the Hornets appear to be rock solid, with the Paul/Collison/Thornton trio.
Essentially, this is the ultimate trump card for value over need- our "needs" are very difficult to define for the upcoming season, let alone the post-CBA negotiated NBA landscape. A need pick could indeed improve the team's odds in 2010-2011 by sliding into the gaps left by Peja, Posey, West, and Wright. But the potential long term damage of a need pick is pretty clear. It's something to keep in mind as we pit the Whitesides and Motiejunases of the world against its Pattersons and Udohs.