Last week we touched on where Domantas Sabonis might land amongst the NBA's lottery teams, and now we turn our focus to where Kyle Wiltjer would fit best at the next level. While Wiltjer's draft status remains unclear, several teams should at least be considering him in the second round of the NBA Draft, and certainly as a summer league/training camp invite.
Wiltjer's perceived defensive shortcomings and lack of elite athleticism create a lot of doubt with league observers about whether he can stay on the floor in the NBA long enough to be a contributor. But, his offensive game is NBA-caliber, and he has legitimate size and excellent basketball IQ. The NBA has recognized over the last few years how important the 3-point line is, and shooters have become much more valued commodities as a result. There should be a place in the league for a player like Kyle Wiltjer, and below are several teams we've identified where he might fit best.
The Celtics could be losing several members of their frontcourt to free agency this summer, so might be in the market for reinforcements. Head Coach Brad Stevens values shooting at every position, so Wiltjer's size and shooting ability should fit right in to Coach Stevens' offensive philosophy. The Celtics also have an absurd eight draft choices in the 2016 draft (3 in the first round, 5 in the second), so have the means to take Wiltjer in the draft, even if they trade some of those picks. It's likely that the Celtics will offer a contract extension to former Gonzaga standout, Kelly Olynyk, at some point this offseason. But, Wiltjer would be a nice option off the bench to give Olynyk a breather, and provides some level of insurance for the stretch-four role if the Celtics and Olynyk can't come to an agreement down the road.
Shooters can always find a role in a Lebron James-led offense. While Kevin Love and the recently on-fire Channing Frye (under contract for two more seasons) would seem to make Wiltjer redundant here, Wiltjer's skill set fits in well with what the Cavaliers do on offense and this would be a great place for him to go if Cleveland decides to move Frye to reduce their luxury tax bill, and are in need of a cheaper option for the backup stretch-4 role. He'd also benefit from lots of favorable matchups with Lebron and Kyrie creating for him. The presence of Tristan Thompson could possibly help make up for any defensive deficiencies Wiltjer has on the other end of the floor.
Dirk Nowitzki is probably the best stretch-4 in the history of the game, but he's getting long in the tooth and the Mavs don't have any internal options to help fill his role. While it would be unfair and unrealistic to say Wiltjer can be the heir to his throne, he can help ease the inevitable transition by providing some of what Nowitzki offers--albeit nowhere near the star level Dirk has for the last two decades. Additionally, other than Zaza Pachulia who had an incredibly surprising year, the Mavericks current stable of big men probably aren't in the long term picture. Notably, the Mavs are one of the teams Wiltjer is working out for in the run up to the NBA Draft, and this could be a nice landing spot for him.
Andre Drummond is the centerpiece of the Pistons lineup, but they have a serious lack of floor spacers on their roster to put around him. Stan Van Gundy wants to replicate the 1-in, 4-out offense he ran with the Orlando Magic during Dwight Howard's hey-day, a place where he also used Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson as highly effective stretch-4s. Van Gundy would surely know how to best take advantage of Wiltjer's capabilities, and he could team up with Ersan Ilyasova to provide the spacing and size needed in Detroit.
The Grizzlies were one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league last year, and the roster is bereft of any sharpshooters. The Memphis front office is one that is analytically inclined, and must surely prioritize the value of players who can provide three-point scoring as they survey what pieces to add this offseason. Wiltjer's college production should make him a prime target for any analytics-driven front office, and he'd be a great complement to the bigs currently on the Grizzlies roster.
New Orleans Pelicans
Ryan Anderson is a free agent this summer, and his possible departure could leave the Pelicans with a significant need for a stretch-four to pair alongside Anthony Davis. Anderson is a great comp for Wiltjer, so the fit here seems easy. In Davis, Wiltjer would be reunited with his classmate from Kentucky's 2011 recruiting class which led the Wildcats to a national championship. Davis would also be a great interior partner to play the two-man game and has the ability to cover up any of Wiltjer's shortcomings on the defensive side of the ball.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs are one of the best-run organizations in all of professional sports, and represent a great landing spot for any player. Their coaching staff understands how to accentuate the strengths of the players on their roster, and could undoubtedly find a role for Wiltjer as they transition away from the spine of a team that produced four championships since 2003, and begin to build around LaMarcus Aldridge, last summer's prized free agent signing. The Spurs have more pressing needs than adding a stretch-4, but if Wiltjer is available as an undrafted free agent, he could do a lot worse than the Spurs should they extend him an offer.