Draft Options For The Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers entered full rebuilding mode with the loss of perennial All-Star and multiple MVP winner LeBron James two seasons ago and have spent huge dollars to acquire multiple first-round draft picks. So far, Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant has stayed on message with his disciplined stick to the plan, stick to the process and grow from within strategy.
Last season, the Cavaliers acquired their point guard of the future when the lottery pick they acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers for taking on the massive salary of Baron Davis turned into Kyrie Irving. The late first round pick acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers for taking on Luke Walton’s salary this year will not have the same impact, but it does emphasize the point Grant is trying to make: Cleveland sees their route back to contention will come via the draft.
After picking first and fourth last season, Cleveland picks fourth and twenty-fourth from this season’s much stronger draft class. Even the two early second round picks Cleveland holds should produce prospects that are upgrades over the many unsigned young players from last year’s roster.
Cleveland needs starters of the future at every position except point guard and could use depth at every position except small forward. Grant has the luxury of simply taking the best player available with each and every draft pick.
Fourth Pick Overall
Outside of the first overall pick, this draft is still evolving, but the Cavaliers will get a top prospect with their first pick at four. Cleveland will be able to choose from four of the remaining top prospects after Anthony Davis goes first overall and they include Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, or Andre Drummond.
Robinson is the second most impressive player in this year’s draft and will likely be gone before the Cavaliers can pick at four. There is an argument for Cleveland to pass on Robinson if he became available because he plays the same position as Tristan Thompson, but the Kansas junior is an obvious upgrade over Thompson and the Cavaliers need to add more big men next season anyway.
The Cavaliers may be hoping to draft the Kentucky freshman Kidd-Gilchrist, but it’s unlikely the Wizards let that happen. The youngest prospect in the draft has an outstanding work-ethic and would make an excellent long-term addition at the wing for the Cavaliers.
If the Cavaliers draft based on immediate need, they need look no further than Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal. Beal was one of the top prospects coming into college and while his freshmen season was not overwhelming, he has a noted high basketball IQ, strong shooting mechanics, an improving handle and outstanding block and steal numbers for a guard. The 18-year-old has everything the Cavaliers need to fill their gaping hole at the two spot.
Barnes will be a very good NBA player and would be a great complement to Irving at the offensive end. The 20-year-old North Carolina sophomore wing is likely more NBA ready, but he may not have the same upside as his 18-year-old competitors. If the Cavaliers retain both Alonzo Gee and Omri Casspi, the team can wait until next season to address the small forward spot.
Sullinger, the 280-pound sophomore center from Ohio State, was dominant in college and should definitely be on the Cavaliers’ radar, but there remains some concern about his ability to translate his game to the next level because of his height. For Cleveland fans, it may be hard to avoid the obvious comparison to Carlos Boozer. Sullinger could be a dominant post presence in today’s NBA and someone with his polish and talent shouldn’t be quickly dismissed.
Drummond has the size and skill to be the best player in the 2012 draft. Unfortunately, his inconsistent effort during his only college season and suspect motor make him somewhat of a mystery. The NBA has a long history of drafting high risk centers based on their potential, but Cleveland should be cautious about taking that risk with the fourth overall pick.
Twenty-Fourth Pick Overall
With their second pick in the first round at 24, Cleveland can once again go after the best talent available, but the team has a big need at backup point guard and backup center. Marquis Teague, Tyshawn Taylor, Tony Wroten, Fab Melo, or Festus Ezeli could be the Cavaliers’ solution for one of these needs.
The Kentucky Wildcats freshman point guard Teague is fresh off an NCAA championship season and would help Cavaliers fans forget about the loss of Ramon Sessions to the Lakers. Teague is one of the fastest players in the draft and shows excellent potential to run the fast break and be effective at the defensive end.
Kansas senior Taylor will bring a lot of high level college experience to the team that takes him. He has a decent three-point shot, can defend and run the pick-and-roll, but his glaring weakness has been in his decision-making and subsequent turnovers. If the Cavaliers are looking for a long-term backup point guard, Taylor is a good choice.
Washington freshman Wroten is a big guard with a good handle and playmaking skills. Still a work in progress, Wroten is all over the draft boards, but if the Cavaliers believe they can fix his shooting mechanics, he would be a great late first round pick.
Melo made big strides at the defensive end of the floor with Syracuse in his sophomore season. So much so that the seven-footer has drawn Kendrick Perkins comparisons. Unfortunately, his offensive game is also worthy of a Perkins comparison. This center has plenty of upside and would develop nicely behind an energy big man like Anderson Varejao.
This big strong center had a breakout senior season with Vanderbilt and has all the tools needed for the NBA. At 22 years old, Ezeli is still learning the game and is far from a finished product, but he would be a solid development prospect.
Two Second Round Picks
Cleveland has two desirable second round picks and if the team wasn’t in full rebuilding mode, the obvious move would be to trade one or both of them. The Cavaliers have an abundance of open roster spots, however, and there are some very promising college players who could fall into the second round. A few of these desirable players include William Buford, Will Barton, Draymond Green, and Darius Miller.
Buford was one of the best scorers in Ohio State history. The 6’ 5 guard has the long arms needed to defend and the excellent shooting mechanics that should translate to the next level. The 22-year-old Buford would be a solid second round pick.
Sophomore shooting guard Barton improved across the board from his freshman season and put up some big numbers for Memphis. An excellent rebounder and scorer in transition, Barton still needs to add strength to his lanky frame. He may not be available when Cleveland picks, but he’d be an excellent addition if he slips on draft night.
Green did everything for Michigan State. Double-digit scoring and rebounding, important playmaker, grabbed steals, blocked shots and hit big three-pointers, the undersized forward found a way to impact the game at the college level. Unfortunately, it’s uncertain if the senior has the tools for the NBA game, but he is definitely worth the risk in the second round of the draft.
Kentucky senior Miller looks like a future NBA role player. The 22-year-old put his team’s success ahead of his own production last season by playing fewer minutes and still making huge contributions. If Miller’s junior season numbers are more indicative of his growth as a player, then someone will be getting a steal in the second round by drafting this small forward.
The Cavaliers have four picks in this year’s draft and that potential influx of young talent fits in just fine with Grant’s grow-from-within strategy. Cleveland needs to add talent to their roster that can grow and develop along with last season’s two rookies. While Grant has not eliminated the possibility of making trades, any moves the general manager does make will be to improve the level of young talent he adds to his roster and keeping his four draft picks is likely the best way to do that.