What Cavaliers Should Do With Top Pick
The Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves with the top overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. With no clear cut No. 1 overall prospect, the Cavs have with a plethora of options, so we thought it would be interesting to look at the possibilities in a little bit of detail.
So, what should the Cleveland Cavaliers do with the top overall pick?
Draft Nerlens Noel
The Cleveland Cavaliers should select Nerlens Noel with the first overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. The 19-year-old center has the most potential of any player in this draft class and he could develop alongside Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson for years to come. Cleveland picked center Tyler Zeller in the first round of last year’s draft, but Zeller doesn’t have anywhere near as much upside as Noel and that selection shouldn’t stop the Cavaliers from making the former Kentucky center the top pick.
The only reason that this is a debate is because Noel tore his ACL on Feb. 12. With that said, when Noel went down, every other draft prospect had an opportunity to leapfrog him and emerge as the new likely No. 1 pick, but nobody stepped up. Nearly every top prospect struggled in the NCAA Tournament. Players like Otto Porter, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett and Ben McLemore were expected to be the stars of March Madness, but they didn’t play particularly well. In fact, Porter, Muhammad and Bennett were all upset by lower seeds and sent home after just one game.
Porter has been mentioned as a possibility for Cleveland, but he would be a reach with the top selection. Small forward is admittedly the Cavaliers’ biggest need, but there just isn’t a three worth taking first overall in this draft class. If Andrew Wiggins were able to enter the draft straight out of high school, he would be the obvious top overall pick and Cleveland would be in luck, with one of the scariest cores in the league. However, that’s obviously not an option and there isn’t a star-level small forward in this draft class. Players like Porter and Muhammad may end up being solid players, but top pick material? Unlikely. It’s hard to imagine the Cavs selecting one of those players, unless they trade down.
Noel has all of the physical gifts to be a star including a 7’0 frame, 7’5 wingspan and 9’2 standing reach. He also has the intangibles such as incredible timing and instincts as well as a relentless work ethic and competitive nature. It’s easy to see why league executives have been awaiting Noel’s arrival for several years.
In his lone season at Kentucky, Noel averaged 10.5 points on 59 percent shooting, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks in 24 games. The advanced statistics are also on Noel’s side, which could win over the Cavaliers. Cleveland pays close attention to advanced stats, which played a large role in the selections of Waiters and Thompson among others. The statistic Wins Above Replacement Player (WARP) measures how many more wins a player would have over a replacement-level player. Noel’s projected WARP is 4.0, which is by far the highest WARP projection of any player in the 2013 draft class. Other stats that jump off the page are Noel’s block percentage (13.2 percent), defensive rating (81.9 ) and efficiency rating (27.3). These numbers are even more impressive when you consider that Noel just turned 19 years old last month and was one of the younger players in the country after reclassifying to the high school class of 2012 from the class of 2013.
Wing players are a dime a dozen whereas quality centers are hard to find in this day and age. This year’s No. 1 pick isn’t a no-brainer, as it is in some years, but Noel does seem like the best option for Cleveland.
- Alex Kennedy
Draft Otto Porter
With the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers should select Otto Porter from Georgetown University. The young forward had an outstanding sophomore season and fills the last remaining position the Cavaliers have left in this remarkable rebuild through the draft strategy. In the past two NBA Drafts, the Cavaliers have taken point guard Kyrie Irving, shooting guard Dion Waiters, power forward Tristan Thompson and center Tyler Zeller in the first round.
While the Cavaliers could take the 19-year-old center Nerlens Noel first overall, there are plenty of reasons for them to take a different approach. This will be Cleveland’s third season with two first-round draft picks and despite enjoying success in the draft, they don’t want to be back in the lottery again next year. Noel is not a one-way ticket to the playoffs. Extremely raw offensively and only 206 lbs, the 19-year-old was pushed around in college and will take several seasons to fill out his frame. The outstanding ability to block shots and create steals is offset by terrible free throw shooting and virtually no jump shot. The Cavaliers have the 7’0, 250-lb. NBA All-Rookie Second Team center Zeller on their roster and should be able to pick up another center to develop with their second first-round draft pick.
A 2012-13 consensus First-Team All-American, Porter led the Big East in field goal percentage and was top 10 in minutes per game, points per game, free throws, free throw attempts, rebounds and steals. However, Porter fits the Cavaliers’ needs in ways beyond filling the gap at small forward. Georgetown used Porter as a point forward and deadly spot-up three-point shooter. At 6’ 8.5, Porter could see over defenses and used his excellent court vision and passing skills to facilitate Georgetown’s offense from the high post. Off the ball, he understood spacing and timing and was effective cutting to the basket or drawing defenders away from the rim. On the Cavaliers, Irving is the team’s best scorer and Porter should be able to fill the badly needed playmaking role Luke Walton provided last season.
Even though Porter is a sophomore, at 19 years old, he is actually younger than most of the other top-ranked players in this year’s draft. His 27.3 efficiency rating this year was identical to Noel’s and Porter is definitely more ready to contribute at both ends of the court next season. Fit, skill-set and upside make Porter a solid first overall choice for the Cavaliers.
- Stephen Brotherston
Draft Anthony Bennett
This is the kind of draft where anything can happen, especially with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the top overall pick. One of the players they’re going to have to give a lot of consideration along with Nerlens Noel and Otto Porter is Anthony Bennett. Few have projected Bennett as a potential No. 1 selection, but from a talent standpoint he is definitely one of the best this class has to offer.
Bennett, who recently underwent rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder, will not be able to work out for the Cavaliers or any other team during the pre-draft process. So, all there is to go off of Bennett are his interviews and game film from his freshman season at UNLV.
Luckily for Bennett, his game film is quite impressive. Bennett averaged 16 points and eight rebounds a game, displaying incredible versatility for someone who is listed at 6’8 and 240 lbs. Bennett does most of his work in the low post, an area where the Cavaliers could seriously benefit from adding a consistent scoring threat. There are some concerns how Bennett’s lack of true size could affect his ability to score inside at the next level, but he’s much longer than the average 6’8 big man and he’s also very explosive. While he likely won’t be as dominant in the interior as he was in college, he should still be a serviceable low-post scorer at the very least.
Bennett can also hit the open jump shot. He made 36-96 from beyond the arc last year. His ability to space the floor would be quite valuable with guards like Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, who are so capable off of the dribble, in the backcourt.
Where Bennett would really be intriguing is in transition, where few power forwards in the league are going to be able to keep up with him because of his speed and versatility. Not only is Bennett going to be capable of grabbing rebounds and helping the Cavaliers complete stops on the defensive end, but he can also take the ball up the floor and ignite the fast break.
What will likely prevent the Cavaliers from taking Bennett more than any deficiency he has is the fact that they already have Tristan Thompson. They’ve made a significant investment in him and so far he’s proven to be worth all the resources used. Thompson was one rebound shy of averaging a double-double in just his second season in the league.
Bennett recently touted himself as a positionless player, though, and there are some who believe he could eventually transition out to playing some small forward. It’d be up to the Cavaliers new head coach Mike Brown to figure out a way to make him combatable with Thompson and another big man, or embrace playing small ball with just Bennett and Thompson inside. It wouldn’t be the most traditional combination, but the potency of it makes it worth considering.
- Yannis Koutroupis
Trade The Pick
Nerlens Noel and Otto Porter will probably be pretty good professional basketball players someday, but as in any draft, there’s no guarantee that either will pan out the way their new employers hope. If there’s any possibility that Cleveland could trade the pick for a more established NBA star, then they absolutely should do that, especially with the assets they have at their disposal this summer.
The Cavaliers not only have the top overall pick, but also pick No. 19 and two of the first three selections in the second round. Throw in about $20 million in cap space, Anderson Varejao’s $9.1 million potentially expiring deal as well as young, inexpensive assets like Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, and baby, you have yourself a stew brewin’.
Cavs GM Chris Grant himself has said he would consider moving the top pick.
“You want to look at all your options and make the best decision for your team,” Grant said. “This is a valuable asset that we can add to the group, whether it’s in trade or keep it and add a player.”
The problem, of course, is that available superstars are going to be scarce this summer, and it’s not like this is a year in which the No. 1 overall pick is particularly desirable. Despite that, the top pick combined with some of those other assets could potentially yield a big name.
Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge is one possibility. Not that he’s been put on the block, but if Cleveland offered up Thompson and both first round picks next month, Portland would have to at least consider it, right? Grant could make the same offer for Minnesota’s Kevin Love, perhaps substituting Thompson for Varejao or coming up with some other package of picks.
Would Sacramento consider a deal built around those two first-rounders and Varejao for DeMarcus Cousins? It’s not outlandish to think they would, especially if the team’s new ownership decides to part ways with him. He may be the best player who could be considered even remotely attainable this summer, so why wouldn’t Grant at least make that phone call?
Any of these guys would love to play with Irving, and Love in particular really needs a change of scenery. If Cleveland can get one of these teams to nibble, why wouldn’t they ship away their two first-round picks?
- Joel Brigham
Over the next couple of weeks we’ll look at each of the lottery teams and their draft options. On deck for Tuesday is the Orlando Magic and the No. 2 overall selection.