Just like they always do, the Cleveland Cavaliers are keeping everything close to the vest as they head into the NBA Draft tonight.
Two years ago, the last time the Cavaliers had the number-one overall pick, Kyrie Irving did not know for sure that he would be the top pick until Commissioner David Stern read his name at the podium. Last year, Cleveland shocked most people by electing to take Dion Waiters when many believed they would take Harrison Barnes or Thomas Robinson if available, and they both were.
Now here we are on draft day and no one is sure what the Cavaliers will do. They have shown their hand in one direction. The Cavaliers clearly do not want to keep their pick if they can find someone to take it off their hands. The problem continues to be that no one wants to be the first pick because there is no clear selection.
While there is talent in this draft, the player everyone believed would be the obvious choice for Cleveland is coming off half of a freshman season after a torn ACL. The Cavaliers took Irving after just eleven college games, but his injury was nowhere as severe as Nerlens Noel's.
Cleveland has looked to move the pick multiple times, the most prominent being packaging it with Tristan Thompson and Waiters to try and get the Minnesota Timberwolves Kevin Love. Unfortunately, the Timberwolves are fond of Love and are not looking to trade him away.
There is still a possibility that a trade might happen, but it looks more and more like the Cavaliers will end up making a selection at the beginning of the draft. So who would be the best fit for Cleveland? That seems to be the question everyone is asking.
One things to consider with this draft is that no one is going to be perfect, and it is about getting the best possible player for what the team needs. This pick really cannot be looked at like a normal number-one pick because there is no player that stands out for that distinction. It is almost as if a team is picking later in the draft, where they normally try and fill needs.
For the Cavaliers, there are a lot of needs that need to be addressed. Noel is expected to be a force defensively and work on his offensive game. His main problem seems to be the injury, as he will likely not be ready to play until December at the earliest and then must adjust to life in the NBA. There is also the question of how high his ceiling actually is. Can he develop to be the next great center?
At 6'10" and around 210 pounds, it does not seem like he has the frame to be that dominate. He is not a true seven footer, despite his wingspan, and will likely not be able to put on enough weight to pound down low with some of the NBA's elite centers. To be fair, there are not many old-school centers any more and the two teams in the NBA Finals did not play with a center at times.
If Cleveland is not sold on Noel, but want to add to their big-man depth, there is Maryland's Alex Len. Unlike Noel, the Ukrainian Len is a legit 7'1", 255. He has a more polished offensive game than Noel and is still effective defensively. The two matched up against each other last season and Len scored 23 points on 10-18 shooting, 12 rebounds, and had four blocked shots, while Noel managed four points, nine rebounds, and three blocks. To be fair, this was Noel's third collegiate game, but Len has the head-to-head advantage.
The Cavaliers, though, may elect to go with someone other than a big man for a couple of reasons. First of all, they already have three 6'10" or bigger guys on the roster is Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, and Tyler Zeller. Varejao has been a defensive force when healthy, the problem has been keeping him on the court. The other two are young and still have room to develop.
Second, since 2005 there has been one center taken in the draft that has made the All-Star team, while 17 point guards have been All-Stars in that time period. Cleveland is obviously set at the point guard spot, but it speaks to the way the league has changed in the last decade.
If they were to look for a guard, there are quite a few options they could make the number-one pick. Many experts believe there are big things to come from shooting guard Ben McLemore and some believe he should be the first player taken. There have been questions raised about the people he associates with, specifically the agent he hired, so that may put up a red flag.
There is no question that the freshman out of Kansas is a talent and could be a star shooting guard in this league for years to come, but like all of these picks, there are doubts. There were times during his one college season, the NCAA Tourament for example, where McLemore was almost non-existent on the court. The Cavaliers do not want that out of their pick.
There is also guard Victor Oladipo out of Indiana. There have been those that have gone as far to compare his game to Dwyane Wade when he came out of Marquette, which would be a huge get for Cleveland. There is no question about Oladipo's character and work ethic. He was not a highly recruited kid out of high school, but helped turn around the Hoosier program during his time there and turned himself into a lottery pick. Though he was not thought to be worthy of the top spot when he left college, opinions have changed on him.
Of course the Cavaliers may not draft a shooting guard, after taking one with their first pick last season. The problem with this philosophy is that Waiters did not show that he could be a star in his rookie season. He had a fine campaign, averaging 14.7 points and three assists, but nothing that proved him worthy of being drafted that high. If Cleveland are willing to admit that he may just be a role player and not a star, they could take another guard. It is not like there aren't teams in the NBA that use more than two guards on a regular basis (see the San Antonio Spurs).
If those in charge at the Cavaliers decide that they are content with Waiters, there is the option of Otto Porter Jr. The 20-year old small forward had two solid seasons at Georgetown before deciding to make the jump to the NBA. He averaged 16.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game for the Hoyas and would fit a need that Cleveland has not been able to fill in a few years. He is big and athletic, and many believe he would be the safest of the top picks this year.
All of these would be good options to take with the number-one pick and would likely help the Cavaliers. The problem is, this is not a time when they can miss on a selection, as they are at the end of their three year plan to get back to relevancy in the NBA.
The only safe bet would be no bet at all when it comes to this team. You can count on Cleveland keeping things quiet with which way they are going until it is time to make the pick.
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