In what was an NBA Draft to be remembered, the Cleveland Cavaliers started things off the right way. After not being able to work out a trade to get out of the top spot, the Cavaliers – for the second straight season – made a pick hardly anyone saw coming with the their first pick of the night.
With the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Cleveland did not select Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Otto Porter Jr., or Victor Oladipo. Instead they made Anthony Bennett, the 6'7", 239 pound freshman from UNLV, the number pick, something that shocked even the ESPN crew working the draft.
Two years ago, after making the obvious choice with Kyrie Irving with the number-one pick, the Cavaliers took Tristan Thompson with the fourth-overall selection. Last year, Cleveland chose Dion Waiters at the number-four spot. Thompson and Waiters have had pretty decent starts to their careers, but there was a lot of debate surrounding both of their selections.
In both cases, it is likely the Cavaliers could have traded down, and picked up another pick, if those were they players they wanted. No one had Thompson going as high as four and many experts believed that the Cavs would select Harrison Barnes if he was available, as he was.
For their careers, both players have done well. Thompson averages just over 10 points and eight rebounds per game, while Waiters scored 14.7 points and had three assists, 2.4 rebounds, and one steal per game in his rookie season. These statistics are nothing to sneeze at, but they are not earth shattering either. In order to follow the model set by the Oklahoma City Thunder – and fulfill the three-year plan this team has been operating under – Cleveland needed to hit on their picks. After two years with Thompson and one year with Waiters, the jury is still out on whether they did or not.
To be fair to the Cavaliers, they certainly do their own scouting. Many teams will go along with the scouting report and follow mock drafts' projections; Cleveland cannot be accused of this. They were impressed with both Thompson and Waiters in their individual team workouts, and that is on what they based their decisions. Whether this is the best way to go about it is debatable, but you have to appreciate them making their own calls.
The funny thing is, Bennett is not a bad pick. As we said yesterday at Cavaliers 101, there was no clear number-one choice, which meant that any pick could be questioned. Each player has something that could make an argument against them, and Bennett is no different.
There were those out there, though they were few and far between, that said that the UNLV product could be the number-one pick, and some argued that he had the highest ceiling in the draft. After all, he is still young, just turned 20-years old in March, and already had a solid NBA body. He is can score inside and out and is able to handle the ball.
One of his main problems is that he is not a good defender. He tends to lose his man on that side of the ball, which is something Mike Brown will not like to see. The positive spin on that is that he is long and athletic, so the coaching staff will likely drill him on that side of the ball because there is the potential to make that a strength.
Another issue is Bennett's consistency and performance against top opposition. He started off the season strong, putting up 22 points and 10 rebounds against Oregon and 25 points and 14 rebounds against California, both Pac-12 opponents, but tailed off later in the year against conference opposition. Against ranked teams, Bennett averaged 12.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, both below his career numbers of 16.1 and 8.1.
To be fair to the freshman, he did deal with a shoulder injury later in the season, but was cleared to play and was able to put up numbers against some of the weaker schools in the Mountain West Conference.
There is also the question of where Bennett will play. GM Chris Grant said that Bennett would be a power forward for the Cavaliers, yet at 6'7", and with Thompson, Anderson Varejao, and Tyler Zeller, it seems to make sense to have him at the small forward position. Cleveland has been looking for someone to fill that spot, and Bennett seems as good as anyone to have the next crack.
Bennett has some skills, there is no question about that, it is just a matter of whether or not Cleveland has hit. Of course, if history is to tell us anything, it may be a while before we know.
The other Cavaliers' picks were a bit more routine for where they were selected. At number nineteen, Cleveland selected Russian Sergey Karasev, who is another small forward. From all accounts he is a very raw player with a lot of potential. He was called up his national team last year and competed in the Olympics. It sounds like the Cavaliers will not stash him in Russia, but are interested in having him compete with the team this season.
At pick 31 Cleveland took Allen Crabbe, a shooting guard from California. He was then traded to the Portland Trailblazers for two future second-round picks.
With the 33rd pick, the Cavaliers selected Carrick Felix from Arizona State. Felix was a four-year player in college who plays the shooting guard position. His biggest asset is on the defensive end of the court, which will be exactly what Brown will want, especially out of someone who will likely be a reserve, at least to start.
Just like the last two years, it will be interesting to see how these picks turn out. Cleveland did not necessarily fill the needs they had, but there is still a lot of offseason left and we have to trust that there is plan in place.
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