Could the Columbus native be heading north in 2012?
After a wrist injury cost Varejao the majority of the season and the trade of backup point guard Ramon Sessions, however, the Cavs look effectively dead in the water as far as playoff contention goes.
Cleveland has improved by playing good defense, out-rebounding other teams and letting Kyrie Irving run the show on offense. For a decent rebounding team, however, the Cavaliers rarely play inside. What rare inside scoring they get comes from Tristan Thompson forcing his way to the basket, Antawn Jamison’s circus shots and Anderson Varejao hustling for garbage buckets.
Jared Sullinger is ready to make a splash in the NBA. At 6’9" and 265 lbs., Sullinger plays physical and wants the rock in his hands. After two solid years at Ohio State, the sophomore from Columbus is averaging 18 PPG and 8 RPG during the 2012 NCAA Tournament, shooting 47 percent from the field and 82 percent from the line. He’s the center piece on a very talented Buckeyes team. He would be the ideal next building block for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Here are six reasons why.
Tristan Thompson is still a work in progress.
The Cavaliers simply don’t have a reliable, go-to-guy in the post.
Whether Antawn Jamison stays or not, he’s not a true post player. Tristan Thompson has a high motor and has demonstrated a willingness to go hard to the rim, but his game is still very much a work in progress. Samardo Samuels is a bruiser, but seems unable to avoid foul trouble. Semih Erden hasn’t looked interested in seizing his opportunities for playing time.
Apart from Kyrie Irving’s dribble penetration, Cleveland tries to make its living as a jump shooting team. While decent from behind the arc as a team, the Cavaliers lack true shooters who can consistently knock down 18-foot jumpers. They’d be much better off trying to integrate their scoring with a go-to player inside.
Sullinger is a traditional back-to-the-basket player who has a nice array of power moves, commands the ball and draws double teams. What he lacks in height, he more than compensates for with his physique. While he won’t be able to bulldoze NBA bigs the way he has in college, he should be readily able to hold his own, get his points and be a force on the glass.
Tony Wroten would be a good fit as a combo guard.
Many are predicting Cleveland to draft a shooting guard with its first selection. They have one of the worst shooting guard trios in the league in Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson and Manny Harris. After trading Ramon Sessions to the Lakers, the Cavs are now absent a true back up point as well.
Guards are much easier to come by as the league is evolving more and more into a transition game. Drafting a combo guard with their second first round pick would be a good idea given the traditional depth at the position in the draft. The following players were all drafted 24th or later in the previous seven drafts:
Shooting guards: MarShon Brooks (25th overall, ’11), Jordan Crawford (27th overall, ’10), Arron Afflalo (27th overall, ’07), Monta Ellis (40th overall, ’05)
Point guards: Goran Dragic (45th overall, ’08), Aaron Brooks (26th overall, ’07), Ramon Sessions (56th overall, ’07), Kyle Lowry (24th overall, ’06), Jordan Farmar (26th overall, ’06)
While it’s unrealistic to assume Bradley Beal, Austin Rivers, Jeremy Lamb or Kendall Marhsall will be available when the Cavs have their second pick, if a player like Tony Wroten or John Jenkins is available, Cleveland would be wise to pull the trigger.
Varejao's grinding play style has taken it's toll on his body.
I’ve given my two cents on why the Cavs need to re-sign Antawn Jamison, and I think the possibility is even stronger now that he remains on the team after the trade deadline. Whether he goes or not, he and Anderson Varejao could just as easily not play for the Cavs next season.
While Varejao has been a consistent spark for the Cavaliers since his arrival in the NBA, his body is starting to wear down. Much like Cleveland Indians’ outfielder Grady Sizemore, Cavs fans could be witnessing another beloved and talented athlete slowly succumbing to the rigors of his playing style. Varejao has a history of minor injuries, but his past two seasons have been cut short in the midst of the best play of his career.
With the team’s starting 4 and 5 potentially gone in ’12-’13, it’s imperative that Cleveland finds a cog in the paint to make up for their lost production. If either or both are healthy and playing for Cleveland next season, they would serve as excellent mentors to help Sullinger, who just turned 20.
Sullinger's physical style should translate well in the NBA.
Assuming Jamison walks, Cleveland would be absent a clear-defined second scoring option. There’s no one else on the current roster who demands the ball. Alonzo Gee has proven himself a worthy wing player, but shouldn’t be the third scoring option on any NBA team, much less one with playoff aspirations.
Some have predicted the Cavaliers will take Perry Jones III with their first pick. While he is an impressive physical specimen and potentially explosive scorer, his stock is hurt by his unwillingness or inability to truly harness his talents and dominate games.
Sullinger, on the other hand, may not have as high a ceiling as PJ3, but he plays with a passion and intensity that would be a breathe of fresh air for a Cavs team that often looks stale without Varejao’s energy. Sullinger will get another chance to prove himself in Saturday’s Final Four showdown against Kansas, and stud power forward Thomas Robinson. Robinson has absolutely dominated the NCAA Tournament, so this will be Sullinger’s best opportunity to prove his worth against a formidable opponent.
Cleveland could really use Sullinger's physical play.
NBA basketball is a physical game. Sullinger might lack explosiveness, but he’s a strong, back-to-the basket player, with an NBA body. Sullinger’s physicality, combined with Varejao’s hustle and Tristan Thompson’s athleticism could dominate the paint. The trio could potentially average 25 rebounds a game among the three of them.
With Irving, Gee and potentially Wroten providing scoring off the dribble, and Gibson, Omri Casspi, and possibly Jenkins as perimeter threats, the Cavs could have a surprisingly diverse and effective offensive attack.
Would the Cavs still draft Harrison Barnes if he's available?
Cleveland currently stands with the eighth overall pick in the draft. At this point, this seems about as low as they’ll likely go, even if Varejao returns for the final weeks of the season. At the moment, they’re only one game better than Sacramento, and only three games ahead of New Jersey, whose (at this point) fourth overall pick will go to Portland after the Gerald Wallace trade.
While Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Thomas Robinson and Andre Drummond seem like virtual locks for the top four picks, the rest of the lottery could project differently than some originally thought. Initially considered a top-three pick, Harrison Barnes turned in a largely disappointing Tournament performance, where he shot just .328 from the field (20-61 FG) and .261 (9-23) from three-point range.
The players available for Cleveland to choose from will obviously depend on where they end up, but any way it plays out, the Cavaliers could likely be in the enviable position of deciding among four players who fill four different positions of need outside Kyrie Irving, who at this point is the only lock on their roster. Bradley Beal, Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones III and Jared Sullinger would all be nice fits for the Cavaliers. To me, Sullinger seems like the safest bet to be available wherever the Cavs end up. If he is, Cleveland would be making a wise investment by selecting him.