Cleveland Cavaliers: 5 Biggest Needs in the NBA Draft

Michael KeefeContributor IIIApril 4, 2012

Cleveland Cavaliers: 5 Biggest Needs in the NBA Draft

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    In the midst of a season-long losing streak, memories of a promising start to the season have faded, and the task of rebuilding has become increasingly daunting. 

    For a majority of this season, the Cavaliers got stellar play from rookies Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, veterans Anderson Varejao and Antawn Jamison and surprise players like Alonzo Gee. However, with less than a month to play, Varejao has been lost to injury, Jamison has been lost to ineffectiveness and the rookies have started to show real signs of hitting that first-year wall. 

    All of these issues have left the Cavaliers looking like a potpourri of players most people have never heard of. Players like Manny Harris, Semih Erden and Lester Hudson are starting to get significant minutes.

    Not surprisingly, that hasn't led to great results.

    Now, more than any other point this season, it is clear to see the tremendous length the organization still must go to put a real contender on the court. Gone are the days of dreaming of making the playoffs just one year removed from LeBron James. It's time to think of what the Cavaliers can do with their four draft picks.

    The only position the Cavaliers can really be content with is point guard, where Kyrie Irving has quickly established himself as one of the best players in the game and as the face of the franchise for years to come.

    At power forward, Tristan Thompson has shown tremendous growth, but he still has a ways to go. The Cavaliers can't be completely comfortable calling him the starting power forward of the future at this point, but that is their hope.

    Literally every other position is up for grabs. This article examines five areas the Cavaliers must look into improving when the NBA Draft rolls around on June 28th.

    Obviously, they won't be getting enough players to satisfy all of these needs. But if they can take care of two or three of them, they'll be in great shape moving forward.  

Skilled Big Man

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    The Cavaliers frontcourt is set with two big men who are frustratingly active, while not necessarily being overly skilled. 

    Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao both bring a tough, defensive mindset to their positions. Of the two, Varejao is more polished offensively, but that's not saying a whole lot. 

    The rest of the frontcourt, including players like Semih Erden, Antawn Jamison and Samardo Samuels, may not even be around next season, and that wouldn't be too much of a cause for concern. 

    So in the draft, the Cavaliers need to be on the lookout for an offensively-minded big man who can stretch the floor while Thompson and Varejao are busy cleaning up the boards. They need a player who teams have to game-plan for on the offensive end of the court. They need a big man who can be physical at the rim and a capable shooter.

    Unless a miracle happens in the draft lottery, Cavaliers fans can forget about Anthony Davis. He will be the first pick, which means he probably won't be donning the wine and gold unless the team can make a trade. 

    Other solid options who might be available include Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie, who scored more than 16 points per game while being rock-solid both inside and outside. If Moultrie's gone, the Cavaliers could look to Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, who would be a solid offensive threat to play alongside our defensive-minded big men.

    Past Sullinger, the Cavaliers could look at Tyler Zeller from North Carolina or Andrew Nicholson from St. Bonaventure. There is pretty solid depth in big men in the 2012 draft, assuming these players turn pro.


    The Cavaliers have to use one of their picks to make sure they get a bit more versatile on the front line.

Playmaker on the Wing

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    Kyrie Irving has been every bit the playmaker he was expected to be. He manages to get inside, score from outside and plays his best when the games are on the line. 

    As it stands right now, Irving is the only real playmaker on the roster at either of the guard spots or at small forward. The Cavaliers must focus on getting him some help in the backcourt. 

    Anthony Parker is most certainly coming to the end of his career in Cleveland. While he is still a  capable shooter, Parker struggles to create shots for himself. His lack of speed makes him totally one-dimensional on offense and has turned him into a sub-par defender. 

    Alonzo Gee has been a nice surprise this year. But ideally, he is a bench player. He is a freakish athlete and is as strong as a rock. However, he lacks the fundamental skills to make him a viable option as a starter on a contending NBA team. 

    Omri Casspi has struggled this year. His shooting hasn't been very good, and he doesn't get to the rim as much as he had done with Sacramento. Like Gee and Parker, Casspi lacks the quickness to make plays and get by his defender. 

    Clearly, Irving needs a hand in the backcourt, and there is no shortage of players in this year's draft who can give him that help. 

    The obvious choice would be Florida's Bradley Beal, an athletic shooting guard and tremendous shooter. Beal had a tremendous last few weeks of the season, so it's looking more and more like the Cavaliers will need some good fortune in the draft lottery to land him.

    Other possibilities include Jeremy Lamb from Connecticut, Harrison Barnes from North Carolina, Terrence Jones from Kentucky or Terrence Ross from Washington. Any of these players could pair up with Irving and create some potent offensive sets in the Cavaliers backcourt.

Perimeter Defense

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    Defensively, the Cavaliers have a force to be reckoned with in Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson. However, once you look into the backcourt, the defenders don't exactly strike fear into the hearts of opponents.

    Kyrie Irving has been average defensively, but in no way has he been impressive on that end of the court. Anthony Parker used to be a premier perimeter defender, but his age has slowed him down.

    Alonzo Gee has probably been the Cavs' best perimeter defender, and that's not saying much, as he's had some players really take advantage of his inexperience. Daniel Gibson showed a renewed sense of urgency on the defensive end this season before getting hurt, but he doesn't have the build to be an elite defender.

    The Cavaliers should use the draft to try to find a player who can guard the other team's best wing player.

    The obvious choice would be Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has quick feet and hands, along with being incredibly physical. Once again, the Cavs can forget about adding him unless they really get lucky in the Lottery.

    Other options include North Texas' Tony Mitchell, who is incredible on defense and can play both small forward and power forward. Bradley Beal has been a very capable defender. Terrence Jones has also bought into the tough defensive system John Calipari has instilled at Kentucky, and showed that his size and quickness could be very tough for opponents to handle. 

    The Cavaliers need to consider defense when it comes time to making their draft picks. It will mean a world of difference for Tristan and Andy if the perimeter guys can divert a little of the penetration other teams seem to constantly get. Any of these names should help tremendously.

Pure Shooting

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    With their two second-round picks, the Cavaliers need to improve their outside shooting.

    As they stand right now, the Cavaliers don't have many dead-eye shooters. As a matter of fact, the only player who gets me excited when he's open is Boobie Gibson. The rest are mediocre outside shooters at best.

    With Kyrie Irving constantly getting penetration whenever he wants to, and with the athletic and quick big men (Varejao and Thompson) in the middle, the Cavaliers will draw a lot of attention in the paint. They need to find at least one player who will make teams pay for leaving him open.

    Vanderbilt's John Jenkins is one such shooter. NBA teams will always have to consider his presence. Kentucky's Doron Lamb has also been an extremely accurate outside shooter this year. He plays much of the role for Kentucky that he would be asked to play with the Cavs.

    Lastly, Alex Young from IUPUI could benefit the Cavaliers. He is a very strong scorer and may be available in the second round. 

    Regardless of other moves they make, it is imperative that the Cavaliers find some shooting help, as Parker, Gee and Casspi are not getting it done this year. 

    Add a shooter, and you're looking at a much improved squad. 


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    It's important to emphasize that not every draft pick has to be a starter. I know people think the Cavaliers should be able to build their starting five of the future with these four picks. The truth is that the Cavaliers need to get a really good player, a solid starter, and then supplement them with solid role players. 

    The Cavaliers had a solid bench to begin this season, led by Ramon Sessions. Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee also played with the second unit. 

    But when the injury bug hit, the Cavaliers were forced to deplete their second unit. They traded Sessions, mainly for a good draft pick, and they had to begin starting Gee and Thompson. Once this happened, the second unit had no chance, and they knew it. 

    The real trick for general manager Chris Grant will be finding players who will be OK as role players. Doing this will allow the Cavaliers to not allow every opponent to walk all over the team's second unit.

    Nobody should ever underestimate depth. Depth keeps teams in games, even if those players aren't playing necessarily well. If the Cavaliers can add two starters and two solid bench players, fans should be thrilled.

    It will be depth that translates into wins as the Cavaliers get back on the path to contention.