NBA Draft 2012: 5 Targets for the Cleveland Cavaliers' No. 4 Pick
The Cleveland Cavaliers will be faced with perhaps their toughest—and most significant—decision in the 42-year history of the franchise.
It is as follows: Who will they take with their top selection in the 2012 NBA draft?
Unfortunately for eager Cavs fans, this question will not be answered until draft night on June 28. Still, that leaves plenty of time to analyze the options.
The ultimate goal for them, of course, is to add a stud here; someone who can eventually become a Robin to Kyrie Irving's Batman.
With the current format of the league, it is almost necessary for a franchise to have multiple All-Star-caliber players in order to win championships.
Don't believe me? Just look at the final four teams of the 2012 playoffs: the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. Each are led by not just one or two, but three to four future Hall of Famers.
With the fourth pick in the draft, the Cavs are now faced with a golden opportunity to take a huge step forward with their rebuilding project. And they need to make the most of it.
Let's examine their top five choices.
1. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
The top option for me is easily Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who averaged 11.8 points and 7.6 boards per game in his sole season with the Wildcats.
Kidd-Gilchrist is a winner in every sense of the term. He won in high school, he won in college and he is going to win in the NBA.
The 6'8" forward just has that mentality. He could not care less about personal statistics as long as his team gets the victory. And he is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done.
It's not often when you see a star player diving for loose balls, making the extra pass or setting screens. But MKG, as they call him, brings all of these intangibles to the table and more.
He has a never-ending motor and is an elite athlete with great size, strength and quickness. These attributes allow for him to be a lockdown perimeter defender as well as a great rebounder.
By no stretch of the imagination is Kidd-Gilchrist a great scorer, as his unorthodox jump shot and limited skill-set leave much to be desired from a high draft pick. He will likely never be a go-to guy offensively and a team should not draft him with that expectation.
The Kentucky forward did, however, lead the NCAA in transition field-goal percentage, cashing in an astounding 71 percent of his attempts. This ranked him ahead of all other 2012 draft prospects, according to DraftExpress.
That alone should pair him perfectly next to the young legs of Irving, Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee. With Kidd-Gilchrist, the Cavs could potentially be one of the top fast-break teams in the league next year.
It also doesn't hurt that he has experience playing next to Irving. The two starred together at St. Patrick High School in New Jersey, where they won a state championship.
"One of my best friends in life, period," Kidd-Gilchrist said of his former teammate, according to The Plain Dealer. "Just a great guy in life and a leader. He's a leader on the court. We talk a lot. I would love to play with Kyrie, but if not, oh well. It is what it is."
At this point, however, it seems very unlikely that he will still be around at No. 4. But he is well worth moving up for if given the opportunity—perhaps in the rumored deal of packaging this pick with the 24th in exchange for the second from Charlotte, according to ESPN's Chad Ford).
Check out Kidd-Gilchrist's complete in-depth analysis here.
2. Bradley Beal
Next on the list is Florida's sharp shooting 2-guard Bradley Beal, who averaged 14.6 points and 6.5 boards per contest in his freshman season for the Gators.
Opposite to Kidd-Gilchrist, Beal has outstanding natural scoring instincts. He can get to the basket at ease, knows how to draw a foul and has three-point range on his jumper.
Although he struggled at times defensively on a Florida squad that ranked a horrendous 119th in the country according to KenPom (via RockChalkTalk.com), he also has all the tools to become a serviceable perimeter defender at the next level.
He is not a great athlete for NBA standards, but his extremely high basketball IQ helps him beat his opponent to the spot.
Additionally, Beal is an excellent rebounder for his height and by all accounts appears to be a great person off the court—something the Cavs take heavily into consideration when weighing their options.
According to Florida head coach Billy Donovan (from ESPN):
"The one thing I admire about him more than anything else from the time he stepped foot on this campus, he has been a great teammate, he has been really unselfish, he has worked incredibly hard. Winning is very, very important to him. Chemistry on the team is very important to him."
It needs to be mentioned, however, that while Beal has always been considered an excellent shooter, he shot an abysmal 33.9 percent from downtown. He would be the first to admit that he was uncharacteristically cold for most of the year.
But this does not phase professional scouts, who believe he will find his form at the next level due to his flawless form and dedication to the game.
He will also receive plenty more open looks playing next to a point guard of Irving's caliber rather than the Gators' selfish backcourt duo of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker.
Beal's scoring will also take a lot of pressure off of Irving, who was required to carry most of the load offensively last season. He could be the three-point threat that the Cavs have unsuccessfully been searching for since the LeBron era.
All in all, Beal may lack the explosiveness to ever become a superstar in the league, but is a relatively safe pick at No. 4 and would be a perfect fit on the team.
Check out Beal's complete in-depth analysis here.
3. Thomas Robinson
Though many people may disagree with this, Kansas' Thomas Robinson comes up third on the list after posting impressive averages of 17.9 points and 11.8 rebounds per game his junior year for the Jayhawks.
Robinson successfully measured in just a tad below 6'9" with shoes at the draft combine, disproving those who believed he was closer to 6'6" than his listed height of 6'10". Pairing this with his strength, quickness and athleticism make him quite the physical specimen.
The power forward is also one of the toughest players in the entire draft. He lost his mother and both grandparents within a 25-day span of each other during his sophomore season. Then, he still managed to not only play, but dominate in an in-state rivalry game two days after his mom's funeral.
T-Rob is also clearly a more than capable scorer, carrying the load offensively for one of the top teams in the country. He has a soft touch around the rim and likes to muscle opponents down in the post. He also likes to finish with authority on any opportunity he gets, particularly on fast breaks.
One area of his game that should translate seamlessly to the next level is his ability to hit the glass. With his aforementioned physical prowess along with his incredible motor, he should be able to rebound with the best of them in the NBA.
Defensively, however, Robinson was not as great as he should have been with his perfect build. He appeared lackadaisical at times and was not much of a shot-blocking threat—swatting away only .9 attempts per game.
He could also stand to further improve his jump shot and footwork in the post. Right now, he relies too much on his athleticism, which will not be nearly as effective against professionals.
Regardless, Robinson has the ability to become a dominant force on both ends of the court and would be too good of a value to pass up at No. 4, even though the team selected another power forward in Thompson at the same spot last year.
What many people fail to see is that most good teams have a rotation of at least three solid bigs. Thompson and Anderson Varejão are more than capable of playing some minutes at center, anyways, and are a perfect fit next to the offensive-minded Robinson.
Robinson would also thrive in the pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop setting next to Irving that the team currently runs in coach Byron Scott's Princeton offense. He would also be great running the lane alongside Irving in transition.
But he may not be on the board when the Cavs are on the clock. DraftExpress recently tweeted, "He's the clear frontrunner to be picked #2 at this point."
If this is the case, he is not worth moving up for because that would guarantee that one of Kidd-Gilchrist or Beal will be available instead.
Check out Robinson's complete in-depth analysis here.
4. Harrison Barnes
The over-scrutinized North Carolina wing Harrison Barnes, who averaged 17.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in his second year with the Tar Heels, is my next top option for the Cavs.
Barnes is arguably the best pure scorer in the entire draft. His 23.3 points per 40 minutes put him well above the likes of Beal and Kidd-Gilchrist, who were at 17.2 and 15.3, respectively.
The "Black Falcon" has a very smooth game offensively. He has an excellent one-dribble jumper and is great in catch-and-shoot situations. His aggressiveness to attack the basket, however, is lacking and may hinder his potential at the next level.
He also ranked, according to DraftExpress, as the second-best prospect in terms of athleticism after only Marquette's Darius Johnson-Odom. His 38-inch standing vertical was in the top five all-time in their database and his ability to bench press 185 pounds 15 times and run the fastest three-quarter court time of 3.16 seconds were also extremely impressive.
It's all just a testament of his incredible work ethic and desire to become a great player.
This elite athleticism has allowed him to be one of the top defensive players in the nation over the past couple years. There is no reason to doubt that his prowess on this end of the court will translate beautifully to the NBA as well.
While Barnes had a very subpar sophomore campaign that ended on a sour note—losing to Kansas in the Elite Eight in a championship-or-bust season—it is very plausible to see how he can be a better player in the pros than in college.
For one, he will be able to play a smaller role, rather than being forced into being a superstar like he was at North Carolina. He could be a great fit to knock down open threes off Irving's penetration and take some of the scoring load off him, as well as taking on the challenge of guarding the opposing team's top offensive swingman.
There is also the opinion that the Tar Heels did not have enough spacing on the floor. Backcourt mates Kendall Marshall and Dexter Strickland were not shooters and Tyler Zeller and John Henson mostly stayed in the paint. Thus, Barnes did not get as many open looks.
Don't expect for him to be a star, but he seems to be a safe pick to become reliable starter for years to come for the Cavs.
Check out Barnes' complete in-depth analysis here.
5. Andre Drummond
Concluding this list is the player with perhaps the highest amount of potential in the entire draft in Connecticut's Andre Drummond, who averaged a mediocre 10.2 points and 7.7 boards per game in his freshman season with the Huskies.
Drummond has been considered one of the most highly regarded high school player in the nation for years, which is why it was so disappointing to see him be so submissive.
He was soft, lackadaisical and inconsistent. He shot a horrible 29.5 percent from the free-throw line and seemed only capable of scoring off dunk opportunities.
Those are some major red flags.
There is the other side of the 7-footer, however. It's the side that will cause one general manager to potentially put their job in jeopardy and select him.
First, weighing in at 279 pounds, Drummond is a very massive person. But he is extremely athletic and coordinated at the same time and even posted a lane agility time of 10.83 seconds. This placed him in the top three for the event, an "incredible feat" for a center according to DraftExpress.
He was also among the top defensive players in the country last year. Opposing players had difficulties trying to post him up or even get shots up over him. Drummond swatted away an impressive 2.7 blocks while only committing 2.2 fouls per contest. His quickness also allowed him to competently defend the pick-and-roll.
While his ability to hit the defensive glass was an issue, he was much more aggressive in going after boards on the offensive end, pulling down 3.4 offensive rebounds per game.
Drummond is the perfect example of a high-risk, high-reward type player, but I just hope the team that takes the risk on him won't the Cavs.
At least not with the fourth pick.
If the Cavs are unsatisfied with their options when they are on the clock and decide to trade back, at some point he is worth the gamble. And to me, that point is when the aforementioned four players, along with expected top selection Anthony Davis are off the board.
But I feel like Cleveland offers Drummond a situation where he can succeed. The franchise is run by one of the most dedicated front offices in the league who will be sure to get him the right tools necessary for him to reach his potential.
The team also has a great veteran in Varejão to take him under his wing. "Wild Thing" has been around the league for a while and has earned the reputation of a great teammate and energy player. If he can't motivate Drummond, then nobody can.
Drummond would also be a good fit next to Irving. With his mobility and ability to finish strong at the rim, he could be a perfect pick-and-roll partner for him. And if he reaches his potential, the two could be a scary duo together for many years to come.
That's a gigantic if, however, one that is far too large for comfort.
Check out Drummond's complete in-depth analysis here.