Uncertainty will mount and other options may arise, but the Cavaliers cannot lose sight of what they need; they must make Otto Porter their top priority.
According to Michael Lee of The Washington Post, the Cavaliers are considering selecting Porter first overall. This comes after many appeared to have labeled Kentucky's Nerlens Noel the top talent in this year's draft.
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Kentucky coach John Calipari tells Plain Dealer that #Cavs GM Chris Grant scouted Nerlens Noel more than any other NBA GM last winter.5/22/2013, 9:01:19 PM
Since Noel tore his ACL, however, it's been nothing short of confusion and pandemonium.
If the Cavaliers are looking to continue building their franchise in the proper direction they must weigh all factors. Upon doing so, they'll likely come to the conclusion that the player they need most is right under their nose.
That player is Porter.
All About Need
Since LeBron James departed in 2010, a span of three full seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been without a reliable option at small forward. Including 2013, however, Cleveland has owned the top pick twice and the fourth-overall choice another two times.
They've landed a point guard, shooting guard and power forward in that time, also trading for a center during the 2012 NBA draft. Now it's time to address their last remaining void.
Otto Porter is not the most explosive athlete, but he's the most complete player in the 2013 NBA draft. He stands at 6'9" with a 7'2" wingspan.
Porter does weigh in at a light 198 pounds, but here's the kicker: That's just eight pounds lighter than center Nerlens Noel.
In terms of his abilities, Porter handles the ball very well and facilitates at an extraordinary level for his position. Porter is also a lethal jump-shooter with three-point range and the ability to crash the offensive glass.
Seeing as the Cavaliers are in need of a secondary ball-handler to complement Kyrie Irving and ranked 23rd in three-point field goal percentage, you can't find a better fit.
Furthermore, the No. 1 issue for the Cavaliers has been their inability to remain healthy. Center Anderson Varejao has missed at least 40 games in three consecutive seasons. Porter, meanwhile, has been in good health, while Noel is coming off of a severe knee injury.
All signs point to Porter, so why ignore them in favor of what might be?
Where Would Noel Fit In?
On the surface, Nerlens Noel is everything the Cleveland Cavaliers need. He's a 7'0" center with a 7'4" wingspan, explosive athleticism and the ability to block shots and protect the rim at a higher rate than any player currently on Cleveland's roster.
That all changed when he weighed in at 206 pounds.
Noel has the length, athleticism and raw defensive ability to warrant the top pick, but there's no way to justify playing him at center until he bulks up. Seeing as "bulking up" means adding 30 to 35 pounds for Noel, that's a process no one can feel confident going into.
Noel could play power forward in a similar manner to Serge Ibaka—something Cleveland simply does not need him to do.
Tristan Thompson averaged 12.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game after the All-Star Break, which is astounding considering he's just 22. While Noel may have the higher upside, Thompson is proven in the sense that he continues to develop on both ends of the floor.
Noel, meanwhile, is unbelievably thin and coming off of a season-ending knee injury. In a draft this weak, it's better to go for the safe pick.
Most Complete vs. Highest Upside
Often, the player that goes first overall is both the most complete and upside-ridden player in the draft. In 2013, however, only one of those descriptions has a defined recipient.
That would be Otto Porter.
Porter has every skill that a small forward needs to thrive at the next level. More importantly, he's made such significant strides since the 2011-12 season that his upside appears to be untapped, thus eliminating the concerns that he can't get any better.
As for Nerlens Noel, we can't help but wonder—does he actually have the highest upside in the draft?
Victor Oladipo is one of the best athletes in this draft—perhaps the best—while Ben McLemore shares similar physical gifts with a gorgeous three-point stroke. Noel, meanwhile, could be a defensive anchor, but his interior offense will only come along if he can add a significant amount of muscle mass.
So why take a risk on a player with the upside of a borderline All-Star when you have a safe alternative with similar potential?
If that question appears to lead you in a certain direction, that's because it should. Porter is a safe pick at any stage that may not develop into a star, but is all but certain to be a strong player that can contribute in every area offensively and play elite defense.
When a draft is this weak, the only rational option is to be safe, and there is no safer pick for the Cavaliers than Porter.