With the Cleveland Cavaliers lucking into the first pick in the NBA draft for the second time in three years, nearly all of the speculation has focused on which player the Cavs will select in that coveted spot.
And rightfully so—if that pick hits and the Cavs find a star, they set themselves up nicely for the next decade. Miss on that pick, or even just come up with an average rotation player, and Cleveland may have doomed itself to mediocrity. It's a big deal.
But Cleveland has a second pick in the first round, thanks to the Los Angeles Lakers and Ramon Sessions. Nailing that pick isn't equally important as the first overall, but finding a contributing player late in drafts is a huge, huge advantage. This is free money.
Let's assume the Cavs select Nerlens Noel. He fills a glaring need and sits atop the most mock drafts (that I've seen, anyways). With Noel in place, what should happen at No. 19?
Option No. 1: Fill out the starting lineup
With Noel on the roster, the Cavs will have a top-four draft pick from the past three seasons slotted in a point guard, shooting guard, power forward and center. That leaves a gaping hole at small forward.
That spot is currently occupied by Alonzo Gee, owner of the 282nd PER in the league and the second-most minutes played by any Cavalier last season. That is not ideal. Finding Gee's replacement is a good idea.
(For the record, parting ways with Gee is not mandatory. He's actually a capable player, but he was stretched beyond his capabilities last season. He shouldn't be playing that many minutes, asked to guard the other team's best perimeter player, knock down threes, etc. He'd be fine coming off of the bench.)
The Cavs should be looking for a good defender to cover for the defensive shortcomings of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. They need a very good three-point shooter that can stretch the floor, which is a necessity with the drive-and-kick capabilities of Irving and Waiters and the "paint-clogging" futures of a Tristan Thompson/Nerlens Noel front-court; a versatile wing who can fit in with either a traditional lineup or when the Cavs go small.
Hey, that's not asking too much, is it?
There's actually a handful of guys that could be available at or around that spot. In my opinion, Reggie Bullock from North Carolina has the resume closest to what was described above—ideal size, proven shooting skill and the length and athleticism to learn how to be a very good NBA defender. If he's available, he's the best fit.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope out of Georgia could also audition for the role, although he probably isn't as polished as Bullock right away, but could be down the line.
Option No. 2: Go big. Really big.
With Thompson and Anderson Varejao already on the roster, it could be argued the Cavs already have their starting 4 and 5. But neither protects the rim, and Varejao is a constant injury risk. Drafting Noel still fills a need.
But what if Rudy Gobert is still available? He's been projected anywhere from 10th overall to 22nd. So maybe he's a lottery pick, but if he falls, the 7'2" youngster presents a really intriguing option. Maybe it's overkill, but a big man lineup of Thompson, Varejao, Tyler Noel and Gobert is formidable.
You can never have too many bigs, and while it might be irresponsible to draft for luxury with so many glaring needs, the Cavs should be taking the best player available. If Gobert is there at 19, he likely fits that criteria.
If the Cavs go this route, they might as well go all the way: sign Greg Oden. At the very least, the Cavs have now jacked the odds way, way up that they've found a reliable post player for the future.
Option No. 3: Trade the pick.
Is the 19th overall selection, paired with either one of two of the Cavs' second-round picks, enough to move into the lottery?
Maybe, if Dallas is serious enough about clearing cap space to make a run at Dwight Howard.
If the Cavs were able to move up that high, who would be the target? The Gobert logic would still apply, although they'd be paying a premium for him instead of grabbing a great value. No. 13 might be too high for Bullock, but he does fill a need. Perhaps this puts Allen Crabbe into consideration.
The swingmen-type players are projected to go all over the place. It might be wise for the Cavs to stay put and let one fall to them, if there's not much difference between the lot. But if there's a guy Chris Grant covets—and history shows he is not afraid to take his guy, no matter where he's drafting—he may have the firepower to move up.
Either way, there will be talent available to the Cavs. Probably not a future all-star, but certainly a contributor. As always with Dan Gilbert, Chris Grant and the Cavs around draft time, it'll be very interesting to see what they wind up doing.