Top Options for Cleveland Cavaliers to Build Playoff Contender with No. 1 Pick

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Top Options for Cleveland Cavaliers to Build Playoff Contender with No. 1 Pick

With the Cleveland Cavaliers winning their second draft lottery in three years, the focus of the franchise now shifts to playoffs or bust.

The Cavs have spent the past three seasons in the NBA's basement, slowly gathering lottery picks and young talent on their way to forming a solid, and hopefully successful, talent base.

Winning the draft lottery is nice, but not something an NBA team exactly strives for every year.

For the Cavs, now is the time for playoff expectations.  Young talent is beginning to mature, cap space is abundant, and the winningest coach in franchise history is on board to instill a defensive mindset into this young Cleveland team.

Here are three scenarios in which the Cavs could make a serious run at the playoffs, all by managing the first overall pick correctly.

 

Option No. 1: Draft Nerlens Noel, Acquire SF through FA or Trade

The first option has the Cavs sticking with the first overall pick and taking the player with the most upside in the draft, Nerlens Noel.

The center out of Kentucky would shore up the Cavs interior defense, giving them a much-needed shot-blocker in the paint.  When Kyrie Irving's man blows by him, he'll have to counter with Noel at the rim.

This saves the Cavs from reaching on another needed player, small forward Otto Porter, but doesn't answer their hole at the position.

For this, the Cavs would need to turn to free agency or a trade, due to the lack of quality small forwards after Porter in the draft.

Two names that immediately stick out are free agent Andre Iguodala and Indiana Pacers' forward Danny Granger.

If the Cavs can sign Iggy as their answer at the three or trade for Granger, they'll have a very formidable starting lineup that would easily be a playoff team in the East.

Option No. 1 lineup:

PG: Kyrie Irving

SG: Dion Waiters

SF: Andre Iguodala/Danny Granger

PF: Tristan Thompson

C: Nerlens Noel

 

Option No. 2: Trade Back, Take Otto Porter

I'm not a fan of taking Porter first overall from a value standpoint, but it's no secret the Georgetown star would be a perfect fit on the Cavs.

For this scenario, the Cavs can draft Porter while still gaining additional assets.

Cleveland could shop the first overall pick to a team that covets Noel or Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore.  Since it's unlikely Porter would fall past the Washington Wizards at No. 3, the Cavs couldn't afford to trade back too far.

This leaves the Orlando Magic or Washington Wizards as a possible trade partner.  Orlando could covet a number of players, including Noel, McLemore, or Michigan point guard Trey Burke.  I'm guessing they'd be happy to snatch up whoever the Cavs pass on first overall.

This leaves Washington, who could use help everywhere outside of the guards.  If they decide they really like Noel over Porter, a deal could be formed.

For example, Cleveland could ask for the third overall pick this year, as well as the Wizards first round pick next year (top-five protected) in exchange for the first overall pick and both their second-round picks this year (Nos. 31 and 33 overall).

This way, Cleveland could still take their small forward of the future in Porter and possibly pick up another first-round pick next year.

They would still hold the 19th overall pick, which could be used to address their depth at center.  A player like Steven Adams, Gorgui Dieng or Rudy Gobert would all provide a shot-blocker that the Cavs need to back up Anderson Varejao.

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Louisville center Gorgui Dieng

Option No. 2 lineup:

PG: Kyrie Irving

SG: Dion Waiters

SF: Otto Porter

PF: Tristan Thompson

C: Varejao and Adams/Dieng/Gobert

 

Option No. 3: Trade Pick for Proven Talent

Instead of taking a player at the top of their draft board in Noel or Porter, the Cavs could go in a completely different direction and trade the pick for a proven NBA player.

One player the Cavs could pursue using the first overall pick is Atlanta Hawks' center Al Horford.

Horford is one of the most underrated big men in the game today.  Last season, he put together averages of 17.4 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 54.3 percent from the field.  He carries three years and roughly $36 million on his contract, according to hoopshype.com.

About to turn 27, Horford is set to enter the prime of his career.  He can play both power forward and center, and would immediately become the Cavs' best scoring option in the post.

This is fine, but would Atlanta be interested in the trade?

A lot depends on Josh Smith and if they believe he'll re-sign with the team.  Smith is set to hit free agency, and his departure would likely mean a fall out of the playoffs for the Hawks.  They have some other young talent in guards Jeff Teague and Lou Williams, but not much else to build around if Smith leaves.  Atlanta could choose to go full rebuild, using their newly acquired first overall pick as the primary block.

Which option would be best for Cavs?

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Cleveland could offer the first overall pick, the 19th overall and Nos. 31 and 33 in exchange for Horford and the Hawks 17th overall pick.  This would give the Hawks three first-round picks in the draft, including the first overall, and start a possible rebuild immediately.

The Cavs would get a proven player in Horford, as well as move up two spots from their current 19th overall spot.

Cleveland would once again have to address their small forward situation via free agency or the draft with a player like Iguodala or Granger.

Option No. 3 lineup

PG: Kyrie Irving

SG: Dion Waiters

SF: Iguodala/Granger

PF: Tristan Thompson

C: Al Horford

All options should have the Cavs fighting for a playoff spot in 2013-14, and would represent a great use of the first overall pick.

While some would require using more cap room than others, it all depends on how creative general manager Chris Grant wants to get and how quickly he wants to accelerate the rebuilding process.

The Cavs have a special chance to improve themselves mightily, and any of these options would do just that.

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