On Thursday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers will make the first overall pick in the NBA Draft for the second time in the last three years. And unless they get it right, we might be saying something similar at this time next year.
Led by recent top five picks, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, the Cavs have a solid young core, but they are in dire need of a defensive-minded center or small forward with a solid all-around game.
The Cavs need to pick up a player that doesn't have to have the ball in his hands to be an impact player. Irving and Waiters are natural scorers and Thompson picks up loads of fouls and offensive boards. But, they lack anything resembling a defensive stopper.
As Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated points out, the Cavs ranked last in opponents’ field goal percentage last year. The team must get better on that end of the floor or they'll be picking near the top of the draft again next year.
Every recent NBA Finals winner has had a great scorer (e.g. LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and Kobe Bryant) and the Cavaliers already have that in Irving. He's averaged over 20 points a game in his first two seasons and his scoring average should only continue to rise if he can stay healthy going forward.
If Waiters develops the way the Cavs hope, he'll be another big-time scorer for the team to build around.
What the team lacks is a strong defensive stopper to man the post. LeBron's championship teams are an anomaly in that they lacked a good big man, but Dirk had Tyson Chandler when he won and Kobe had Pau Gasol.
Whatever the Cavaliers do, they have to make sure they come away with a talented big man or small forward. If that means trading the pick, so be it.
As of now, though, trading the top pick doesn't look like a possibility.
Taking a small forward with the top pick doesn’t seem like a likely scenario either, with top ranked small forward Otto Porter seen as more of a complimentary piece than a player taken at number one overall should be.
That leaves them with a choice between Kentucky's Nerlens Noel and Maryland's Alex Len.
Len has entered the conversation to be the number one pick of late, but if the Cavaliers are smart they'll take Noel.
Noel was the presumed number one pick all year long and I see no reason why the Cavs shouldn't make that come true on Thursday. Noel was leading the nation in blocked shots at the time of his season ending knee injury last season, and by all accounts his defensive skills will translate at the next level.
As long as they are comfortable with his rehab from knee surgery, he is exactly what the Cavs need to fortify their league-worst defense.
I'm as excited as you are to see if the Cavaliers agree.
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