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Analyzing Cleveland Cavaliers' Biggest Draft Needs

Duke forward Jabari Parker and Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins look for a possible rebound off a free-throw attempt during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, in Chicago. Kansas won 94-83. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
Greg SwartzCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterMay 26, 2014

The Cleveland Cavaliers will enter the 2014 NBA draft with a tremendous opportunity to improve their roster.

Not only do the Cavs hold the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, they also own the Orlando Magic's second-rounder, No. 33 overall, as well.

Cleveland is coming off a 33-49 season with quite a few holes to fill. While traditionally they've never been a franchise to bring in big free agents or pull off blockbuster trades, the draft has been a source of star power for the Cavs.

Armed with their two selections, here's where the Cavaliers could use the most help and which players could satisfy those needs.

 

Positional Needs

The Cavs still have some decisions to make on certain players who could or will hit free agency this summer.

Small forward Luol Deng, center Spencer Hawes and shooting guard C.J. Miles will all become unrestricted free agents this July. Cleveland holds team options of $3 million on small forward Alonzo Gee and $1.45 million on small forward Scotty Hopson, as reported by Brian Windhorst on ESPN.com. They can also choose to keep center Anderson Varejao for $9.7 million or buy him out with just $4 million guaranteed, according to spotrac.com.

If Deng and Hawes leave via free agency, the Cavs will have major holes at small forward and center.
If Deng and Hawes leave via free agency, the Cavs will have major holes at small forward and center.USA TODAY Sports

There's just no way general manager David Griffin will keep Gee around for that kind of money, and Hopson's deal will likely be used to help facilitate a trade. Varejao is much more likely to return, given that his $9.7 million expiring contract could also become a valuable trade chip.

Given that information, here's what the Cavaliers' depth chart looks like heading into the draft.

PositionStarterReserve3rd String
Point GuardKyrie IrvingJarrett JackMatthew Dellavedova
Shooting GuardDion WaitersSergey Karasev 
Small ForwardCarrick FelixScotty Hopson 
Power ForwardTristan ThompsonAnthony Bennett 
CenterAnderson VarejaoTyler Zeller 

Assuming the Cavs and Deng won't come to an agreement on a new contract, there stands to be a gaping hole at small forward. Felix played in just seven games this season, averaging 2.7 points and 0.9 rebounds. Clearly, he's not ready to handle a starting job.

There's a chance Bennett could play some minutes at the 3, although he was a disaster when playing small forward and isn't a good three-point shooter yet.

Small forward is the Cavs' biggest position of need, but center isn't far behind. If Cleveland can re-sign Hawes, than they should be OK with he, Varejao and Zeller. If they choose to go in a different direction, then a center should be drafted at some point. There's still no guarantee the Cavs will keep Varejao, and Zeller played just 15 minutes a game this season in a reserve role.

Best Prospect Fits: First Round—Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid. Second Round—Glenn Robinson III, Cleanthony Early, Isaiah Austin.

 

Offensive Needs

Despite playing with a roster of Irving, Waiters, Deng, Hawes, Jack and Miles, Mike Brown limited the Cavs to the 22nd-ranked team offense in the NBA.

Not only was Cleveland 22nd in scoring (98.2 points per game), their offensive rating ranked 22nd as well (104.2).

Here's where the Cavs ranked in 10 major offensive categories.

 PTSORtgORebPaceFG%FT%3PM3PA3P%AST
Cavs Stats98.2104.212.193.143.775.17.120.035.621.2
League Rank2222519272018201820

Not surprisingly, Brown's non-existent playbook destroyed the Cavs' offense. They ranked in the top 17 of just one category: offensive rebounding. Considering just three NBA teams missed more often than the Cavaliers did this season, it's no wonder they had so many opportunities on their own glass.

Feb 11, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Tristan Thompson (13) rebounds during a game against the Sacramento Kings at Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland won 109-99. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

While it's obvious that help is needed across the board, a better coach and offensive system should help ease a lot of the scoring pain.

There is, however, one area where Cleveland could help themselves out immensely in the draft. It may seem obvious, but teams that can get easy baskets near the rim typically enjoy the most success.

Here's where the Cavaliers need to make a major improvement.

From most areas of the court, the Cavaliers are remarkably average. They shoot 40.8 percent from the paint (non-restricted area, 10th in league), 39.4 percent from mid-range (17th in league) and 35.6 percent from three (18th in league).

The one area the Cavs struggle the most from is the closest on the court: the restricted area.

Cleveland was dead last in the NBA in converting at the rim, making just 56.1 percent of their tries.

MILWAUKEE, WI - APRIL 11: Kyrie Irving #2 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots the ball against Jeff Adrien #12 of the Milwaukee Bucks on April 11, 2014 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. NOTE TO USER:  User expressly acknowledges and
Gary Dineen/Getty Images

To illustrate the importance of success at this area, the top three teams in restricted-area field-goal percentage were the Miami Heat (68.0 percent), Los Angeles Clippers (67.7 percent) and San Antonio Spurs (64.8 percent). Only one of the bottom seven teams (Chicago Bulls) in restricted-area field-goal percentage even made the playoffs.

Part of the Cavaliers' problems stem from their lack of post-up big men. Starting center Hawes took nearly four of his 11 shots a game from the three-point line and rarely stayed in the paint on offense. Varejao and Zeller are also jump-shooters.

Drafting a big man capable of creating his own offense in the post is key for the Cavs. It would dramatically increase their shooting percentages from the restricted area, which clearly has an effect on team success.

Best Prospect Fits: First Round—Joel Embiid. Second Round—Mitch McGary.

 

Defensive Needs

Cleveland enjoyed a much better season defensively under Brown, even without a true rim protector or lock-down perimeter defender.

The Cavs were 16th in points allowed (101.5) and 19th in defensive rating (107.7) in 2013-14. Their opponent field-goal percentage was a very respectable 12th overall (45.2 percent), up from 30th the season before.

Apr 12, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Mason Plumlee (center) drives between Cleveland Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller (left) and guard Matthew Dellavedova (8) in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA
USA TODAY Sports

While the effort was inconsistent, Cleveland did a nice job contesting shots and guarding the perimeter.

Where they struggled, once again, was inside the paint.

With no shot-blocking threat, opposing teams had their way with the Cavaliers at the rim. Cleveland allowed teams to shoot 62.8 percent in the restricted area, the seventh-worst mark in the NBA. For comparison, the Indiana Pacers and defensive expert Roy Hibbert held opponents to 53 percent.

The Cavs were next to last in the league in blocks with just 3.7 per game. Varejao is a fine defensive center, but has blocked 1.0 shot per game or more just once in his career. Cleveland's last rim protector was Zydrunas Ilgauskas, four years ago.

They desperately need someone to come in and put some fear into opposing guards when they try to drive the lane.

Luckily, such a player exists for them to draft at No. 1 overall.

Joel Embiid blocked 4.5 shots per 40 minutes during his freshman year at Kansas while leading the Big 12 in defensive rating (90.9, via sports-reference.com).

David Nurse of Hoops Hype tells us more about Embiid's fantastic defensive game:

In isolation situations, he is holding opponents to 0.655 points per possession. Even the Indiana Pacers score at a higher clip than that. In the ever important pick-and-roll situation, Embiid’s defense is producing at a respectable 0.84 points per possession. And good luck in catch-and-shoot close out situation; he is holding his offensive opponent to an ice cold field goal percentage of 27 percent.

Really, when breaking down the major needs for Cleveland, only Embiid fills all three.

Position-wise, he could solidify a shaky center position for the next 10-15 years. On offense, Embiid has an array of post moves that would provide the Cavs with a scoring threat inside. Defensively, his 7'5" wingspan would cover quite a bit of ground and give Cleveland the anchor they've been missing for years.

While Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins would also help cure a lot of the Cavaliers' ailments, Embiid, if healthy, should be the pick to fulfill the team's needs.

Best Prospect Fits: First Round—Joel Embiid. Second Round—Walter Tavares.

 

-GS

 

All stats via NBA.com/Stats unless otherwise noted.

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