The Cleveland Cavaliers haven't publicly made any promises, but rumors are surfacing with respect to what direction they'll take with the No. 1 overall pick in this June's draft.
CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports that "With Joel Embiid's foot surgery, and the reported 4-6 month recovery that comes with it, the Cavs are said to be leaning toward Duke's Jabari Parker with the No. 1 pick."
Berger writes, "Rival executives believe it would be out of character for Cleveland GM David Griffin to trade the top pick, and believe Bucks GM John Hammond would be hard-pressed to deviate from the other consensus top player in the draft [Andrew Wiggins] after Embiid's injury shook up the top of the lottery."
Embiid, of course, recently had surgery to repair a broken bone in his right foot. The New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence reports that "The Cavs would have taken him if he hadn’t required surgery on his foot, but now they aren’t going to touch him at No. 1 unless it’s to trade him."
Still, Cleveland general manager David Griffin has maintained a flexible approach from the outset, as evidenced by his measured stance on this year's draft. He told The Jim Rome Show back in May:
This is a deeper draft at the top than the last few, but it’s also not the year where you go ‘Oh, Tim Duncan’s in the draft I’ll take him. Everybody has made a lot of hype about this draft as though you can’t possibly fail and there are still question marks on all of these guys.
With Embiid set to slide in Thursday's draft, Cleveland's choice probably comes down to Parker and Kansas product Andrew Wiggins. Parker is the more polished prospect by most accounts and has already established himself as a dynamic scorer, averaging 19.1 points and 8.7 rebounds for the Duke Blue Devils last season.
The Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto notes that "The biggest concern is Parker's defense. He's 6-foot-8, 241 pounds and has to be careful not to add weight. Is he quick enough to play small forward? Or would he be better off as a power forward?"
According to Pluto, "The Cavs have the same questions about Anthony Bennett. Last year's top pick in the draft is listed at 6-foot-8, 259 pounds. Parker has far more skills on offense than Bennett, but the position question may hang over both players."
Bennett's presence also makes one wonder whether Parker might be slightly redundant. On the other hand, it may be that the two players can man the forward positions side-by-side. Unless the Cavs trade Bennett, that would seem to be the long-term plan.
With Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes both free agents this summer, the Cavs roster is anything but set. And as much as their decisions now will have long-term implications, the club is also looking to make short-term strides in a bid to keep emergent superstar Kyrie Irving happy.
Making the right pick this week certainly wouldn't hurt that effort.