Good news for general manager David Griffin, the drafting cavalry (me) has arrived.
Cleveland will select No. 1 overall and in the second round (33rd overall) via a pick acquired from the Orlando Magic in a 2011 trade involving Justin Harper. Cleveland sent away its own second-round pick as well as the Memphis Grizzlies’ second rounder in a swap involving Spencer Hawes.
Now that we got that out of the way, we might as well examine the players the Cavs should target. After all, this is what the Cleveland fanbase wants to hear about, and we’re going to give it to you fine folks.
More specifically, we’ll look at the top-three guys the Cavs should target for both pick (reverse order). Considering that the roster is littered with mediocre talent at every position except starting point guard (that Kyrie Irving guy is quite talented), it’s probably fair to assume that the front office will look at players for every spot save for that one.
On with the show.
Who’s No. 1?
Kansas’ Joel Embiid was initially the guy everyone wanted with about a month left before the draft, given his skill at a key position (center). Embiid was initially the early favorite to go No. 1, considering the amazing array of skills he flashed.
ESPN.com’s Chad Ford (subscription required) offered this breakdown on June 17:
Embiid's workout and interview in Cleveland last week were major successes, according to sources close to the Cavs. Embiid did a full workout there in front of the Cavs' front office and owner Dan Gilbert.
Multiple sources said that the team was blown away with the workout. Embiid even ended one session by launching and nailing a series of 3s. Directly after the workout, two different sources told me that Embiid was the strong favorite to be drafted by the Cavs. Even Gilbert was on board.
Embiid underwent surgery for a stress fracture on June 20 and is expected to be sidelined four to six months. Naturally, that complicates his draft status.
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote: “Embiid also had a back injury that caused him to miss the last six games of his one college season, and it's increasingly unlikely that Embiid will still be Cleveland's choice as the No. 1 overall pick.”
The fear that Embiid could be the next Greg Oden is enough to scare Cleveland from selecting him. Still, his talent suggests he’s a player destined for greatness provided he’s healthy going forward.
That’s never a great situation to be in as a franchise. The Cavs must determine whether or not they want to attach the future of the team to someone with considerable skills but who might ultimately frequently miss games and end up being a bust as a result.
Some team will end up taking that risk, but it’s easier to justify said risk if picking Embiid a bit lower in the draft. He’s a game changer at both ends, but health might be the one skill he doesn’t possess enough of for the Cavs to take him.
Embiid’s fall is another man’s gain.
At 6’9’’ and 241 pounds, Parker already has the size to play small forward in the league and bully defenders. He is a well-rounded player that can score from every spot on the floor, thanks in part to good handles and quick decision-making. He blends that in with a smooth Paul Pierce step-back jumper.
Still not impressed? ESPN.com’s Amin Elhassan (subscription required) offers a detailed breakdown:
Also, Parker is an excellent finisher around the rim and knows how to use his size/strength advantage to go up, over and through defenders. He possesses a solid back-to-the-basket game and often sets up the defense with a turnaround jumper going middle so he can go to a drop-step along the baseline. Parker is a willing passer (although he mostly makes the obvious ones).
Considering that the Cavs were a bottom-third offensive team, it makes sense for Cleveland to go after Parker. The Cavaliers occasionally failed to run plays last season, because Irving or Dion Waiters endlessly pounded the ball and fired away low-percentage shots.
Parker will help counter this given the fact he is a willing passer and smart player. Thus, it makes tons of sense to go after him.
It’s worth noting that his defense will likely be an area of concern. Parker lacks lateral quickness and doesn’t properly use his size to negate whatever speed advantage his opponent might have (Metta World Peace was excellent in this respect during his prime).
Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto offered this assessment: “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?”
Parker’s defense is enough of a question mark to slide him into second place in these famed rankings that will surely force the hand of every NBA GM (I’m kidding, sort of).
He has jaw-dropping athleticism reminiscent of Vince Carter during his best years. What’s more, Wiggins can use it to be a terrific two-way player at the pro level. ESPN.com’s Chad Ford (subscription required) offered this take: “Wiggins has similar upside to Embiid. And Wiggins can be a defensive presence for the Cavs from day one.”
Furthermore, Wiggins improved his ball-handling after the end of the college season to the point that some scouts and GMs believe he could be a cross (subscription required) between the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George and seven-time former All-Star Tracy McGrady.
At 6’8’’, he can play 2-guard and small forward, which will be a plus in Cleveland. Pluto added: “Wiggins is a better fit for the Cavs in terms of position, because he can play small forward or shooting guard. The Cavs need help at both spots.”
Wiggins is the guy for the Cavs. He possesses talent coupled with the potential to become one of the league’s best. The one area of concern with Wiggins is whether he lacks the killer instinct necessary to become an elite player.
I wouldn’t be too concerned about that, though. Know who else got that rap? Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks. That was written in a 2008 scouting report, after the conclusion of his 10th season in the league. I think it’s pretty safe to say Dirk’s shed that label, and Wiggins will eventually do the same.
The Wiggins selection means Cleveland can concentrate on improving their frontcourt or backup point guard position via their second-round pick.
There are gems to be found at times in the second round, but more than anything, teams are hoping to find someone that can crack the rotation and give the team quality minutes. In other words, the guy in this spot will likely be a reserve.
Colorado’s Spencer Dinwiddie is an interesting prospective choice. NBADraft.net’s scouting report speaks to his lack assertiveness on offense, which would actually benefit the Cavs. Cleveland had too many me-first players last season, and having someone willing to share the ball would probably help change the culture.
The Cavs have Jarrett Jack on the roster to back up Irving, but Jack isn’t necessarily great at running the offense and getting players involved. Interestingly enough, Cleveland has discussed a swap involving Jack and Marcus Thornton of the Brooklyn Nets, per ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.
If this deal gets consummated, Cleveland will be a point guard short and will have another score-first player in Thornton. Thus, Dinwiddie would be a solid selection in this spot.
In the event the Cavs stand pat, I like the idea of drafting Michigan’s Mitch McGary. He played center in college, but would probably be undersized for the position in the pros at 6’10’’.
McGary would be an interesting fit at power forward for the Cavaliers because he has the size (255 pounds) and toughness to become a solid low-post player according to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford (subscription required).
NBADraft.net corroborated those findings and added that his passing will give his team’s offense a boost. On the flip side, his defense will need work.
He averaged 3.1 fouls in 24.6 minutes per game, which suggests he was often late reacting to the ball. That’s hardly ideal, but Cleveland should be able to get away with playing a reserve big man that fouls some.
The Cavs would mostly rely on him to give the starting power forward a breather, and McGary will give Cleveland just enough. It’s worth noting that the foul issues might be correlated to a back injury that sidelined him for all but eight games last season.
Nonetheless, I like McGary in this spot, but it’s possible he might not be available here. CBS Sports’ Matt Moore believes he’ll be picked in the first round, while NBADraft.net thinks the Philadelphia 76ers will take him with the 32nd pick.
To be perfectly clear, the only reason I’m “down” on McGary is the possibility he won’t be available when the Cavs are on the clock with the 33rd pick. Otherwise, he’s the guy.
McGary’s absence makes Stanford’s Dwight Powell the top second-round candidate for the Cavs.
He played power forward in college and did a good job scoring via jump shots and paint finishes. Powell represents where the league is headed given his stretch-4 abilities.
As a junior, he connected on 45.5 percent of his treys but saw that figure plummet to 25.6 percent during his senior campaign. Nonetheless, the long-distance skill is there, and it’s entirely likely he will refine it in the professional ranks.
Furthermore, Powell’s ball-handling is good enough for him to blow by defenders closing out on him, which will result him in shots at the rim.
One of the more interesting aspects of his game is his playmaking. Powell averaged 3.1 assists in his senior season, a clear indication that he is a willing passer. The Cavs offense should flow nicely with him on the floor, especially since Cleveland’s starting frontcourt is fairly limited in terms of scoring and playmaking.
Anderson Varejao isn’t much of a scorer, but he does give Cleveland some solid post passing while Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett give the Cavs effort, which is hardly a compliment with respect to their offensive skills.
Powell would give the offense a bit of scoring and playmaking punch, but he’d also take something away defensively. He only averaged 6.9 rebounds as a senior and probably doesn’t have enough muscle to defend interior players in the NBA.
McGary is the better two-way option, but Powell is certainly a more than respectable selection at this spot.
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