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Pros and Cons of Cleveland Cavaliers Selecting Jabari Parker No. 1 in 2014 Draft

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2014

Pros and Cons of Cleveland Cavaliers Selecting Jabari Parker No. 1 in 2014 Draft

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Jabari Parker, welcome to Cleveland.

    Hypothetically speaking, of course. 

    In the wake of Joel Embiid's foot injury—which will keep him sidelined for at least four months, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski—the Cleveland Cavaliers have been forced to change course. 

    Previous signs pointed to Cleveland selecting Embiid with the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, according to ESPN.com's Chad Ford (subscription required). Now, the Cavs have eyes for someone else. CBS Sports' Ken Berger wrote that after Embiid's foot surgery, the Cavs are "leaning toward" taking Parker over Andrew Wiggins. 

    This could be the right move.

    Or the wrong one.

    There's a crapshoot feel to the NBA draft, no matter how deep it is. This year is no exception; the Cavs are no exception.

    Selecting Parker could give them everything they want, or he could be the wrong fit, setting their longstanding rebuild back even further. 

    Let us then make like a distraught frat boy trying to figure out whether or not he should pop the collar of his polo and explore the pros and cons to determine Cleveland's answer.

Pro: NBA-Ready Skill Set

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    Refreshingly safe.

    That's the (paraphrased) buzz slogan radiating out of all things Parker. He's considered the safest, most NBA-ready prospect in the draft.

    Here's Bleacher Report's resident draft guru Jonathan Wasserman with more:

    With a pro-ready body and game, Parker should be able to step right in and make an immediate offensive impact. There might be a few other prospects who offer more potential reward, but there isn't a safer bet in the field coming out of college.

    Sign me up if I'm the Cavs.

    Cleveland just hired David Blatt, a coach known for his prolific offense. Parker's 19.1 points per game should translate to the NBA if he's under a head honcho who values offensive potency.

    "I have watched David's work for many years," Cavs general manager David Griffin said of Blatt, via ESPN.com. "He has an uncanny ability to adapt his system to maximize the talents of his teams year after year. That is why I am very confident he will make a smooth transition to the NBA."

    Kyrie Irving has also never had a No. 2 scorer by his side. Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson aren't fit for that role, Luol Deng probably isn't coming back and the jury is still out on Dion Waiters' spotty efficiency and ghastly shot selection.

    Anthony Bennett might be a viable No. 2—you know, if this was the D-League we were talking about. But it's not.

    The Cavs want to win now. Within a baseborn Eastern Conference that could see some of its most prominent talent—LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, for starters—head elsewhere, they have an opportunity to contend for a playoff spot next season.

    All they need to do is infuse some additional scoring into their 23rd-ranked offense.

    All they need to do is draft Parker and watch their wildest offensive dreams come true.

Con: Dastardly Defense

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Buckets.

    Parker gets them, and he's kind enough to let the opposition get them too.

    That's a problem.

    Another one of Bleacher Report's draft sages, Daniel O'Brien, discussed some of Parker's biggest flaws:

    Parker's defense has intermittently come under scrutiny this year, as he hasn't excelled on that end compared to Marcus Smart, Andrew Wiggins or Aaron Gordon.

    He frequently got beat by quicker slashers and gave up a few critical layups. On the interior, he was often out of position and caught in no-man's land. That's a bad place to be, especially on pick-and-rolls and weak-side rotations.

    Foul trouble was among his Achilles' heels as well, no doubt thanks to his poor rotations and inferior positioning. His defensive rating was stellar (99.3), and better than Wiggins' (102.8), but Duke was forced to cover up his transgressions on that side of the ball. Most of the numerical success he had was the product of Mike Krzyzewski's sporadic adjustments.

    A lasting image of Parker's defensive inadequacy was left against Mercer, who upset Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

    Coach K was repeatedly forced to sub Parker out for defensive purposes. That says something. The best players are supposed to be on the floor with the game, with the season, in jeopardy.

    While Parker is only 19 and is capable of improving, the Cavs aren't defensive juggernauts. They ranked 17th in defensive efficiency last season, a finish they won't improve on if Parker enters the starting lineup.

    Blatt also isn't known as a defensive-minded coach. If he doesn't hire a battle-tested defensive specialist, Parker may never fully understand how to consistently play on that side of the floor, rendering the Carmelo Anthony comparisons invalid—in that his defense could be even worse.

Pro: Peace Out, Luol

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    David Liam Kyle/Getty Images

    Warm and fuzzy feelings aren't shared between Deng and the Cavaliers.

    Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal previously noted that the Cavs haven't "expressed much interest" in re-signing their free agent, and it's not hard to see why.

    Deng's tenure in Cleveland didn't go as planned. The Cavs didn't vault into playoff contention, and rumors of his displeasure ran rampant. Lloyd even said the team tried to deal him leading into the trade deadline.

    Letting him walk is easy to do. The Cavs are under no obligation to re-sign him. Yet it's not always that simple.

    They could feel the need to keep him if they're unable to make improvements elsewhere, which would be a costly endeavor. Deng turned down a three-year, $30-million extension from the Chicago Bulls before being traded to Cleveland, according to Wojnarowski. His price range has been set.

    Committing an excess of $10 million annually to a player you don't really want is never good practice, even if it's out of "necessity."

    Taking Parker adds another forward to the rotation and eliminates any urge the Cavs may feel to retain Deng on an expensive long-term deal. That he'll be far cheaper to house is merely a bonus.

Con: Buh-Bye 'Bron?

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    My apologies, but we absolutely have to go here.

    If the Cavs really want to bring LeBron James back to Cleveland, filling out the roster with another combo forward doesn't do much for their sales pitch. 

    James can play with anyone. He and Parker can coexist under the right circumstances. But the Cavs already have Bennett and Thompson. Adding Parker and then expecting James to join their frontcourt logjam can be filed under "wishful thinking."

    Drafting Embiid presented no such issues. He was the two-way big James never played with before. They, along with Irving, went together like Stephen Curry and three-pointers. Kawhi Leonard and stoic silence.

    Pat Riley and intimidating, soul-penetrating stares.

    Parker fills a hole, and James—as a point forward—fills a different one. Their listed positions clash too much given Cleveland's other personnel, though.

    These are things the Cavs must think about if the King—a potential free agent this summer or next—is still on their radar. Otherwise his wife's Instagram tributes to Ohio are just that and not a forerunner of everything the James family will ever do.

Pro: Positional Versatility

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Promise this about more than just offense.

    Standing at 6'8", Parker projects as a tweener in the best possible way. He has the offensive range to play small forward or act as a stretch 4, and he's aggressive enough on the block to score like a traditional power forward. 

    Physically, the Cavs are looking at someone who can guard either forward position...in theory. Effort and understanding are two big issues with Parker, but if he can be taught defense—or even be someone they can mask—the team is in great shape.

    Thompson is a power forward, which won't change. Parker's range makes it so they can be alongside one another. His ability to man either forward position, meanwhile, allows him to play next to Bennett in whatever capacity the Cavs see fit, as they're still trying to figure out what last year's No. 1 pick is.

    The Cavs have yet to find this hybrid forward who permits them to experiment with a vast array of lineups, big and small. Parker grants them the opportunity to explore different offensive horizons while catering to the needs of Irving and Waiters.

    Offering Blatt the freedom to fiddle around with Cleveland's lineups is paramount. Small ball is increasing in popularity, but you don't want to ignore low-post scoring.

    With Parker, the Cavs won't be forced to ignore anything.

Con: Picky Parker

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    Something NBA lottery teams don't have to consider that much: What if Prospect X doesn't want to play for us? 

    Something the Cavs apparently must consider: What if Parker doesn't want to play for us?

    According to Ford (subscription required), Parker is less than enamored with Cleveland:

    Parker came in to work out on Friday in front of the Cavs' front office and ownership. Parker wasn't great. He was a bit heavy (he weighed in at 255 pounds), didn't shoot the ball well and got winded at times. Furthermore, two different sources told ESPN.com that Parker seemed a bit indifferent. One source said he thought Parker "tanked" the workout.

    Why? A source says he strongly prefers to play in Milwaukee. The Cavs appear to be aware of this. "Jabari wasn't himself," one source said. "It was clear we weren't his first option."

    Well, this is awkward. 

    Does Parker perhaps know that Jarrett Jack is unwilling to give up his No. 1 jersey? Is he sensing that he won't be the first offensive option with Irving in the fold?

    Did the Cavs tell him players must devour mandatory pregame meals comprising sardines and raw hot dogs dipped in tartar sauce?

    Beats me. But if Parker tanked his workout with the Cavs, their relationship isn't off to a good start.

    Although Cleveland could write off this incident as an isolated anomaly or disregard his purported distaste for Ohio completely, the team has too much riding on this pick.

    Choosing a disgruntled player with no NBA experience doesn't pave the way for a happy ending.

     

    *Stats via Sports-Reference and NBA.com unless otherwise noted.


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