They could use the pick of NBA-ready scoring forward Jabari Parker, grab athletic phenom Andrew Wiggins or vacate the slot to collect an arsenal of assets. Without witnessing the emergence of a clear-cut candidate, Cleveland finds itself in the rare position where quantity trumps quality.
Unless the Cavaliers are locked in on a specific player—and judging by the fluidity at the top of their draft board they are not—their best bet would be to unearth as many avenues to acquiring talent as possible. That pursuit should lead them to the Orlando Magic, who have reportedly dangled a number of enticing trade chips.
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman and Chad Ford, the Cavaliers have yet to settle on the best player available in this class.
"They are torn" between Wiggins and Parker, a source told the ESPN analysts. "They met for three hours, and all they talked about was those two guys."
What has also been discussed, via Goodman and Ford, is a trade offer from the Magic, which includes swingman Arron Afflalo, the No. 4 pick and the No. 12 pick. One proven commodity plus two lottery picks would seem to equal Cleveland getting "radically better much quicker," which Cavs general manager David Griffin told reporters is the franchise's goal with its third No. 1 selection in the past four years.
"A near All-Star 2-guard last season, and two top-12 picks?" CBS Sports' Matt Moore wrote. "That's not bad at all."
The conversation would be different if one prospect had separated from the rest of the pack. It was different not that long ago, in fact, when multiple sources told Ford (subscription required) that center Joel Embiid was the "strong favorite" to go to Cleveland at the top spot.
However, Embiid has since suffered a stress fracture in his right foot. That, coupled with the back injury that kept the former Kansas star out of the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments, reportedly has him "out of the equation for the top pick," according to Goodman and Ford.
Ebmiid's stock is clearly falling. The question is how far.
In his final mock draft, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has Embiid falling to the No. 4 slot—a pick that would belong to Cleveland if it bites on Orlando's reported offer. In other words, the Cavs could still get the guy they saw as the best in this class without having the pressure of bringing him on board as the first overall selection.
Embiid is a health risk, but that's the only reason he probably won't be the first name called by commissioner Adam Silver Thursday night. On talent alone, the mobile big man may well be in a class of his own.
"He's probably the most talented player I've ever been around," Kansas assistant coach Norm Roberts told The Plain Dealer's Jodie Valade. "Probably the most talented big guy, especially, that I've ever been around. He's got a chance to be special."
Judging by his game film, Embiid might be special already.
Embiid, of course, is just one of several options the Cavs could consider at the No. 4 spot. If the big man is off the board at that point, then that means 6'6" combo guard Dante Exum will likely be on it. With good size, length and athleticism, the 18-year-old could have a ceiling as high as any in this year's class.
"Exum is a really good prospect," ESPN's Jay Bilas told Kofie Yeboah of USA Today. "The kid is long armed, he is athletic he is good in transition. I watched him at the Hoop Summit and I thought he was terrific."
Should the Cavs go in a different direction, power forwards Noah Vonleh and Julius Randle or combo guard Marcus Smart could all be in play.
By moving back three spots, Cleveland could still position itself to land a really good player. The degree of separation between that player and Wiggins or Parker could determine the Cavs' willingness to entertain the talks, but remember, that player would be just one of three they'd be getting return.
There's also Afflalo, a 28-year-old coming off his best year as a pro. A two-way contributor, he set career bests in points (18.2, on .459/.427/.815 shooting), assists (3.4) and player efficiency rating (16.0) in 2013-14, via Basketball-Reference.com.
He could help fill some of the defensive holes on Cleveland's perimeter, ones that could grow if Luol Deng leaves in free agency as expected. While Afflalo can play either wing position, his 6'5" frame works best at shooting guard. His arrival could make Dion Waiters expendable, assuming the Cavs don't already see him as such:
Interesting note to Dion Waiters talk: Source close to Waiters tells @FOXSportsOH that Waiters thinks he or Kyrie Irving will be traded.— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) June 24, 2014
The Cavaliers need to be dealing with certainties. Afflalo, along with a potential player netted in return for Waiters, would certainly fit that bill.
That label never falls on a rookie. Even if the Cavs made the top selection, they wouldn't be adding a guaranteed contributor to their roster. What if Parker never commits himself to the defensive end? Or if Wiggins' athleticism never translates into NBA success?
Draft night is riddled with risks. Some might seem more calculated than others, but all of the 60 names called on Thursday night will be some type of gamble.
What should the Cleveland Cavaliers do with the No. 1 pick?
There is no such gamble with Afflalo. Not before he decides on the $7.5 million player option he has for the 2015-16 season, via ShamSports.com, at least.
Wiggins and Parker could be NBA stars, but can't the same be said for Exum and Embiid? Can anyone definitely say the players who could be around at the 12th pick will not reach that status: point guard Tyler Ennis, combo guard Zach LaVine, sharpshooter Nik Stauskas or scoring forward Rodney Hood?
Cleveland cannot afford to waste this opportunity. It needs to maximize the value of this pick, which could well mean moving it.
Luckily, it sounds like the Cavs are willing to play ball.
Staying at No. 1 would seem to entail getting a player they like, but perhaps don't love. If they feel the same way about other prospects like Embiid and Exum, then why not pursue those options in a deal that would also add two other pieces to Cleveland's puzzle?
Pieces that could potentially be used to lure a certain free agent back to his home state.
The uncertainty that still faces the franchise this close to the draft should speak for itself. If a top option hasn't surfaced yet, will it really arise before Thursday night?
Unless the Cavaliers are waiting for a better offer than the Magic's, there's no reason to stand pat. Not when Cleveland can better position itself for the present and future by accepting what Orlando has reportedly put on the table.