I just saw an article on ESPN.com about the worst lottery picks in NBA history. Cavs players littered the list.
Danny Ferry. Dajuan Wagner. DeSagana Flop—err, Diop. Luke Jackson. Chris Mihm. Trajan…
(No, to this day I refuse to admit Trajan Langdon was a bad draft pick. He was the 2008 Euroleague MVP! Come on—you’re telling me he couldn’t have produced in the NBA? He couldn’t have cracked the Cavs' rotation this year? Please.)
I have reservations about the Cavs and the NBA draft every year. We either don’t have draft picks (the Jiri Welsh trade, anyone?) or screw them up (See: list above). Some of our better draft picks—Carlos Boozer and Jason Kapono—are long, long gone.
So with all that being said, I am pleasantly surprised with the selection of J.J. Hickson. Actually, considering I still have nightmares about the DeSagana Diop era, I’m downright giddy.
Judging by the pulses of all my friends, as long as the Cavs drafted anyone but Kosta Koufos, the fans would have been happy. David Stern could have announced my grandma as the Cavs' pick, and I would have gotten the same excited text messages: “Thank God it wasn’t Koufos!”
I'm not as down about Koufos as everyone else is. He's like a Diet Zydrunas Ilgauskaus, a soft player who does his damage on the perimeter. No, he won't tip in as many missed shots as big Z—but he can shoot the three, which balances that out. He'll be a good NBA player, but I'm much happier with Hickson right now.
Being fairly well-schooled in ACC basketball, I’ll tell you what I know about Hickson. He’s still got some work to do in terms of offensive production, but he’s a beast on the glass—he had over 10 rebounds in nine games, including a 23-rebound effort against Clemson.
He’s also got decent size—6'9", 240 pounds—which has proven to be big enough to be successful at the power forward position in the NBA. He’s in the same mold as a Boozer or David West, except I think he can be a much tougher player on the blocks than the latter two.
I also think that this means Anderson Varejao is on his way out. Remember that he’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year, and he’s going to want a long-term extension—again. If I recall correctly, he was holding out for like a $40 or $50 million deal last summer, which isn’t even realistic.
(That’d be like me asking the Delaware Cows for $250,000 to announce their games this summer, because I hustle to get the lineups before the game and my curly Jewish hair bounces around when I run.)
I was also excited to see that Josh Duncan from Xavier went undrafted, because I’m hoping the Cavs can somehow pick him up. He was one of those college guys that I just grew really attached to over the basketball season, and he always played great whenever I saw him play.
He’s 6'9", 230 lbs, and shot over 40 percent from three-point range and nearly 50 percent from the field. He played great in the Musketeers' four NCAA tourney games (18.3 points, 5.3 rebounds per game). Duncan can immediately. be a real solid player off the bench for an NBA team.
One final note: As flawed as this Cavs roster is—and you’re blind if you can’t see that—the team isn’t that far away from winning an NBA title. Keep in mind that Cleveland played Boston tougher than anyone else in the postseason, and had a legitimate shot to win six of those games in the series.
The biggest weakness is not in one specific position or player. It’s in talent and athleticism. Biggest example? Ira Newble played in 41 games with the Cavs this season, including 13 starts, and averaged over 16 minutes per game. After he got traded? How about seven total games and fewer than 50 minutes of court time with the Sonics and the Lakers?
Nothing personal against Ira, but he didn’t sniff the court in the playoffs with the Lakers. With the Cavs, he was a key part of the rotation. That’s the difference between making the playoffs and competing for a championship.
As we all know, LeBron is good enough to erase a lot of the flaws on this Cavs roster. They don’t need another All-Star to pair him with—just more talent in whatever way possible.
Hickson provides that, immediately. And that’s why Cavs fans, after enduring the Diop’s and Wagner’s and Jackson’s, can finally be excited about the draft.