NBA Draft 2011: Time to Turn Around the Cleveland Cavaliers
In November 2005 Nike unveiled a 110-foot tall by 212-foot wide billboard featuring LeBron James and a phrase that became synonymous with the player: “We Are All Witnesses.”
The "witness" poster hung for almost five years on the building adjacent to Quicken Loans Arena on Ontario Street.
I don't need to tell why it got taken down.
What is more important is what was put up in its place. It is now a beautiful black and white photo of the Cleveland skyline erected by Sherman Williams with the phrase "Our home since 1866. Our pride forever."
In a strange way I feel like that poster has had an impact on the healing process of the city of Cleveland. It was good to get the old poster down, but a renewed focus on the city instead of on a single player has been important for the psyche of Cleveland.
Whether it was the poster's removal, a changing mindset or the loss of the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, the city feels like it's turned a corner.
Holding the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the draft this year will go a long way in getting the Cavs back on the right track.
It won't get them all the way back, but it will be a start.
This year's draft is not amazing by any stretch of the imagination (I would much rather hold two top four picks in next years and snag the likes of Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger or Austin Rivers). But there are solid players who be can legitimate building blocks of a playoff team in the future.
The key for Cavs GM Chris Grant is to find those players and get the maximum amount of potential out of these two picks. There are two ways of accomplishing this.
The obvious one is to draft the two best players available when the picks come up.
The second is through the use of trades.
Let's explore the most likely avenues for making both picks at their current spots.
Draft Kyrie Irving and Enes Kanter
This seems to be the most likely scenario that the majority of mock drafts have out there.
It would certainly stick with the generally accepted idea that you should draft the best player available regardless of team need.
If the Cavs take PG Irving and C Enes Kanter then it would be pretty obvious that this is the philosophy they are employing, since neither position is the biggest issue with the current team. There are much bigger needs at shooting guard and small forward.
I don't need to talk about Irving...we already know all about him. One thing that does concern me is that Mo Williams has come up in comparisons, which is troubling, seeing as how we just traded Mo Williams to get the pick to take Irving.
Kanter has all the looks of being a very solid center in a league that is virtually devoid of talent at that position. The knocks on the Turkish product are that we are basically judging him on two games. All we've seen of him in the past year is post moves against Yi Jianlian's chair.
In my line of thinking, John Calipari doesn't recruit stiffs. If he liked this guy enough to offer him a scholarship to Kentucky then he must be the real deal. Coach Cal may be a bit of a shady character when it comes to recruiting, but he sure can put good players in the NBA.
The biggest obstacle to this scenario is if Kanter will still be on the board at no. 4. It is very possible that either the Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 2 or the Utah Jazz at No. 3 could take him. This would leave us in a bit of a tough spot with more point guards being the next best players available in Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker.
If Utah takes Kanter (which is much more likely than Minnesota) then the Cavs could...
Draft Irving and Jan Vesely or Jonas Valanciunas
Let's get this out of the way—I don't want to take Valanciunas this high since he won't be able to play in the NBA for a couple years. It's just too much of a risk.
I'm also not blown away with what I've heard and read about the young Lithuanian player. He is lacking a lot in his game right now but has loads of upside. Then again, so did Desagana Diop.
I much prefer Vesely over Valanciunas.
Vesely could start right away in Cleveland and have an immediate impact. He's 6'11", long, athletic and plays with a lot of passion. His game is more typical of American players than European, and with his solid perimeter game he's also more of a SF than a PF.
Ultimately I'd like to see the Cavs trade out of this spot if Kanter isn't available. But we'll get to that later.
If I was the GM of the Cavs I would...
Draft Derrick Williams and Kemba Walker
I don't know if Williams will be a better pro player than Irving. I do know that when they were both on the same court in the NCAA tournament Williams looked like a far superior player.
I am in constant awe of Williams' physical gifts and talents. He is as explosive an athlete as there is in the NBA right now, he's an incredibly adept shooter from long range and he has an edge to his game that all the greats possess.
Also, from the day of the 2011 draft lottery he has been saying that he wants to play in Cleveland. Some might think that's being proud, haughty or whatever. I call it bravado and I love it. I much prefer that over Irving's, "I feel I could contribute a lot to their team...I wouldn't have any problems going there" approach.
I think that Derrick Williams is going to be a very good NBA player. And I want him to do it all in a Cavs uniform.
As for Kemba Walker...there isn't a player in the draft that I like more. There literally isn't a single thing about Kemba that I don't like. (Full disclosure: I'm a UConn fan so this may be a little biased, but I feel that over the years I've been pretty reasonable with my evaluation of Connecticut players. You're just going to have to trust me on this.)
His stock has been falling lately for no apparent reason. When I evaluate a player I like to do this crazy thing where I watch them in actual basketball games and see how they do.
I watched a lot of UConn games over the last three years and no one has worked as hard to improve his game as Kemba Walker.
He's an incredibly hard worker and a great leader, and that's to say nothing for his basketball skills, which are as good as they come.
The knocks on him are ridiculous.
They say he's too small, but at 6'1" I can name a slew of NBA greats that were that tall or shorter and had fantastic careers.
They say he's a poor shooter. This is over-stating a little. His stats aren't much worse than Brandon Knight's, a guy who is supposed to be a very good shooter. Kemba has improved on his jumper over his three-year college career and it can only get better. Remember, Jason Kidd was a very poor shooter when he first came into the league. Now he's third on the list of all-time three-pointers made.
They say he's a score-first player. This one is dumb. Kemba was forced to carry the scoring load this last season because he was surrounded by freshmen. In his first two years he was primarily a facilitator.
That's one of the biggest things I love about Kemba—he's willing to be whatever the team needs. If they want him to score, he'll score. If they want him to facilitate, he'll do that too. He's an ultimate team player. During the Big East tournament this past season he had both a game-winning shot and a pass to set up a game-winning layup. He can do it all and is unselfish doing it.
The biggest reason that you should want Kemba on the Cavs is he's a winner, and you can never under-sell that.
Okay, now that I'm off my Kemba soapbox, let's look at a couple potential trades.
(This is all assuming that the Cavs take Irving No. 1.)
Trade Up from No. 4 to No. 2
This of course is something that Grant has been trying to do so that the Cavs can take both Irving and Williams.
The key is getting enough assets (like an additional first-rounder from the Detroit Pistons) to package together and entice David Kahn into giving up that pick. The good thing in this is Minnesota is actively looking to trade this pick.
Personally I wouldn't mind seeing us take Williams and then watch and see what Kahn decides to do. He can't take another PG. That would put tons of pressure on him to move the pick and would open up the door for the Cavs. However, that would be a very risky maneuver if they think Irving is the best player.
But it sure would be fun!
Trade No. 4 to Washington Wizards for No. 6 and No. 18
This was a trade idea that was floated by Chad Ford while on The B.S. Report on Tuesday.
The Wizards would like Kanter to play alongside John Wall (they are close friends and they need a center). This would also give the Cavs an additional first-rounder to play with.
It would also make it more feasible for drafting Valanciunas if that's the route they want to go since they could also get another player who could be of more immediate help.
Other options with the No. 6 pick could be Vesely, Kawhi Leonard, Klay Thompson or Alec Burks.
Some options for the No. 18 pick could be Marshon Brooks, Kenneth Faried, Markieff Morris or Nikola Vucevic.
The Cavs have a couple tradeable assets they could look to move in order to get back into the first round. Namely those assets are J.J. Hickson, Ramon Sessions, the trade exception and Dan Gilbert's very deep pockets.
All three of these teams could be looking to move out of their picks.
I'm not convinced at all that Gilbert can't simply write the Maloofs a check for that No. 7 pick. Their financial situation is so bad right now that I can't imagine them passing up cash and avoiding taking on more salary. Maybe this is wishful thinking, but that's what we do.
Detroit has a slew of bad salaries that it would part with. Cleveland has already talked with the Pistons about taking Rip Hamilton off their hands. This trade fell through but it could be re-visited if the right guy was still on the board.
And finally, Michael Jordan is the majority owner of the Bobcats. I know he was a great player, but as an owner/decision maker he's been...how shall we say, less than impressive. If there's a team that the Cavs could weasel a draft pick out of, it's Charlotte.
I have no idea if any of this will actually happen, but I do expect the Cavs to be very active. They want so desperately to get this thing turned around.
Part of me hopes they do, but part of me also hopes that the Cavs suck again next year so they can be back on top of the lottery with a much better draft class.
Whatever happens, I know that at the end of the day the Cavaliers franchise will be in a better place than it was yesterday.
They will be on their way to returning to be that team we can take pride in.
You can follow me on Twitter @ClevelandFlack
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