NBA Draft 2011: Perspective on the Cleveland Cavaliers' Underwhelming Success

Sam TothContributor IIIJune 24, 2011

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 23:  Tristan Thompson from the University of Texas greets NBA Commissioner David Stern after he was drafted #4 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round during the 2011 NBA Draft at the Prudential Center on June 23, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ 2011 NBA Draft was underwhelming and, frankly, quite boring. I came in expecting them to wheel and deal, make a splash and be the talk of ESPN for the next 48 hours.

Instead, they took the safe point guard everyone expected with the first pick and “reached” for a power forward at No. 4. As for being the talk of ESPN, well, as I sit here typing, I’ve been watching SportsCenter for twenty minutes, and so far all I’ve heard is that the Miami Heat were one of the night’s winners for ending up with Cleveland State’s Norris Cole.


When it became apparent that no blockbuster trade was in the works to make sense of the night, my buddy was so disappointed in the Cavs that he texted me: “So can I in good conscience kill myself?”

While the irrational fan in me is not quite suicidal, was still very frustrated today. But that does not mean this draft is doomed for failure. In fact, it can still very easily become a success.

Some idiot fans were hoping the Cavaliers would pull the trigger on some unlikely scenario and rebuild the team overnight.

The Miami Heat caught lightning in a bottle. You typically cannot make the moves necessary to rebuild a franchise in one offseason. This process is going to take time.

Look at the Oklahoma City Thunder, the blueprint of success for a small market team. They drafted Kevin Durant in 2007. It was not until this past season, his fourth year in the league, that they became legitimate title contenders.

Three to four years, Cavs fans. That’s what should be our goal. We tried the quick fixes (taking on bad contracts, making big splashes in trades, overreacting to a previous season) with LeBron. No move led to a championship. Each move handcuffed the franchise in some way.

Patience is a virtue for a reason.

Moving On To The Positives

At my blog, Ten Cent Beers, I try to provide a Cleveland sports perspective through rose-tinted beer goggles. Time to put that tag line to good use:

  • We still ended up with the best player in the draft. If a draft is only two rounds and you end up with the best guy, that should automatically make it an overall positive night, right?
  • I’m not going to type anything about Kyrie Irving that has not already been typed. So, here are the cliff notes: really good kid, really good leader, really good passer, really good finisher and a really good shooter. Maybe not elite in any one particular quality, but still a great player to move your franchise in a new direction.
  • Tristan Thompson is still a really, really good basketball player. John Hollinger’s “Draft Rater” article, in which he uses a series of statistical metrics to predict NBA success, has quickly become one of the pieces I most look forward to leading up to the draft. I don’t care what anyone else says, the NBA Draft is more or less a crap-shoot. But Hollinger’s predictions are as good as they come. And according to him, we got the players with the two highest scores. That’s a good thing.
  • Since the article is on ESPN Insider (and pretty long), I am not sure if you can (or want) to read it. So here is a brief, yet poignant, excerpt:

“As I noted above, the Draft Rater has been really solid on perimeter players. On interior players, the results have been a bit more scattered. The problem has been “false positives.” It has picked out all the guys who could play; it has just picked out a lot of other guys a long with them.


“For that reason, we want to tread a little more carefully with the frontcourt players. However, two players in particular warrant our attention: Tristan Thompson [16.21] and Derrick Williams [15.97].

“Thompson and Williams had the highest ratings of any player in the Draft Rater this year, and while that doesn’t come with the same assurances it does for Kyrie Irving, they both appear to be very solid prospects. Of the 13 players who rated at 15.5 or above in previous iterations, most were very successful as pros, and the ones that weren’t tended to fail due to injuries and lack of professionalism — issues that shouldn’t be factors for Thompson and Williams.”

Addressing Some Issues

  • I know the Cavaliers have a logjam at the power forward position (Tristan Thompson, J.J. Hickson, Anderson Varejao, Antawn Jamison and Samardo Samuels). But whatever. Like I said earlier, we are not going anywhere this year, so the Cavs made the right call: they drafted the best player available.
  • I know Tristan Thompson was called the biggest reach by most talking heads. So “best player available” does not seem to make sense. But I don’t care what Doug Gottlieb says. The Cavaliers put in as much work scouting players as any team in the league. They certainly were not picking for need, or else they would not have created the logjam at the 4 spot. Tristan Thompson was at least the fourth rated player on their board.
  • I know they seemingly gave away the 32nd overall selection (they traded it for 2013 and 2014 second-rounders from Orlando). This one sort of irritated me. But looking at it through the Cavaliers’ perspective, they probably had 10-15 guys they really liked in this draft. By 32, they were all gone. So they selected the best player available (yet another 6’9″ forward) and traded him for future assets that may prove to come in handy by the time the Cavaliers are hopefully contenders. So, whatever. I guess.
  • At No. 54, they selected the Serbian Brian Cardinal. (Another 6’9″ forward. What?) Anyways, he was described as a “bull in a china shop,” and was apparently “awesome” at the Nike Hoops Summit that he played in two years ago. He reportedly might not come over at all, or at the very least for a few years. This is actually OK with me. All the Cavaliers did was take a flier on a guy that could be a good role player in a few years, when, again, they hope to compete for a title.
  • I know they are just sitting on the $14.5 million trade exception, and it appears as though they may not use it. The irrational fan in me is furious that they did not take on a bad contract for another first round pick. But alas, the saner head prevails as I type. And I’m actually totally on board with this. Taking on a terrible contract would only handcuff the Cavaliers and remove any sort of flexibility they might have. The trade exception is a great asset. But we do not need to use it for the sake of using it. It’s wise to wait for the right opportunity. And if the right opportunity does not arise, then the right call is to do nothing and retain flexibility.

Having Said That…

  • The Cavaliers need to trade J.J. Hickson while his value is still high. He is young, athletic, minimally paid and highly regarded around the league. And we absolutely should trade him.
  • He and Tristan Thompson are essentially the same player. They are both 6’9″, athletically talented power forwards with suspect jumpers.The only  difference on the surface is that Thompson is three years younger and lefty.
  • I have no problem with the Cavaliers selecting Thompson, because I trust their judgment of talent way more than my own. I do, however, have a problem with them keeping both Thompson and Hickson. When you are as bad as the Cavaliers, you have minimal assets. It does not make sense to have two of your most valuable pieces appear to be clones playing the same position.
  • Hickson’s contract is up in two years, and I would bet just about anything that he will not resign with the Cavaliers, because A) they just drafted a similar player at the same position he plays and B) some other team will be willing to give him more money than we will. So if he is not going to be a part of the future (remember the 3-4 years thing), we should get what we can for him before he walks away for nothing.


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