Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cleveland Wins the Lottery

The city of Cleveland has needed some help. Even before the LeBron saga, Cleveland has had a long history of disappointments. Jordan over Ehlo. Byner's fumble. Modell moving the Browns to Baltimore. Things never seem to go Cleveland's way. Everything seemed to be sticking to script this year. The Cavaliers were the worst team in the NBA for the majority of the year, only to be "beaten out" by Minnesota at the end of the season. They were able to get two lottery tickets to the draft, acquiring the Clippers pick at the deadline, but all the college stars started heading back to school. A once promising lottery began to look like total crapshoot of role players.

But the ping pong balls bounced Cleveland's way. Or as David Kahn would say, David Stern picked the Cavaliers as this years story line. Rigged or not, this should be an exciting time for Cavalier fans. Their front office has both the #1 and #4 pick to work with. In no way does it make up for LeBron leaving, but there is now hope for the future.

Which players do the future hold in store for the Cavs? Lets take a look at the guys who will be making the decisions first...

Chris Grant (General Manager) - Grant spent nine years with the Atlanta Hawks, while serving as their assistant general manager from 2004-2010. Of course, that means he took part in the decision making process in 2005 when the Hawks took Marvin Williams over Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Could he do the same thing by taking another athletic combo forward (Derrick Williams) over Kyrie Irving?

Or what about two years later when the Hawks still needed a point guard. Grant and company once again chose perceived talent over need by taking Al Horford. The same guy who is often used as a comparison for Enes Kanter. Hmmm...

Ok, I'm just playing. I have little doubt the Cavs will take Irving with the first pick and absolutely no doubt that they will at least take a point guard in the top 5. Rumors have said all along that the Cavaliers WILL take a point guard with one of their lottery picks. Now that they could have either Knight or Irving, two guys they are very high on, it is a no-brainer.

Besides, assistant general manager David Griffin knows all about what a great point guard can do for a franchise after spending the last 17 seasons with the Suns. In March, I compared Steve Nash coming out of college to Brandon Knight' first college season. Maybe he is one of the members of the Cavs organization very high on Knight?

Then there is coach Byron Scott. Talk about understanding the importance of point guard play. He played with possibly the greatest ever in Magic Johnson and has coached Jason Kidd and Chris Paul! Chris Paul just so happens to be the player that Irving is most often compared to. So Scott would be one step ahead of the game knowing how to run the offense to best utilize Irving.

But will it be Irving picked first?

This is a unique situation in draft history. If the Cavs didn't have another pick in the lottery, this pick would be a slam dunk. There would be no thought needed for this pick. Take Irving and be happy with your franchise point guard until he leaves for South Beach.

But the Cavs also own the fourth pick. Should they read into this situation more and get a little creative in choosing their 1-2 combo? They could nab Derrick Williams first and still get a point guard they are very high on in Knight. It would fit the bill of what they are going for in Cleveland - hardworking, high character, young players.

If they elect to take Irving number one (which is definitely the likely scenario), they may be left to choose from a group of players they don't like as much as Knight.

Again, it comes down to their own evaluations. Personally, I would find it very hard to pass on the best player in the draft. Irving is the surest thing in this draft. The gap between him and Brandon Knight in my mind is greater than a few spots in rankings. Knight might not even be a starting point guard! It would be a very risky move on Cavs part, a move I'm not sure has ever been mirrored.

Assuming Irving is the pick, who do the Cavs look at with the number four pick?

Jonas Valanciunas - The Cavs could go with more of a project in Jonas. Down the road, he could form a deadly pick and roll combo with Irving. Irving runs the pick and roll well and Valanciunas makes a living off finishing rolls. His great hands and touch make him effective around the basket, at the free throw line, and rebounding the ball. And he has a terrific wingspan to play center and the body to put on weight.

The biggest problem is his contract. Teams are worried that he is going to stay overseas for a few more years. That might not be a terrible thing for Cleveland - they could guarantee themselves another lottery pick in a strong draft next year if he stays in Europe - but you don't want another Rubio situation. Cleveland would have to be realistic with this pick and do their research. Lets be honest, the city of Cleveland isn't an appealing destination and neither is their basketball team at this point. Buyer beware.

Enes Kanter - Kanter loses a few points since he hasn't been seen in a competitive environment in over a year. Cleveland doesn't strike me as a team willing to take a huge chance with this pick. That said, Kanter has apparently been looking impressive against the same chair the couldn't stop Yi Jianlian (credit goes to a Bill Simmons podcast for that line). His jumpshot looks very good, and as I said before, he has drawn comparisons to former Chris Grant draftee, Al Horford. Kanter has gotten into great shape as well, but he still doesn't have good explosiveness around the hoop - definitely not on Horford's level in that regard.

Jan Vesely - If they elect to go with a combo forward, it will be fun in the future to compare the careers of Irving/Vesely vs Knight/Williams. Vesely is a terrific athlete, a player who would definitely excel next to a great point guard. Unlike the players listed above, Vesely has both played competitive basketball recently and should have no problem leaving Europe for the NBA. He throws down ferocious dunks in transition like Blake Griffin and has the ability to impact the game defensively like Andrei Kirilenko. His offensive game is a work in progress, but it is definitely progressing. Vesely is a very solid option at #4 that should not be ignored.

Other names will get mention as well. There is Alec Burks, who is currently projected by Ryan Feldman of TheHoopsReport to go #4. If the Cavs shy away from a Euro, he could come into discussion. It is worth noting that neither the Hawks or Suns housed many Euros on their teams during Grant and David Griffin's respective tenures.

Another name that got mentioned was Kawhi Leonard by Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld. Apparently the Cavs were high on him as well, but that was before they found out they would be picking #1 and #4. Leonard is a stretch that high and that idea has already been shot down by respected draft experts.

Marcus Morris has the experience, work ethic, and production that could cause the Cavaliers to check him out. The fourth pick just seems a little too high for him.

Bismack Biyombo also warrants a mention. I think the Cavs will ultimately end up falling for a guy with more potential than the defensive-minded Biyombo, especially when they already have Varejao. Whether it be Valanciunas or Kanter, one will likely catch their attention more than the Congo native.

I dont think it will take long for the unofficial word to come out that the Cavs will take Kyrie Irving. It already seems like a done deal if you look at the mock drafts. What is not a done deal, though, is what will be done with the fourth pick overall. That pick holds a lot of weight in the Cavs future. Knowing the luck of Cleveland, there is plenty of bust potential there.

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