Weeks of speculation, rumor and conjecture all come to a front at 7p tonight as the Cleveland Cavaliers add another piece with their crosshairs placed precisely on (hopeful) perennial contention. We have all seen the mock drafts, read the scouting reports and watched the videos. We’ve listened to doctors, pondered the past and attempted to forecast the future. The Cleveland Cavaliers, once again, have plenty of ammunition at their disposal on a draft night—what they do with it remains to be seen. Needless to say, we give it our best shot at attempting to discuss what should, could and will happen once David Stern takes to the stage, smug smile and all. Do enjoy.
Scott: How would you guys characterize the last month of draft preparation as a fan? The rumors and attempted piecing together of various puzzles (Dan Gilbert follows Victor Oladipo on Twitter!) has been nothing short of a marriage between fascinating and frustrating. But has it changed much once it was official that the Cavs on the first-overall pick?
Rick: I would say that it has been more difficult. With Kyrie, we were fairly certain he would be the guy weren’t we? Last year, there was a pretty good consensus on the top three picks. I watched film on three guys thinking the Cavs would have their shot at one of them. I was wrong. This year, it seems that there are cases to be made for about a half dozen guys at No. 1, and the most important factor in all of this seems to be something we just can’t know: The health of Noel’s knee and Len’s foot. I wonder if the Cavs had gotten the fourth pick if it would be easier.
Andrew: If we’re talking from the fans/bloggers point of view, I would say it’s been frantic and apprehensive. The Cavaliers getting the first pick actually only made it worse as it put added pressure on the team to get this right while also removing arguably the best fit for this team (Otto Porter). I’m not sure too many people believe Porter is the best player in this draft, and that’s why the Cavaliers probably can’t/won’t pick him. But if they were sitting there at No. 3 or No. 4, I believe this pick would have been a lot easier. It’s safe to say that this is not the greatest year ever to win the No. 1 pick, especially if you’ve boiled it down to the consensus best player being a skinny guy with bum knees vs a consensus reach being a big guy with “potential” who happens to have bum feet.
Ben: I would say that it’s been roughly the same as the past couple of years. Once they got the first pick it was nice that Noel was an option, but aside from that it didn’t really change things for me. The Cavs have been drafting super high for three years now; the preparation is about the same.
TD: I’m not quite sure how to answer this. They have brought in as many of the tops guys as they could and have kept everything close to the vest. You have to respect the way they have done business.
Ryan: If the Cavs were picking third instead of first, this last month would have been much more fun. Instead of salivating over the good this group of top prospects brings to the table I’m left having nightmares about the bad. Each of the top names having glaring holes in their scouting reports would be much easier to overlook if they weren’t going to be the No. 1 pick, in my opinion.
Jacob: I would classify it as “chaotic.” I remember back on lottery day that I dreaded the next month of constant rumors, speculation and misdirections. Now that we’re finally here on draft day, I’m excited. I’m excited for someone to finally join the young and promising Cavs roster. I’m excited for the Cavs to do something—anything—decisive with that No. 1 pick. Owning that selection made this whole process even more up-in-the-air. At No. 3 or No. 4, the Cavs wouldn’t have controlled their own destiny, but the availability of certain players would have made it a bit more clear.
Kirk: It’s funny in that the only thing that’s changed is we have our pick of a half dozen guys rather than being left with whoever fell to us at the 4-6 range. It’s been a roller coaster of ceilings, floors, injury reports, and trade rumors, but thankfully, we are finally here.
Craig: It has certainly been more exciting. Not only do we have a bunch of prospects, but there have also been a lot of trade rumors as well as the Cavs might try to get a veteran rather than just use their pick. I refuse to not enjoy the fact that the Cavaliers are in the driver’s seat. Even in a draft without a clear overall No. 1 pick, it should be a benefit. I want to treat it as such.
Scott: Drafts tend to be treated differently, at least on an annual basis, in Cleveland than in other markets—Cleveland’s Christmas, for better or worse. Given that the entire cabal of draftniks want to paint this draft a a non-event, have you been able to muster equivalent excitement when compared to the past two years?
Rick: I don’t think I will call it excitement this year. I think this year it is genuine fear. This is such a crucial moment in the rebuild. Bad time to have the top pick? Maybe. Grant has to find the best guy in the class. He gets the pick of the litter.
Andrew: Definitely not. I think the last two years have also taught me that spending a lot of time getting worked up and opining over who I believe they should take is ultimately a waste of time. The Cavaliers do things their own way, and they are going to take the player that they think is the best. Not the player the consensus thinks is the best. But beyond all that, I just haven’t fallen in love with any players in this draft. If anything, I find the later picks way more intriguing. I want to see Sergey Karasev on the Cavaliers in the worst way. I feel more passionate about his game than anyone at No. 1, so that tells you how weird this draft is.
Ben: Yes! The Cavs have the first overall pick and a million options. Of course I’m excited.
TD: I always get excited about the NBA draft because I am such a big college basketball fan. I just find it crazy how certain guys are ranked so high/so low by those who DONT WATCH THE COLLEGE GAME. For example, I think a guys like Isiah Cannon of Murray State and Ray McCallum Jr. of Detroit will be very solid pros and are getting very little love for the so-called experts. And then there is a guy like Steven Adams of Pittsburgh who is getting a ridiculous amount of attention despite the fact that he has the offensive game of my three-year-old daughter.
Ryan: As a Clevelander any draft is a special occasion for me. A chance to get together with friends, dream about the future, and then bury our heads in our hands as something unthinkable happens. The fact there is no clear cut top pick only adds to the excitement/disappointment of the evening.
Jacob: Absolutely. I love drafts. Dating back to the fall, I’ve been saying the same thing: This is not actually that awful of a draft. For what the 2013 class lacks in true star power (a la LeBron James, Anthony Davis or Andrew Wiggins), it makes up for in depth. While the teams in the 1-4 range are going to have some awful tough decisions to make, the teams in the 4-13 range should be loving life. There are lots and lots of solid role players that will stick around in this league from this draft. And I’ve been excited about all of the possibilities for the future with Kyrie Irving.
Kirk: Of course. I’ve been doing film analysis of the top tier players, and that’s been really enjoyable. With the film study, you get to see the intricacies of a player’s game rather than just highlight reels. It gives you a better idea of their strengths and weaknesses. I’m tired of hearing about how this draft is so bad. We’ve heard that the two previous years as well, and the Cavaliers still managed to pull players out of it that look like they’re part of a good, young future core. I expect two more pieces after tonight in that same light. The star power may not be there like it was with Kyrie, but the suspense of not even knowing who the Cavaliers are keying in on has and will ultimately make this the most suspenseful draft in franchise history.
Craig: Yes. Absolutely. There may not be a LeBron James or Kevin Durant type of first pick, but that’s all the more reason that I’ve been reading up on Noel, McLemore, Len, Oladipo, Bennett and all the rest. Plus, the Cavaliers have another first rounder and maybe even a chance to trade up for a third selection in the first round.
Scott: It truly has been a draft for the determined; the lazy fans who merely focused on March Madness or a few highlight clips on YouTube have been left out in the cold. Now that all of the cards are on the table, however, what player would you consider to be the biggest disappointment if selected No. 1? Why?
Rick: I hope this doesn’t sound like a cop out, but I’m going to say an injured player. This isn’t to single out either Len or Noel. What I’m saying is that if they get the medical part wrong, and take a guy who never really recovers from their injury I will be severely disappointed.
Andrew: Definitely Alex Len, and it’s not even close. I don’t like it when players skyrocket up draft boards without playing any games. At the end of the college season, he was a fringe pick—a guy with intriguing “potential” and “upside”. Now suddenly he’s the best player in this draft? And you’re taking one injured guy because you’re scared of another injury? I’m not crazy about it. I’ll support whoever the Cavaliers pick and I fully acknowledge they have more info than I do. But I don’t love the idea of picking Len. It seems like they might be out-thinking themselves on this one.
Ben: Alex Len. Stress fractured feet. /fin
TD: Tough call. I don’t love Nerlens Noel. I don’t love Alex Len. Given what the Cavs are today and the fact that Dan Gilbert has openly said he wants to make the playoffs now, neither of those two are going to make a big impact today. They are both projects. If the Cavs are thinking long term, they should take Noel and hope that he can turn himself into Tyson Chandler. If they want to win now, then take either Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore, or Otto Porter.
Ryan: Even though he may have the highest potential of the group, Nerlens Noel would be a big disappointment for me. The excitement of winning the lottery followed by selecting a guy who may not even step on the court next year is a major buzz kill.
Jacob: For me, the biggest disappointment would be 1) Alex Len, 2) Anyone but Nerlens Noel. I’ve been in Camp Noel for a long time; he’s the consensus No. 1 player. Most specifically, Andrew hit the nail on the head with his piece the other day about Len. I’ve written many times that Len could go as high as No. 1 or as low as No. 10; the actual concept of Cleveland taking him scares me to death though.
Kirk: Ruling out something totally off the wall and considering just the top six guys discussed, I’d say Anthony Bennett. He’s a little short, he’s a little overweight, and he’s not interested and engaged on the defensive end of the floor. The Cavaliers have Tristan Thompson who I think will continue to improve at the power forward position, and a timeshare at the four spot isn’t really ideal.
Craig: Right now, I don’t think any of them would be a disappointment. I’ve really taken the point of view this year that I have a preference, but Chris Grant will absolutely know more than I will and his pick should be given a chance. That doesn’t mean he’ll definitely hit a home run, but even his pick of Waiters a year ago is better than the initial reaction, I think. So, until proven otherwise, I’ll save my disappointment for when the pick earns it.
Scott: I tend to agree with Craig, save for anything completely off the wall (like Cody Zeller, for instance). Some of you jumped ahead a bit in the last question, but for those of you who haven’t, who do you want the Cavs to select?
Rick: I’m going to say a healthy Noel. (Like that caveat?) When he was healthy, everyone thought he was the best guy coming out. There was a bit of a consensus. Sounds good to me.
Andrew: A part of me still wants them to pick Porter, but they just can’t do it with the No. 1 overall pick. I wish they could trade down to No. 3 and take him, but that’s not happening. In the end, I want them to pick Noel. To me, he’s the consensus No. 1 pick for a reason. He has they more potential to offer a game-changing aspect to the Cavaliers and to really make the team better in a tangible way. You shouldn’t get cute with the first-overall pick. You need to pick the best player. Period. I don’t care about fit, need, etc. I want talent because in the NBA, it’s the only thing that matters. I think Nerlens Noel is probably the most talented player in this draft.
Ben: Add me to Team Noel. He’s the best prospect, he has highest ceiling. Could be a monster on the defensive end (especially with Mike Brown).
TD: Selfishly as a KU grad, I would love Ben McLemore. But in reality, with as weak as this draft is, I would take Victor Oladipo knowing at worst, he will be an immediate rotation player who can defend at an elite level right away. You just have to hope that he keeps developing offensively, and he can become a Dwyane Wade-type player.
Ryan: As a bit of a contrary to TD, I believe you can find role players such as perimeter defenders and shot blockers anywhere in the draft. At No. 1, I want a scorer. Ben McLemore has the best potential to score the ball of anyone in this draft. Sure, he disappeared at times, but at least he scored 30-plus on three different occasions this season.
Jacob: Hands down, Nerlens Noel. As I wrote in The Diff, on numbers and pedigree, he is the best defensive prospect in decades (Yes, better than Dwight Howard or Anthony Davis). Sure, the injuries are certainly concerning and bring up horror images of Greg Oden. But I think the Cavs should be patient with the super young stud who has been the consensus No. 1 player on Big Boards all year long.
Kirk: It’s no secret: Otto Porter Jr. I think Porter is the best fit for the Cavaliers and has the best chance of making a solid impact on both ends of the floor. He’s a point forward on offense that can knock down shots but isn’t too selfish to steal his unfair share of shots from Irving and Waiters. Some of the other guys (Len, Noel, Bennett) have a higher bust factor, and I think Porter is more capable on offense than Oladipo, and better on defense than McLemore. In an unsure draft, take a sure thing that has the best chance at becoming the best player.
Craig: I’ve been pretty consistent all along on this and it has been pretty easy to second- (and third-) guess myself, but I’ll stand pat. I loved watching Ben McLemore play this season and I’d love to see him in the rotation for the Cavaliers this year with occasional offensive explosions.
Scott: I too have not wavered on my preference of drafting Nerlens Noel—his game-changing ability on defense, the team’s biggest weakness last season, cannot be overstated. It has, however, always been with the caveat that the knee checks out as corroborating with Dr. James Andrews and Company. That said, if it is in fact a long-term health issue, McLemore has been my 1A. This all said, who will they select? Assuming that they do not move the pick, of course.
Rick: The only pick I’ve gotten right the last few years has been Irving. Thompson and Waiters were pretty much complete surprises to me. So I’m pretty sure I’ll be wrong about Noel as well.
Andrew: Alex Len. It just feels like the writing’s on the wall for this. Of course, Chris Grant has been known to surprise us, but wouldn’t the Cavaliers picking the guy everyone is saying they’re going to pick actually be the most surprising pick of all? Plus, Len would be a perfect pick to agitate fans/pundits/bloggers/analysts/etc, just as Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters were. Len just seems to fit the culture of what the Cavaliers are trying to do.
Ben: Victor Oladipo, just to screw with all of us.
TD: Chris Grant and his staff have been amazing at keeping things mysterious. Nobody had Tristan Thompson two years ago and nobody had Dion Waiters last year 1 . That is why I think that they will go out of the box and take Victor Oladipo, just like Ben insinuated. He has never been mentioned as a guy they love, yet he has everything Mike Brown loves—a great defender, great character guy, and great fire on the court.
Ryan: As TD mentioned, Chris Grant has shown he’s not afraid to think outside the box with his selections of Thompson and Waiters. I expect him to do it to us again this year. All this talk about Len and Noel will lead to Otto Porter Jr. being the first pick of the 2013 draft.
Jacob: On lottery day, I made a prediction of if the Cavs stay at No. 1, there’s a 90% chance they’ll take Noel. I’ll lower that down to maybe 75% now, but I still think that’s the decision. Chad Ford has been writing for weeks that the Cavs’ recent draft history and usual line of thinking points toward Noel’s name at No. 1. In the other 25%, it’s a mixed bag of chaos: I could conceivably see the front office going any sort of direction with Len, Otto Porter, Ben McLemore, Anthony Bennett or Victor Oladipo.
Kirk: As much as I’d love to see them go for the hat trick of “gotchas” by taking Otto Porter or Victor Oladipo and fooling the media, I think it does come down to Noel and Len. If Noel’s knee checked out as is now being reported, Noel will be the pick. If their concerns are too great, then I think it will be Len.I won’t be upset if they take either, but each of them comes with their own set of bust and injury concerns. Then again, you can really pick apart any of the top six’s games.
Craig: Victor Oladipo. The real answer is I don’t know, but I just think Chris Grant will go off the board if the Cavaliers retain the pick and select a player. That’s not to say that Oladipo is “off the board” exactly, but I think it would be a surprise to a lot of people.
Scott: Very interesting. The fact that we all want different players and all believe they will select players whom we don’t want speaks volumes for how Chris Grant has been able to keep us all (including rival executives and beat types) guessing. For what it’s worth, I too believe that the Cavs will select Alex Len. I think the Cavaliers will be more than willing to sacrifice a bit on the defensive end to be able to have the pick-and-pop on offense, just like Brown had when he was here a few years ago with LeBron and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. A throwback, if you will. (This isn’t to say that I would not prefer the high-top fade swatting shots into the seventh row for the next decade…)
Shifting gears a bit, any bold predictions for any of the other three picks?
Rick: I’m partial to the Dallas trade. I would love to see them make the move to No. 13. Could Shabazz Muhammad be there? I think it’s a possibility.
Ben: I’d be shocked if they actually selected players—and keep them—with those second-round picks.
TD: Reading the tea leaves—whether they move up to No. 13 in Dallas’s spot or wait until No.19—I believe Sergei Karasev is their man. The second-round picks will be dealt as a part of a deal to get Houston’s Thomas Robinson.
Ryan: If the Cavs go with a big at No. 1, I’m hoping Shabazz falls to Dallas at No. 13 and Grant jumps at the opportunity to grab a player who just a year ago was regarded as the best high school player in the country.
Jacob: Remember this name: Giannis Adetokunbo. Although it certainly would be unpopular for the Cavaliers to select two projects if they also take Noel at No. 1, six of the 40 mock drafts I analyzed on Wednesday had the Cavs picking this Greek small forward at No. 19. He’s got boom-or-bust potential. But Cleveland has a history of shooting for the stars. I’ll lay my head on the line in saying that Chris Grant will take some relative unknown to NE Ohio with their second first-rounder: It could be Sergey Karasev, Lucas Nogueira, Ricky Ledo or perhaps Adetokunbo.
Kirk: I think we’ll see at least two trades from the Cavs. Something like Miles for the 22nd pick followed by packaging of several picks to get as high as they can to get a small forward like Karasev, Reggie Bullock, or maybe even Shabazz Muhammad.
Craig: I said on the podcast with Joe Kotoch, I think Chris Grant will “disappoint” with the first pick in the draft and then pull something off in the form of a trade thereafter that will mitigate the risk of his “disappointing” first pick. So my prediction (as worthless as it might be) is a trade.
Scott: I’ll be very surprised if they pick at No. 19. The team has reportedly stated that there are roughly 15 guys whom they feel are of NBA caliber. If they cannot move up to No. 13, it wouldn’t shock me if all three of their last four selections are moved in some fashion. Home stretch, boys. Any parting words?
Andrew: I haven’t found this draft season to be particularly fun at all. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of this losing stuff and caring about the draft this deeply. Or maybe it’s just frustration that the Cavaliers have the No. 1 pick in a year with no No. 1-worthy pick. Or perhaps the truth is I can feel the pressure on this pick. This draft is enormously important. I feel like 3 or 4 years from now we’ll be looking at this draft as the pinnacle of where the team is, whether that’s looking back with fondness or regret. Mid-way through last season I felt great about the rebuilding process. Something about the way the season ended really turned me off and has me concerned. And so I feel this draft is more important than ever. If the Cavaliers are ever going to compete for a title with this group of players, I just think they need to find a potential star with this pick. And looking at the talent pool, that’s no easy task. So while I have a fair amount of trepidation, I’m also intrigued by the ramifications of this pick. I think draft night is going to be fun because it will mean the end of pointless speculation and we can get down to business on analyzing the future of the franchise.
Ben: I love how no one has any clue what the Cavs are doing. Chris Grant has done a pretty good job at holding his cards to his chest. I’m fully prepared to be shocked at whoever the Cavs pick.
TD: If I were the Cavs, I would still build for the future. this “playoffs now” edict is ridiculous Next year’s draft is LOADED. Being in the lottery again instead of being an eight seed is a much better long term idea
Kirk: I have a lot of faith in the Cavaliers front office, and given my minor freak-outs with taking Tristan Thompson over Jonas Valanciunas and Dion Waiters over Harrison Barnes, I’m willing to be more understanding and hear out what the team has to say regarding their rationale for their picks and/or trades. By all accounts, Chris Grant and company do their extensive research and if it doesn’t work out, it won’t be for a lack of information and risk assessment. I’ve spent a lot of time running down Nerlens Noel, but in the end, I’ll be okay if they take him, as long as the knee checks out. My main beef is/was with the notion that Noel is an open and shut case at #1, given his injury and positional concerns, rather than with Noel’s game itself. To me, the gap just isn’t as great as many believe.
Craig: Isn’t this where I’m supposed to say “Baba Booey” as if it’s 1992?
Editor’s note: Former Sports Illustrated analyst Sam Amick did in fact have Tristan Thompson for the Cavs at No. 4 in 2011.