NBA Draft: On the Road With Chris Grant

I actually feel sorry for Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant.

During the summer, his mentor Danny Ferry stepped down from his position and Grant was handed the reins by owner Dan Gilbert. He had finally gotten his big chance after paying his dues in Atlanta and Cleveland. However, that job was going to go one of two ways for him – rising with LeBron James and continue to add pieces to a contender, or falling with a roster full of complimentary pieces and no star.

We all know which direction NBA Basketball has turned in Cleveland.

So Grant, in his first year on the job, has his work cut out for him and is in a completely different mode than he has been going through with the Cavs for the past five years – rebuilding.

That’s not exactly an easy thing to do when you have an owner as antsy as Gilbert. While you never hear anything publicly outside of the infamous “Comic Sans email” after “The Decision,” Gilbert cannot in his wildest dreams have ever thought things would get this bad, especially after the start of the season when the Cavs looked like they could be in the mix for a playoff spot. You know this losing is eating at him and it would surprise no one if he was the driving force behind the rumor last week that the Cavs were after Charlotte’s Gerald Wallace.

The Cavaliers roster is built to compliment LeBron and without him there to lean on, the talent level drop has been dramatic. I don’t think anyone doubts the talents of a guy like Anderson Varejao. But he is the ultimate glue guy who is at his best when he isn’t featured. Before he got hurt, he was arguably the Cavs best player, but he will never average more than mid-teens in points. It’s pointless and unfair to dissect this current roster because it has a ton of holes, but I like what Grant is doing. Here is why.

The worst thing you can be in the NBA is middling. After the Price/Nance/Daugherty/Hot Rod era of the Cavs ended, they consistently were a 40-42 win team, sneaking into the playoffs and missing the lottery. That does nothing for your rebuilding, especially in a market like ours. No major stars are going to sign free agent deals here in Cleveland. That is the truth. So the Cavaliers are better off holding their cards, stocking draft picks and cap space, and hoping to hit the lottery with their own high draft picks. The last time they allowed themselves to hit rock bottom, they hit the lottery with LeBron James.

If things continue down this same path, the Cavaliers will have the most ping-pong balls with a chance to get the #1 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.  With that, Grant is doing his best to scout out the top tier talent in the college game.

Last night, the Cavs GM was spotted in Waco, Texas, watching Baylor take on #2 Kansas. He was one of a whopping 10 GM’s and 35 NBA scouts in attendance to see several potential first round picks, including Baylor’s Perry Jones. The 6’11 freakish athlete is currently the #2 prospect per reputable scouting service Draft Express and #1 per NBADraft.net. While Jones played well, scoring 20 points (6-11 from the field, 8-8 from the line), he grabbed just two rebounds. He was also dominated in the middle of the Baylor 2-3 zone by Kansas’s Marcus and Markieff Morris, who both made themselves a ton of money last night.

As Jonathon Givony from Draft Express tweeted:

Just finished the 1st half. Perry Jones got absolutely destroyed inside by the Morris twins (13-14 FG). That was embarrassing.

Perry Jones is young, skinny & inexperienced. I understand him getting beat up by KU.

Marcus Morris (6’8 PF) projects as an NBA three man and has launched himself into the lottery with his All-American play this season. He had 25 points, showing a array of offense moves that had the scouts drooling. His twin brother Markieff (6’10 PF) had 19 points and nine boards while playing soild post defense. These two could have a Lopez-like effect on this year’s draft. Brook Lopez moved himself into lottery position with a spectacular Sophomore season at Stanford. His twin brother Robin was more of a complimentary player, but thicker. Both became intriguing prospects and were drafted 10th and 15th respectively in the 2008 NBA Draft.

With so many holes to fill, the Cavs really can take the best available player. Many experts think that with the success coach Byron Scott has had with Point Guards in the past (Chris Paul, Jason Kidd), the Cavs would love a shot at Duke’s injured PG Kyrie Irving, who was on his way to an All-American season before injuring his toe. Jones, however, has the look of one of these once in a decade kind of athletes. He just needs to bulk up.

We still have months to go, but Grant and his lieutenants will be scouting like crazy up until the June draft. They need to stay the course because as bad as the basketball may be on the court for the Cavs, the front office is doing the right thing.

Amy Sancetta/Associated Press

  • Roosevelt

    I hope that Gilbert, despite being closely involved, is not an idiot. Here’s the the way the best case scenario for the Cavs plays out, and it is based on my assumption that the recent spate of “bad luck” is actually organizational gamesmanship.

    They are hampered by “nagging injuries” all year long, and finish with 15-20 wins. Along the way, they get a good sense of what Harris, Eyenga, Samardo, and JJ are capable of. They turn Mo, Tawn, and/or Boobie into a few high-upside guys, or a couple draft picks along the way. Then they get a game changer in the draft. (Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a stacked draft, or a mediocre one.)

    Next year, they can hypothetically have something like this – Anthony Randolph, Eyenga, Andy, one of Boobie/Mo, JJ, Harris, and Joe Draftpick. Young, athletic, and flexible.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Scott

    I’d love Jones if this team had a pure point guard. Until that happens, I’m driving the Kyrie Irving bandwagon.

  • andy

    I keep seeing the word complimentary misused, or complementary misspelled here.

    That said, hooray ping-pong balls!

  • Harv 21

    @ Andy: if you are going to be Spellcheck Guy on this site you will be very, very busy. Sometimes gets to me as well but readers reap speed over precision. Not a horrible trade-off.

  • mgbode

    @Scott – I call shotgun.

  • http://www.heyhokie.com Vengeful Pat

    I think I’ve changed my position on Irving. As long as his injury doesn’t look like a chronic injury, I’d be in favor of taking him. I’m a little nervous about the Cavs blowing a lottery pick on a guy who might spend the vast majority of his short career in a boot.

  • mgbode

    @V-Pat, welcome to the bandwagon.

  • Shamrock

    Start with a big man not more guards. Guards are a dime a dozen. I don’t see a Derrick Rose or a Chris Paul available in fact I don’t see any kind of a clear #1 which is why Cleveland will most likely get that pick. Until a big man plays himself into a clear cut top pick I say look to trade down. Get another first and/or actual young NBA talent.

    I’m skeptical of Grant. Seen to many first year flunkies in Cleveland leading the personnel departments. It’s why the sorry state of sports has returned. So far Grant hasn’t done a thing and I’m expecting that trend to continue. The trade exemption from James will most likely expire and all you’ll have accomplished is saving money. I might be mistaken but I thought money didn’t matter for Little Napoleon Gilbert?

  • mgbode

    @Shamrock –

    1. good luck trading down in a draft with 4-5 good prospects but none elite. I agree we should try in this draft if we get #1 (if #4 we need to stay there as there are 4 or maybe 5 prospects in the top tier and we need one)

    2. there’s no perfect way to build a team. draft the best player. if that player is Irving, draft him. If it’s Perry Jones, draft him. Realize though that it’s easier to scout a PG than a PF/C. Tons of athletic upside guys (like Perry Jones) either completely bust in the NBA or only provide brief glimpses and never really put it all together (Anthony Randolph and Ty Thomas come to mind).

    3. can’t use the TE if no team wants to pay for it. teams are uneasy with just taking $$$-cuts right now for 3 reasons:

    A. expiring CBA (not knowing the future parameters)
    B. hindsight view of some of the trades (like the Suns Kurt Thomas trade) that hurt the teams cutting $$$ worse than they thought it would.
    C. teams were cutting for the summer of ’10. Summer of ’10 is over and the ‘melo-summer’ looks to only have 2 teams in the race and they already cut their caps.

  • dwhit110

    @8 perhaps we should actually let the exemption expire before we start crucifying the guy for not using it?

  • http://twitter.com/kevinhignett Kevin Hignett

    @Scott – I wouldn’t have a problem with the Cavs taking Irving this year, but if Jones really could be a “once in a decade” player (and I have my doubts), don’t you have to take him? Chances are the Cavs will still stink next year, which means they could get a high lottery pick and land an elite PG like Marquis Teague in 2012.

    That’s where Chris Grant’s job gets really tough. He could take almost any player at #1 this year and initially feel good about it. But we won’t know for at least a year or two if he drafted Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan.

  • Shamrock

    @9 someone is always willing to move up, always. As discussed in the other thread there isn’t a clear cut #1 but I could be wrong. I just think you start with a big man but like the PG position that may require waiting a few years for the player to develop. That won’t be fun.

    Actions speak louder then words. I listened to similar excuses about Ferry and that guy was active, as far as trading goes. I didn’t like the rest of his moves namely his free agent signings but that’s water under the bridge.

  • andy

    @harv21
    I don’t intend to be ‘spellcheck guy.’ Love the blog, read pretty much everything. This particular error has been frequent enough that I thought it worth noting, once.

    I hope Grant learned a lot from his time as Ferry’s assistant. I’m more optimistic about him than I am about Shurmur…

  • http://gooddoctorzeus.blogspot.com DocZeus

    Perry Jones is butter soft. That guy might be freakishly athletic but nothing about him screams “The Franchise.”

  • http://www.heyhokie.com Vengeful Pat

    @14, Perry Jones just heard that and melted… all over an english muffin.

  • MattyFos

    “Jones, however, has the look of one of these once in a decade kind of athletes”

    JJ is kind of a freak athlete. Nowhere near once in a generation. But Freaky athletic and tons O’ upside… How’s that development working out for us?

  • Shamrock

    @16 Classic case of a kid who needed to remain in school. The problem with the selection of Hickson was that Mike Brown wasn’t a “teaching” coach. How many Cavaliers rookies performed in any way under him? I say just Gibson and that’s being generous. That was the bind Danielle Ferry was in he might as well not use the draft because his coach couldn’t coach. Well offense anyways. Still I never liked Ferry his trades are what saved him. Otherwise he and Brown would have been better served remaining in San Antonio learning.

    Hickson has freakish talent but I think his basketball IQ is probably under 85. I know he has hands of stones.

  • Mike

    Thanks for the heads-up on Jones, he looks pretty special.

    As for drafting a point guard #1, please someone tell me the last time a point guard led a team to a championship. You need special players with special size to win in the NBA, and while Irving looks like a very good player, you take the special big over the special small any day.