As the Cavaliers inch closer to the NBA Draft, Cleveland fans are using the NCAA Tournament as a scouting mechanism that allows them to potentially catch up on players who they may or may have not had a chance to watch during the regular season.
On Thursday night, as the Duke Blue Devils and Arizona Wildcats battled for a spot in the Elite Eight, dream scenarios ran rampant as the Cavs – boasting two lottery selections in the upcoming draft – have a chance to start righting the 13-win ship. Duke’s Kyrie Irving and Arizona’s Derrick Williams have long been in the top-five of many draftniks and Cleveland fans (including this one) alike, and for the first time this season, the two players were on the same stage for all of the nation to watch.
The result: Williams led the Wildcats in a relative upset with 32 points (11-of-17 from the floor), 13 rebounds (six offensive), two steals, a blocked shot and a Williams-esque 5-of-6 from three-point land. Irving, though playing for the losing Blue Devils, did not disappoint with team-high 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting to go with three assists and a steal.
Many speculate that Irving is firmly planted at the top of the Cavaliers’ draft board given his skill set, amazing talent and Byron Scott’s penchant for success when provided a pure point guard. Williams represents a bit of a conundrum at this stage as his position at the next level is far from concrete. Presently, Williams plays in the post for the Wildcats (sometimes listed as center), but – as seen by his stat line above – can certainly stretch the floor and hit jump shots well beyond the paint.
Many scouts in the NBA feel that, if Williams (32.69 PER on the season) could prove capable of playing the small forward spot (he’s 6-foot-8-inches with flat feet), he could be the 1A to Kyrie Irving’s No. 1 slot. Ironically, he’s also jersey No. 23…
If anything became evident last night, the fact that Williams played many of his games on the West coast and were not televised in Cleveland is no longer an issue. The cat (no pun intended) is certainly out of the bag and Cavalier fans will be hard-pressed to assume that the Wine and Gold can land both players. Thankfully, if Williams continues to play at this level (one analyst said he had Blake Griffin-like moments last night), he will provide some solace in the event that the Cavs do not land the No. 1 pick come this spring’s lottery.
(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)