Options abound for the Cavaliers at #4 in the NBA Draft

What an exciting time to be a Cavaliers fan! In this draft especially, it was so crucial to get the top pick for the right to select Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, and that’s exactly what Nick Gilbert brought home for Cleveland. As many of the WFNY guys have expressed, I feel that Kyrie Irving is the clearcut number one selection. You take that selection and run to the podium with it. There are intriguing scenarios that operate on the belief that Derek Williams and either Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker will prove to be a more dominant duo than Irving and whoever the Cavaliers are able to pair him with at number four. In my opinion, those are interesting scenarios to entertain, but at the end of the day it’s Kyrie.

Another decision that makes selecting Kyrie at 1 easier is that I believe there are a pair of very intriguing centers, one of which will almost certainly be available at pick number four. While Jan Vesely, the crazy-athletic small forward from the Czech Republic, Bismack Biyombo, the Congolese big with all the tools to turn into a defensive stopper, and Kawhi Leonard, the San Diego State defender and scorer, all deserve consideration, when it’s said and done, I’m going with one of two guys. They are Jonas Valanciunas, the 6’11” center from Lithuania and Enes Kanter, the 6’11” center from Turkey and Kentucky Wildcat recruit.

When I look at these two draft prospects, watching film and gathering every opinion from around the web that I can, to me, it boils down to potential offense versus potential defensive greatness. Kanter is clearly the more skilled and gifted offensive big man, but I feel that Valanciunas is just as impressive with his ability to change the game on the defensive side of things.

When I look at footage of Valanciunas, this kid does not have the same sweet shooting stroke that Z had from the time we drafted him, but his body type is similar to when Z started out. What I like most about Valanciunas is his ability to defend the perimeter and his pick-and-roll ability on offense. He’s a guy that will help the pick and roll at both ends of the floor, which is huge in the NBA. On offense, his solid screen setting, athleticism to roll to the basket, skill to finish at the rim, and above-average free throw shooting all make him a threat in that regard. On defense, people have drawn comparisons to Joakim Noah, likely due to his willingness to hedge the pick and roll and his relative comfort for a big man in defending on the perimeter. Pairing him on offense with Kyrie Irving and on defense with Anderson Varejao could truly strengthen the Cavaliers on both ends right away.

Valanciunas also can rebound quite effectively. With his 7’6″ wingspan and proven ability to rebound in traffic, ripping the ball away from other players on several occasions that I saw, Jonas is not your typical soft European big. Other than that, I liked his ability to run the floor, his body language while playing, and the fact that he competed at the highest level in the European League, against skilled big men several years older than him.

Some of the drawbacks are that his arms, while long, are pencil-thin, as is his frame. He will need to add some bulk, especially if wants to be a NBA center, which I think should be his position. He is also foul prone, being called for three fouls per 15 minutes of action. I also want to see what he can do in terms of passing the ball. All of the plays I saw with Valanciunas were plays where he was finishing or attempting to finish the play. Can he be an effective passer in time? His post moves are also a concern, as most of what I saw was pretty unimaginative, with a half hook mixed in.

Then, of course, there is his contract, which has three more years on it with the Euro League team, BC Lietuvos Rytas. As Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com and Yahoo chronicles, there are still hurdles to clear regarding a buyout. However, if this dealbreaker-type issue is cleared up, he may be higher on some people draft boards, including the Cavaliers’ board, as our own Scott mentioned here on Thursday regarding the contract status being an issue and here this morning stating that if it’s cleared up, he would be higher on the draft board.

Then, of course, there is Enes Kanter, who some think is an even greater question mark, given his absence from organized basketball for over a year now. Kanter was ruled ineligible by the NCAA due to playing professional ball overseas, so his time at Kentucky was mostly spent learning the English language, practicing with the UK team, and getting his education.

The things I like about Kanter, again from what little I have seen, are his toughness, his propensity to play through contact in the post, his good hands, and his post move arsenal. Enes is a big body, one that won’t be pushed around in the post, and I believe he is a true center as well. Being able to score in the post with people hanging on you and hacking is important at the next level, because you’re not going to get every call, as Shaq and Dwight Howard would vouch for. Kanter has way more options in the post than Jonas V, and he has a methodical but effective mid-range jumper. I even caught footage of him from his one year of high school ball drilling multiple three pointers.

Another positive regarding Kanter was his impressive display at the 2010 Nike Hoops Summit in Portland. Kanter scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while coming off the bench for 21 minutes and dealing with a back injury. He did this against the likes of Ohio State Buckeye Jared Sullinger and Kentucky teammate Terrence Jones. Here are some reactions that I found gathered by Kentucky columnist John Clay. That’s where Kanter turned a lot of heads, and it’s one of the most recent glimpses we have of Kanter’s game.

In the “cons” portion of my take on Kanter, I would list his period of time being away from organized basketball as well as his speed and athleticism. Overall, I think Kanter is athletic enough to man the center position effectively, but his jumping ability is limited and his speed and agility, I would say, are average at best. I’m not sure Kanter can be an impact defender either, but his offense should more than make up for it.

In the end, though, I really admire Kanter coming out and going through all of the drills at the draft combine in Chicago this week. He said repeatedly his desire is to show his game and that he has absolutely nothing to hide. For a look at the interviews from the NBA Draft Combine, check out Glenn Moore’s footage over at Dugout Sport Show. He seems like a genuinely nice, high-character guy, one that I wouldn’t mind seeing in wine and gold.

What it will come down to for Chris Grant and the Cavalier coaching and scouting staffs will be the best fit long-term. Kanter is undeniably more ready to step in now and flash his offensive skills, and you will have to wait a little longer to see Valanciunas’s full impact. If defense, rebounding, and pick and roll offense are a greater need, Valanciunas is your man. If you’re looking for more of an offensive option and a tough, physical finisher in the post, then Kanter should be the selection. I feel that the Cavaliers’ decision may in part be made by Minnesota (or a trade partner) and Utah ahead of them, and only one of these two will be there at number four. Right now, I’m leaning a little bit toward Valanciunas, but I would not be disappointed at all with Kanter.

As always, at WFNY, we will have more in the coming weeks regarding the NBA Draft, the selection at number four, and the exciting month ahead for Cavalier fans.

(Photo: SlamOnline.com)

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    I think Valanciunas is easily the least intriguing prospect at #4. When the Cavaliers (not if, but when) select him, I will allow myself to cry for 5 minutes, and then I’ll take a deep breath and start trying to talk myself into liking his game.

    Everyone talks about his wingspan, and his ability to set screens, and all these other fringe benefits, but nobody really talks about his actual basketball ability. Every video I’ve watched on him shows me a stiff, rigid, guy who has gotten by in basketball on size alone. I don’t see a good NBA basketball player when I watch him. Boy do I hope I’m wrong about this one.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    Here’s a video I found that expresses a lot of the same concerns I have: http://youtu.be/TS_-RMKoX9Y

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Kirk

    Your concerns are valid, Andrew, and I have the same ones to a lesser extent.

    I like Jonas V’s work ethic and ability to put on weight and become more of a post factor. If you couple that with proper instruction and that size, he could be very valuable. I think he has a much higher ceiling on the defensive end of the floor.

    I totally understand those more excited about Kanter. He excites me too! Starting to think he may be gone at 4 though.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Andrew

    I still personally like Vesely better than Kanter, too, just based on more of a body of work to examine. I’m concerned about the lack of game footage we have on Kanter. If Kanter is the real deal, though, he would be my dream to draft at #4. But I’m mildly concerned about a lack of info, which is why I prefer Vesely.

  • A.C.

    I think the Noah comparisons are fairly accurate for Big V. Noah’s offensive success is predicated on Rose getting into the paint but is a terrific defender and rebounder.

    I still think Kanter would be the best pick at #4 but some of the other prospects, including Jonas, Vesely, and Leonard, would be good picks if the front office decides to trade down.

  • bobby

    I think its a lot easier to teach D then to teach O. Im willing to bet Kanter never really needed to play D because he has such good offensive skills and his size gives him a huge adv on smaller opponents. Once he gets some good experience and solid coaching I think he could definitely develop.

  • Believelander

    Kanter over Valencius. Almost can’t imagine the Q crowd yelling “Veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” instead of “Zeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee”. Kanter’s Howard-esque size and power, combined with a natural looking offensive skill set and apparently effective free throw shot makes him seem very desirable. His father has apparently always put a high importance on education for Enes, and in the NBA, it’s a lot easier to learn where and how to move on defense than it is to develop a crisp 16 foot jump shot. Kanter has showed off his ability to hit from three, though he certainly won’t be playing the wing on any NBA teams. I think he’s the total package, and that his defensive skills will eventually eclipse those of a Valencius due to his overwhelming strength.

  • Jon

    I don’t like the bust rate of recent euros, and the fact that we have so many highly touted ones in this draft makes me feel like at least a few of them might bust. I would personally like to see Irving and one of Kanter/Leonard with Vesely and Valanciunas as outside options. Don’t go crazy if we pick Chris Singleton either. He’s not a black hole on offense and he might be one of the three best defensive players in basketball two years from now.

  • false~cognate

    I think if you’re drafting for defense then you gotta grab Biyombo. That kid is gonna be a force!

  • Roosevelt

    I don’t know why everyone is so hung up on these Europeans. None of them look particularly scintillating. I’d MUCH sooner take a flyer on one of the one-and-done American college kids who underperformed in their one season.

  • kevin

    I think that pre draft workout will be decisive for kanter. Unfortunately we won’t have footage of that.

    I personally like Vesely because I think he’s some kind of ginobili (although he has to work on his outside shot). He’s been outstanding in the Euroleague and a good 3 is an area of need (although a center is too). But well, if we somehow can get the wolves pick, maybe we can address both needs :D

  • Stinkfist

    @11, are you somehow suggesting the Cavs end up with the 1, 2, and 4 picks or was that a joke?

  • trishabarrow

    I’m not so sure about this mock draft. Kemba falling to no. 17 is absolutely impossible, and Jan Vesely to Utah at no. 3 is unrealistic, seeing as they have Knight, Walker, Burks, Brooks, Kanter, and possibly Williams on the board at no. 3. http://bit.ly/kK4xUP

  • Tron

    After watching that Jonas V clip Andrew posted, I want no part of that guy at #4

  • mgbode

    I want to see Jonas vs. Kanter. They played each other at least 3 times in Europe, where is the footage?

    I agree with the general sentiment here. Jonas looks like the lanky Euro who got by on size. He could develop into a monster, but Kanter is already that monster on the offensive side of things. He has so many move and is smooth there. If he doesn’t develop on defense, he’s Carlos Boozer. While that would be disappointing, it wouldn’t be a total bust either.

    Vesely scares me because he can’t shoot. He’s bad at FTs and his form is poor. He could be a 2-way player and the other SFs we might go after like Kawhi and Singleton (if he can prove he can play SF) also can’t shoot very well. So, he’s intriguing, but man everyone has so many friggin’ questions this year.

    Jon, good call. Singleton has got to be kicking himself. If he doesn’t hurt his foot, he’s top6 in this draft (he was Kawhi before Kawhi was Kawhi and he did it in the ACC).

    Now, let’s all pray that Minny or Utah talks themselves into Brandon Knight so we get Kanter.

  • Vengeful Pat

    I’m with most of the other commenters… I like Kanter at #4 if he is available. Jonas V doesn’t look like a 1st round pick to me. To put it another way, how is he any different than Semih Erden, who is a fringe NBA player? The #4 pick is not a good spot to pick up a project player, in my opinion. Kanter looks smooth offensively, he gets great position for rebounds, and he has a good basketball IQ. He actually does look athletic to me in the videos I’ve seen, as well. His vertical is suspect, but he runs the floor on fastbreaks and he seems to have good lateral movement. Vertical isn’t as important as people think… guys like Big Z and Chris Kaman have been all-stars with poor vertical jumps.

  • mgbode

    @V-Pat – use Kevin Love as your example. I’m not sure Z and Kaman apply to Kanter since they are 7fters with incredible wingspans.

  • CavsBrownsFan

    The Cavs have had luck with Lithuanian centers…