NBA Draft Rumors: Answering Questions About the Exception, JJ Hickson and the Fourth-Overall Pick

On Monday evening, I sent out the bat signal to my followers on Twitter to gauge what questions they had leading up to Thursday night’s NBA Draft. I did my best to answer them within the 140-character constraints, but felt it would be worth elaborating here. Below, you’ll find the more predominantly asked questions of the 40 or 50 I fielded with some longer, more detailed answers. Do enjoy.

Q: What likelihood do you place on the Cavaliers selecting Derrick Williams first and Brandon Knight fourth?

A: In short, very little to none. Yes, I know that the team brought in Williams for a second time on Monday afternoon. Yes, he is consensus top-two across nearly every draft board in the NBA. Yes, he’s a talented kid who played very, very well against Duke. But, barring any drastic changes, the Cavaliers are going to select Kyrie Irving with the first overall selection on Thursday night, a decision which should be finalized today in Independence as Chris Grant and his staff compile their draft board.

Baron Davis is an aging teacher-type at this stage in his career and Ramon Sessions continues to be an asset that the team is willing to trade. That said, neither will likely be here in the three-to-four-year window for the Cavaliers to be sustainably contending within the Eastern Conference. Coupling that with the fact that Utah is almost guaranteed to take Knight with their third selection, the Cavaliers would be looking at the next tier of guards – something that is not likely worth the gamble at this stage.

Q: Then who would the Cavaliers take fourth overall?

A: With the news that Jonas Valanciunas’ buyout clause will prohibit him from entering the NBA until the 2012-13 season, it is perceived that his value has dropped on many teams’ boards.  Fortunately for Cleveland, they are not in a hurry to have the Lithuanian big man stateside as his international play will allow him to take part in competitive basketball in the event of an NBA lockout; this is a huge bonus given his need for development.

That said, look for the Cavaliers to field offers from nearly every other NBA team to see what they would receive in the event the pick is moved.

Just as I’m told the team is kicking the tires on “five or six” potential deals involving the Traded Player Exception, their perceived interest in Enes Kanter is working.  The Washington Wizards, as mentioned here yesterday, are allegedly in talks with the Cavaliers to trade up to fourth-overall to take the Turkish big man.  In return, the Cavs would require the Wiz’ sixth-overall pick as well as the 18th.

A player who the team would target here would range from Colorado’s Alec Burks to Texas’ Jordan Hamilton. Whether or not Washington bites remains to be seen.

Q: Assuming the dream scenario is Irving and Williams, what can the Cavs do to make this happen?

A: A deal will almost assuredly have to be made. At least one, to be specific. The more we hear, it is becoming evident that the Cavaliers and Timberwolves are having a difficult time on coming to terms for the second-overall selection on their own. Thankfully, all of that flexibility that we have talked about over the course of the last 11 months will have a chance to provide some return. If the front office can find a way to add additional picks, there is a chance that one will be used to assist in a subsequent move.

Q: Well, that’s pretty vague. Who or what can the Cavs move to get a trade done?

A: First and foremost, the Traded Player Exception. As we have said here since acquisition, look for the team to use at least a portion of this on draft night. Also keep in mind that it cannot be combined with a player in a potential deal. What this can be combined with to entice other teams are draft selections, something the Cavaliers have four of.

Also being deliberated is the trade value of Ramon Sessions and JJ Hickson, two young assets that continue to receive attention by other NBA teams.  Anderson Vareajo continues to have his name thrown in the mix, but the team does not appear willing to include him in any draft-related deal at this time.

Q: Can the Cavs combine Hickson with the fourth overall selection to move up to second-overall and draft Derrick Williams?

A: Yes, they can. But they won’t.

Regardless of what fans think of Hickson and his occasional bout with inconsistency, the team – along with other league executives and scouts – view Hickson as a better talent than Williams when the two are compared side by side. If they would not deal him by himself for the second overall selection, they most certainly would not add their fourth-overall pick to the mix.

Hickson is a true power forward and is considered to be more athletic than Williams. While the soon-to-be rookie is younger and can shoot the ball from a longer range, Williams’ tweener status isn’t doing him any favors. And yes, the Cavs – like the majority of the league – consider Williams to be a power forward. Hickson is a known commodity and Williams, despite what he did to Duke, is still a gamble. Adding a point guard like Irving will only make the team’s current team better, including Hickson.

Q: So, with that said, what would the Cavs expect for Hickson  since they value him so highly?

A: Valuing a 21-year-old power forward that can average a double double with a block per night highly is not exactly far-fetched even considering the mental lapses and frustrations with Byron Scott.  That said, the team is trying very, very hard to acquire a lottery selection in the 2012 draft to go along with a third lottery pick this year. They will likely try to obtain a unprotected selection, but after what fortunes the Cavs had with regard to the Clippers trade – coupled with the above-average draft class in 2012 – teams will be hard-pressed to part with lottery selections.

Potential targets in these talks, as I’m told, are the Charlotte Bobcats, New Jersey Nets and Phoenix Suns. Alas, the team will continue to aim for two draft picks or a combination of a draft selection and a starting wing player to help bolster what is potentially the worst starting unit in the NBA.  It’s also worth mentioning that, as the draft nears, the bid-ask spread may narrow or widen to the point of dissipation.

Q: Well, if teams do not want to match the Cavs’ value for Hickson, what are we looking at with the Exception?

A: First things first: fans will need to stop wondering about big-name players like Andre Iguodala, Monta Ellis and Rudy Gay as there is a very slim (to no) chance that the Cavs will handcuff themselves financially. Also, the team is – as I stated yesterday – not necessarily looking to be a seven-seed in the playoffs next season so adding a high-volume player now would be a disservice to said goal.

The team would love a young big like Al Horford or Josh Smith, but the Hawks (like other NBA teams) are not valuing the fourth-overall selection enough to garner a potential All-Star.

As mentioned above, there are several deals currently being discussed, most of which would net the team a serviceable wing player (think Sacramento’s Francisco Garcia) along with a draft pick for a portion of the Exception.  If the team would acquire another lottery selection, look for them to have interest in Kansas’ Marcus Morris, Washington State’s Klay Thompson, and Florida State’s Chris Singleton – who I’m told is rapidly moving up the team’s draft board.

  • Lyon

    good article, thanks Scott.

    I’d love to find a way to either trade down or trade into the top 10 and get Klay Thompson/Singleton. Thompson is decently athletic & can stroke & I just love the way Singleton plays the game.

    Can’t wait for Thursday!!

  • Harv 21

    ” … the team – along with other league executives and scouts – view Hickson as a better talent than Williams when the two are compared side by side.”

    If that turns out to be true – and JJ might develop into something consistent and solid but sure ain’t no cornerstone – why all this effort to get Williams at #2?

  • jimkanicki

    shoot scott, sorry, one more question i wish i’d thought of before you pulled this together: with SACTO’s financial problems are there opportunities to ‘buy’ their 5th pick? (sam dalembert’s $12MM contract anyone? anyone?)

    side comment, i guess it’s nice that JJ is a better athlete than Williams but Williams actually used his talent to take over and dominate the biggest game he’s had a chance to play in. (25 pts in first half vs Duke in NCAA tourney?!!) i wonder if the cavs are blowing smoke there in an attempt to beef up JJ’s trade value.

    it’s like ‘nique might have been a better athlete than jordan. but… who’d you rather?

  • Scott

    “If that turns out to be true – and JJ might develop into something consistent and solid but sure ain’t no cornerstone – why all this effort to get Williams at #2?”

    There’s still something to be said about coming away with the consensus top two players in a rebuilding situation. Don’t forget, JJ is in a contract year as well. A lot can change between now and the three-to-four-year window we’re looking at.

  • Scott

    “with SACTO’s financial problems are there opportunities to ‘buy’ their 5th pick?”

    This would probably be the ideal scenario assuming you mean their seventh-overall selection. Also where having Gilbert’s wallet comes in handy despite the fact that others want to paint him as an unstable lunatic.

  • jimkanicki

    **yes, 7th pick, my bad.

    tristan thompson would look good there paired up with irving and kanter. !!! i think i need to replenish my famous grouse supply before thursday night.

  • mgbode

    sounds like it’s going to be a potentially busy and fun night for the Cavs.

  • Harv 21

    Scott, missing your point. Consensus #2 has no intrinsic value other than how the player actually plays, and if that’s less than JJ, why pay extra for that. BTW, I think that Williams evaluation is off. May not have JJ’s hops, but way ahead in his offensive ability and he can’t have a lower b-ball IQ or maturity level than JJ.

  • Scott

    I think the object of any draft is to come away with the best players possible. Obviously, it all has a cost but if the Cavaliers can draft Irving and Williams, it’ll then be up to Byron Scott to make that work along side JJ for as long as both players are here. This team is such an absence of talent that it’s a BPA situation, not sticking thumbs in floor holes.

  • NtG

    You have to remember, It was Hickson’s first year getting significant playing time, so you couldn’t exactly expect him to be consistent. Also, after the all-star break he averaged 16.9 points, 10.8 rebounds and shot 48% from the field with 0.7 steals and 0.7 blocks.

    I’ll take that over an unproven rookie tweener anyday.

  • Harv 21

    Of course it’s a BPA situation. My point is that if this draft is so weak that the Cavs believe #2 player in the whole freakin’ country is less than JJ, why would they give up significant value when it won’t give them significant value. Now if it’s taking a chance with Gilbert’s petty cash, fine, but otherwise keep the powder dry unless the powder’s going bad anyway. Coach Scott may be a fine talent developer, but a turd only polishes to a certain sheen.

  • Scott

    “why would they give up significant value when it won’t give them significant value”

    I don’t think they will. They would like to move up, but – as I stated – not sell the farm. If they can acquire another lottery selection via the TPE (or move JJ and get an additional 2012 lottery pick in return) and move up to the second slot via some sort of package, is that “giving up significant value?”

  • Harv 21

    No, I’d do that too, Scott, especially as I think Williams is better than the evaluations cited in your post. Because someone is going to overpay JJ and I hope it won’t be us. Just don’t trust that kid’s ability to keep working on his game after he gets his first big money. JJ’s trade value might be the highest it will ever be right now.

  • bobby

    Why would Minny want JJ? They have Kevin Love. 10 times outta 10 I take Love.

  • david

    im just ready for thursday to get here! glad that Irving is *almost* a done deal.

    If we could find a way to move Ramon Sessions for an asset I would be happy to get Darius Morris as a future backup for Kyrie after Baron leaves. love his game, especially if he can add any type of shooting at all.

    I am torn about Jonas. I can wait a year to see him IF it means we get that 18 pick and find away to get some help on the wing. Happy to hear that Singleton is moving up on the board too because perimeter defense would definitely be a welcome change

  • mgbode

    @david – “im just ready for thursday to get here!”

    yessir. me too.

  • Keith

    So, Scott, just theoretically… the Cavs trade the fourth to Washington for the sixth and eighteenth- but even then it seems that they have several avenues to gain ANOTHER first round pick, including sending the trade exemption to Sacramento at 7 or Detroit at 8, sending Session to New York at 17, or trying to get into the 20’s using the 32th and 54th Picks. It seems to me the Cavs are in the wise position of buying while everyone else is selling- my question is, just how aggressive is it possible they might be? Or put another way, if the CBA negotiations go south tonight or tomorrow, scaring all the other owners and GMs, how many is the maximum number of first rounders the Cavs might acquire?

  • mgbode

    @Keith – I’ll take a stab at it. Though some of the trades seem a bit far-fetched to me(like actually getting #17 for Sessions). Let’s act like they are not for the moment and worry more about the roster aspect of it since 1st round picks get guaranteed contracts (and we obviously don’t want to just cut a 1st round pick before he gets to play for the team).

    current picks: #1, #4, #32, #54

    trade1: #4 for #6+#18 (Washington wanting Enes)
    trade2: Sessions for #17
    trade3: #32+#54 for #25 (Boston needs more frontcourt players and may not be able to get them under the new CBA. I’d say they would be targeting Jujuan Johnson at 32 and package #54/55 to move up for Benson)

    “new” picks: #1,#6,#17,#18,#25 (all guaranteed contracts)

    That means we need to clear roster spots for them. In other words, we can only have 10 players on next year’s roster. We might be able to package players for future picks or do a 2:1 or 3:2 deal to clear spots. But if not, here’s what we have coming back (in order of who I wouldn’t cut/buyout):

    1. Hickson
    2. AV
    3. Baron
    4. Gibson
    5. Eyenga
    6. Jamison
    7. Semih Erden
    8. Manny Harris
    9. Hollins
    10. Samardo Samuels

    —-below this line would have to be bought out or cut—-

    11. Joey Graham (~$1mil)
    12. Luke Harangody (~$800K)

    Obviously, that means Anthony Parker, Jawad Williams, and Alonzo Gee will not be apart of the team either. But, I think we all expect that.

    Therefore, getting 5 draft picks is about as aggressive as I suspect the Cavs can be (for players that will be here next season). Now, if we draft Jonas-V or another player who won’t be in the NBA next year (Mirotic?), then we could potentially find room for more players.

    Assuming, of course, that Gilbert is willing to just payout the players we cut along with inking the rookies to their deals.

  • Shamrock

    Trade Hickson while he’s so overrated. The guy has some of the worst hands in the NBA. I hope the Cavaliers do some things and don’t pull a Browns and leave drat day with a yawn. They can’t afford it!

  • jimkanicki

    im with shamrock (and, i think, harv21). sell high with hickson if there’s a chance to come away with williams.

  • ben

    I feel like I am in the minority that doesn’t think Williams’ game is going to translate to the NBA.

    He’s an undersized 4 or a 3 with a deficient skillset, IMO.

  • dougfast_x

    Jawad Williams?? did i miss sumin??