Volume versus efficiency. Finesse versus raw athleticism. Relatively regal or standard with a hyphen.
With the Cleveland Cavaliers owning the fourth spot in the upcoming NBA Draft1, and every selection beyond the first-overall being laced with various layers of mystery, there is a growing belief that Chris Grant and his staff, if they stay put, will have their choice among the best small forwards in the pool: North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Both players providing solid character traits, ideal size and high-grade pedigree, both players having strong personal ties to last year’s first-overall pick in point guard Kyrie Irving — Barnes sharing the same agent and pre-draft itinerary — but each player coming equipped with his own brand of getting-it-done skills. Kidd-Gilchrist has long been considered one of this year’s top prospects due to his size, defensive prowess and aggressiveness at the rim, but concern surrounding his perimiter game have forced some to cast dispersions. Barnes, one of last year’s highly desired prospects, finds himself coming off of an up-and-down season, but provides the offensive game — specifically, one of the best mid-range games in the draft — that could easily be plugged in to a team lacking firepower from the wing.
Until recently, Kidd-Gilchrist has seen his name penned into the No. 2 spot on many mock drafts. He also happenes to be a target of many Cavalier fans who were relatively disappointed to land the fourth-overall pick. Being among the best in his peer group at getting to the rim, Kidd-Gilchrist averaged nearly half a free throw attempt per possession in 2011-122. Boasting a true shooting percentage of 58.0, his lack of range is easily trumped by his efficiency. His 9.5 rebounds per-40 minutes and 3.3 offensive rebounds per-40 minutes3 easily leads his peer group. Factor all of this in with the salient points that not only will the ball will likely be in the hands of one Kyrie Irving more often than not, and Byron Scott’s Princeton offense is predicated upon ball movement and slashing to the rim, having a wing player who doesn’t require the ball to be in his hands but can still make a large impact is integral.
Barnes, on the other hand, ranked dead last among his peer group when it came to assist-to-turnover ratio, rarely looking to create shots once the ball was placed into his hands. Certainly his rebounding totals would have been a bit better if not for the big men in Chapel Hill, but lets not forget that Kidd-Gilchrist played along side the best big man in the nation.
There is no denying Barnes’ offensive game — he is, after all, among the top-five in points per-40 minutes among his peers. His usage rate allows him to get to the line very often, a place where he converts and an above-average rate. But if Barnes has displayed much of anything, it’s that he’s very much a catch-and-shoot player who opts to utilize his mid-range skill set rather than attacking the rim. This facet undoubtedly leaves Barnes less prone to injury while also helping keep would-be defenders away from the rim. And, given that we are talking about the NBA here, it’s undoubtedly worth mentioning that the North Carolina product comes with an increased business acumen as well as elevated marketability.
If these two players have any similarities, right now it is that neither player has a desire to get past the Cavaliers this Thursday, both having refused to work out for the Sacramento Kings who select fifth.
If we were to use recently updated mock drafts as a ballot, the votes appear to be split between these two players eventually calling Cleveland their home for at least the next four years. DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony, CBS’s Jeff Goodman, CBS’s Matt Moore and the recent mock held by SB Nation have the Wine and Gold pulling the trigger on Kidd-Gilchrist. ESPN’s Chad Ford, SI’s Sam Amick, and Fox Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico think that the love affair which dated back to last June lies in the favor of Barnes.
“The Cavs have virtually nothing on the wing going into next season and would be happy to see Kyrie Irving’s former high school teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist available right here,” writes Givony. “Kidd-Gilchrist could fill an immediate hole, bringing intensity and toughness that will immediately improve Cleveland’s shaky perimeter defense.”
“In the past few days, it appears Barnes has moved ahead of Kidd-Gilchrist on the Cavs’ board,” writes Ford. “The team needs shooters and believes he’s further along. The Cavs love Kidd-Gilchrist, too, but it sounds as if he has become a tougher sell thanks to his limited offensive repertoire.”
It was Amick who shed light on the Cavs’ attraction to Barnes, and we would be remiss if we did not mention that it was indeed Amick who had the Cavaliers drafting Tristan Thompson with the fourth-overall selection one season ago.
Either way, the Cavaliers will be improved come Friday morning. The matter in which they choose to do it, however, will remain to be seen and will likely be debated regardless of which player hears his name called at approximately 7:30pm on Thursday night4.