When the NBA Draft Lottery dust settled and the Cavalier contingent was a bit downtrodden to see their sword and basketball logo pop up in the #4 envelope, I was among those thinking of what could have been. If the Cavaliers had nabbed the second or third pick, they were guaranteed either Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Florida guard Bradley Beal, the two realistic scenarios that kept Cavalier fans with their eye on the ultimate prize in the doldrums of late spring losses in #TankStrong season. However, the more I think about, watch film, and listen to news reports, the more I think the Cavaliers need to take a patient approach and see what falls to them at the four slot.
With the unibrowed one, Anthony Davis, already with his bags packed for New Orleans, it’s pointless to discuss him any further. Instead, if the Cavaliers stay at four, it’s likely that Kidd-Gilchrist, Beal, North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes, Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, or Connecticut center Andre Drummond will be a Cavalier. Yes, there’s always the possibility of Connecticut guard Jeremy Lamb, though he could potentially be had after a trade down. I’ve watched film on all of these guys recently to a varying degree as well as getting a look at each of them in several games throughout the college basketball season, and what I see is a lot of similar talent level.
Let me say that if you gave me my pick of anyone but Davis, I’d sprint up to the podium and knock David Stern over, handing him a card that said “Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, forward, Kentucky”. MKG is a game-changer on the defensive end of the floor, the type of guy who could guard anyone from an ankle-breaking Rajon Rondo to a MVP-caliber creator in LeBron James. He’s comfortable posting up on the block, offensive rebounding, and he’s got a knack for penetration and finishing. His shot remains a work in progress, but the type of impact he could make now and grow into even more makes me salivate. The questions remains, however, what would it take to get MKG? If it’s moving up to the 2nd pick, what does that involve? Is it as simple as giving up the 4th and 24th picks? Not likely. It probably involves some combination of taking on a bad contract and additional future draft considerations. As much as I love Kidd-Gilchrist and would be excited to see him reunited with his high school teammate, I don’t think the Cavaliers should trade up at this time. For those who hold out hope, there are some mock drafts that have Kidd-Gilchrist slipping to fourth or even fifth, but I just don’t see both Charlotte and Washington passing up on a swingman like that.
There’s Beal, the sweet shooter who is a little bit undersized as a shooting guard with average athleticism. Beal does show an ability to rebound the ball and get open on his shots that could make him one of the best knockdown shooters in the game. He’s touted as having a high basketball IQ, and it doesn’t take long to see that in the film as you see him making the right “shoot vs. pass vs. drive” decision time and time again. Beal’s going to make some point guard very happy someday soon with increased assist totals from Beal’s treys.
After that, it gets interesting, for the Cavaliers, I think they’d like to have their choice of two of MKG, Beal, and Barnes at four ideally. For that to happen, someone’s got to like Robinson or Drummond enough to take them 2 or 3. There’s plenty of mock draft outlets that see one of those scenarios happening.
When you watch Robinson play, he pops off the screen for several reasons. He has a nice pick and roll game as well as a perimeter touch while remaining plenty physical enough to handle the NBA power forward position. I recall him doing a nice job on the much larger Tyler Zeller of North Carolina on the defensive end as well. Whereas Kidd-Gilchrist, Barnes, and Drummond had other primary weapons in their offensive attacks, Robinson was largely relied upon to be the guy for KU. If we didn’t already have Tristan Thompson, I may be a little bit higher on both T-Rob and Drummond. If Robinson is clearly the best player available, however, and they value him over Barnes, they have to make the pick and figure out what to do with Tristan eventually (either a move back to center, a bench role, or a trade).
Drummond’s position doesn’t conflict with Tristan’s, as he’ll slide back to power forward this year in all likelihood. But, it’s the fact that he’s been dubbed a project, much like Thompson, that makes you wonder if you can have two offensively raw big men playing side by side. Make no mistake, Drummond appears to have a much higher ceiling on the offensive end, but given that he won’t even be 19 years by the time he’s drafted, you’re going to have to wait a few years to get the entire package. What you do see in highlights is devastating blocks, a physical body willing to defend in the post, and a forceful finisher. Big men are always tougher to read (at least for me), and they have a higher bust rate. The Cavaliers CANNOT miss on this pick, and the one of these five that scares me the most in terms of washing up is undoubtedly Drummond.
Then, there’s Harrison Barnes, who for the record I believe will have his #40 trimmed in wine and gold come October. Last year, before the early entries declared, there was an unbelievable buzz about Barnes, and rumors were the Cavaliers loved him. Then, he chose to go back to school and some did not see the progression that they expected. He increased his scoring from 15.7 to 17.1 points per game while he increased his field goal and three point percentages with his minutes staying virtually the same (29.4 down to 29.2). All of that while playing alongside fellow lottery hopefuls Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall, and John Henson, not to mention a lottery pick next year in James Michael McAdoo. That’s what I noticed most about Barnes when watching some games of his. Where some see passiveness and an inability create, I saw a guy who wasn’t selfish and realized he was playing with a lot of other talent. For short bursts, there’s no one in this grouping that showed that takeover ability quite like Barnes has in my mind. He’s also a very impressive young man to hear interviewed. Some will feel like we are settling if we take Barnes at four; I won’t. Go back and look at the Duke film a year ago, and you will see some of the same unselfishness in Irving, who was playing alongside talent (though not lottery talent) in Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler.
Whoever is ultimately selected, it’s a fun time to be a Cavalier fan. One of these highly talented players is going to give Kyrie Irving some much needed help in the scoring department and hopefully be a longterm fixture at Quicken Loans Arena.