Now that we’ve reached the Final Four in the NCAA tournament, fans of the Cavaliers are making some final notes on who the wine and gold should take with the two lottery picks they possess in this June’s NBA draft.
Arizona’s Derrick Williams and UConn’s Kemba Walker have impressed everyone with their play in this tournament. But do their games translate into being impact players at the professional level.
For a sense of background, let’s examine how NBA general managers view the talent coming into the league.
First of all, pro teams are far more likely to take a risk on bigger players than guards. That’s why Darko Milicic was drafted after LeBron James in 2003, ahead of Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. These guys are mesmerized by height, mostly because a good big man is hard to find.
That’s why you will hear a lot about Enes Kanter, a 6’11” post player from Turkey, 6’11” forward Jan Vesely from the Czech Republic, and 7′ Donatas Motiejunas from Lithuania, even though you’ve never seen them play.
Secondly, NBA personnel people figure every good college player can put the ball in the basket, but can they stop their opponent from scoring? That’s why there are questions about BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. No one doubt he can score, but can he defend at the pro level, or will he be another Trajan Langdon?
So, with those disclaimers in place, who can Cavs GM Chris Grant be keeping his eye on with a little less than three months to go before the draft?
Obviously, the prize of the draft, should he declare for it is Duke point guard Kyrie Irving. He’s the safe pick, the most likely of this draft class to be an all-star type player.
He handles well, can shoot, and was schooled at Duke, so you know he has some idea on how to play at the defensive end of the floor. His performance in the tournament answered any questions about the foot injury he suffered early in his season.
If the Cavaliers indeed get the first pick in June, Irving will be their likely choice.
Harrison Barnes from North Carolina would be their second choice because he’s pure small forward. Listed at 6’8″, he improved greatly as his freshman campaign continued and played his way back into the top five after being the pre-season consensus #1 choice.
The difference between Barnes and Williams is the uncertainty of the latter’s position. Williams will play power forward, but he may be a bit undersized there at 6’9″. He certainly has a shot blocker’s mentality.
He probably could use a better mid range jumper, though, but that’s a mild criticism.
If the Cavaliers continue to have the worst record in the league, the worst they can do is get the fourth overall pick, which means they would get either Irving, Barnes, or Williams, or one of the European big men listed before.
With their second lottery pick, which will probably be in the top ten, there are some intriguing players than could be available.
One player who hasn’t received a lot of publicity is Colorado G Alec Burks. Burks is 6’6″ and is very athletic with a soft touch from outside. He’s averaging 20.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.
Another alternative if the Cavs do not get Irving is Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight. Knight’s a bigger point guard at 6’3″ and is more of a shooter than a penetrator.
Walker is an offensive machine, but he’s under six feet tall which could cause problems defensively. He is projected to go around 12-20 in the draft.
A combination of Williams or Barnes and Knight wouldn’t be the worst thing for the wine and gold.
It’s nice to watch these games and imagine some of these players in a Cavalier uniform. In a few months, at least two of these guys will be wearing one.