It seems like it was a long time ago, when the Cleveland Cavaliers were hoisting the NBA Championship in Oakland. Gosh it was just three years ago in 2016.
The City and the region erupted with joy and hundreds of thousands clogged downtown Cleveland during that once in a lifetime parade. Hence Toronto we know how you feel.
As the Cavaliers enter the NBA Draft on June 20, most of the remnants of that bygone title era are gone. Hanging by a thread is JR Smith and to greater degrees Tristan Thompson and the albatross Kevin Love.
The Cavs went from four consecutive Eastern Conference Finals to the basement of the Eastern Conference last season, limping to a 19-63 record.
LeBron James final exit from The Land left the Cavs with a false sense of hope that at least it was a playoff contender. Hence let’s hope this doesn’t happen to you Toronto.
That catastrophic calculation set the template for another long rebuild.
Last season tipped with Love inking a $113 million extension, a month later head coach Tyronn Lue had been fired, replaced by long time assistant Larry Drew who was shown the door when the final horn sounded on the regular season.
Love played 21 games and averaged 17 points, while rookie Colin Sexton emerged as the face of franchise, playing in all 82 games, starting 72 and averaging 16 points per game. Reserve star Jordan Clarkson actually led the team in scoring at 16.8 points per game, hometown kid Larry Nance Jr. (9.4 points per game) was generously awarded a $44 million- four-year deal.
Since selecting LeBron with the top pick in 2003, the Cavs have had three top overall picks; Kyrie Irving in 2011, Anthony Bennett in 2013 and Andrew Wiggins in 2014. Irving is arguably the most coveted free agent this summer, Wiggins was traded to Minnesota for Love and Bennett turned out to be the worst draft pick in the history of the league.
Lottery picks Thompson (No. 4 in 2011) and Dion Waiters in 2012 prove that even when the Cavs get the pick right, it may not work out. With Thompson it sort of did, but Waiters wanted out after to two seasons and is doing well in Miami.
There isn’t any one player in this draft that will change the Cavs fortune at No. 5, and there isn’t enough value in the No. 5 pick that they could nurse a haul of picks in return.
Besides, even if the Cavs strike gold with the No. 5 pick or any subsequent selection, chances are that by the time they blossom into an impact player, their contract will be up and thus the competing for their services will begin.
Few people understand how hard it is for players to develop in the NBA. For every LeBron there are scores of Bennett’s, they are just not picked at the top of the draft.
So, let us examine the best case scenarios for a Cleveland Cavalier franchise that appears content to just field an NBA franchise in the newly renovated Quicken Loans Arena.
Baring some unforeseen circumstances, Duke’s Zion Williamson, Ja Morant of Murray State and Duke’s RJ Barrett will be long gone.
The New Orleans Pelicans and former Cavs GM David Griffin have already unloaded Anthony Davis to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and the No. 4 pick and could be in play with a possible move for No. 5 if the Cavaliers value one more spot ahead of them more.
That’s a deal the Cavs should not remotely consider and instead would be wise to take the most ready NBA player available in the draft besides the wild Williamson intrigue.
The pick should be De'Andre Hunter who led Virginia to the National Championship.
The 6’7 wing projects as a 3-and-D guy, has the ability to step right in and give you quality minutes as a starter or reserve.
He’s not a killer, but can put you in position to win games and prevents you from losing games that you should win. A nice foundational piece to add to Sexton, Clarkson, Nance Jr., Thompson and Nance Jr.
My second choice would be Jarrett Culver, the Texas Tech freshman wunderkind, whose up side may be greater than any player in this draft.
Imagine pairing this 6’7 sharpshooter next to Sexton in the backcourt? An unselfish defender, willing passer and steel hearted enough to take to big shot when all the chips are on the line.
Similar to Hunter, but with way more upside and could be a star in this league for years to come.
My final pick for the Cavs will be the wild haired freshman guard Coby White of North Carolina.
Now, he is a killer and what I truly love about him in addition to his blistering quick first step is his penchant for wanting to be great.
There may be some growing pains playing him alongside Sexton, but I believe that he is better than Sexton and at 6’5 capable of creating his own shot. He fits with the growing trend of this guard friendly league and a player the Cavs can look back and say we recovered from Kyrie Irving. Yes, I think he can be that damn good.