With the extreme good fortune of a lottery victory, the Cavaliers find themselves in a luxurious position. The League’s youngest All-Star, another #1 pick, two other recent top-fives, cap space, the league’s most draft picks over the next five years.
There are interesting factors at play regarding the Nerlens Noel winning-ticket though. First, the entirety of Cavalier-dom – management, coaches, players, writing hacks, avid blog readers, and casual fans – all expect a step forward next year. Brian Windhorst reports that the Cavs are more than open to shopping the pick, and Nick Gilbert is adamant that he doesn’t want to be back on a podium in 2014. And who is the man for helping in that task? A nineteen year old that will miss the first two months of the season — unless the Cavs decide to throw everyone a curveball and draft Otto Porter #1. We’ll pretend that possibility doesn’t exist for now.
Trending in the opposite direction, rebuilding teams that are not ready for a playoff push next year, and aging teams looking to rebuild, could see drafting Noel as a perfect opportunity. Get an uber-athletic seven-foot tall player that won’t help much next year? Position themselves for the Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes of 2014? For a handful of teams, tankapalooza 2014 could be every bit as pitiful as the woeful displays of 2012. And trading for Noel would be a perfect place to start.
Obviously with an asset as coveted as the draft’s first pick, fans can dare to dream big. What fantastical ideas are the C:tB writers thinking about?
WOOOOOO! Have you all stopped celebrating yet? Because I haven’t! Amazingly enough, as you all know, the Cleveland Cavaliers have again landed the #1 pick (2/3 years!) in the NBA draft.
No one really expected the Cavaliers to end up picking first, so with the announcement came a slew of new questions. Essentially…What next?!
Robert, Colin, Nate and I hopped on the line to discuss what having the #1 pick means for this Cavs team. Is Noel going first? Is a major trade coming? Who should be taken with the 19th pick? Who do the Cavs sign this off-season? Are they in win-now mode?
These questions, and many more (most awkward moment of the lottery?) are answered.
Colin:The Draft Lottery itself is a spectacle to behold. Or not behold, exactly, but mock? I feel like it should be mockable—unintentionally doofy, at least—but it’s mostly just drab television, what with its suspense being driven by its inherent drama and absolutely nothing else. It’s mostly a bummer, and really, if your team isn’t involved, you’re the saddest sort of NBA obsessive.
Heather Cox awkwardly explains that the Draft Lottery, you see, is a game of probability, thus explaining to the American public what a lottery is while pretending that literally every American over the age of 12 doesn’t know exactly what a lottery is and how it works. This is not Heather Cox’s fault at all, just the nature of the beast. She has to smile and talk needlessly through a half-hour of television, of which anyone watching only cares about, give or take, 45 seconds.
But anyway, a room full of uncomfortable, uncharismatic old men sit alongside wholly unenthused young players do a soft-shoe if Cox tries to engage them. “Boy howdy, Holly, I hope we win!” is maybe the only acceptable answer one can give in this scenario, and so all we get are variations thereof, save for the part where Damian Lillard talks about being really good at basketball in a strange, humble way, like the kind-of-terrible Blazers were doing him a favor playing him 39 minutes a game, as if he was stealing minutes from a 25-year-old Isaiah Thomas. Maybe these interviews would be less weird if the interviewer and subject weren’t separated by a podium? They would probably still be weird.
Also, the Gilbert family bowtie thing is stupid, despite its apparent mystical powers. But none of the above stuff is actually important. Nate, Nerlens Noel or NERLENS NOEL!!! or Nerlens Noel? Or perhaps you’re a Ben McLemore fan? (I know you’re not.) Give us some sense of your enthusiasm level.
Nate:It was definitely a strange dynamic, as it always is. The Lottery is a collection of old executives, players whose teams want to appease or showcase them, coaches who’d rather be somewhere else, and Adam Silver who looks like he just stepped out of a flying saucer. What a strange-looking man. And then there’s Nick Gilbert: the human horseshoe. There’s something very refreshing about him. Yeah, he’s a rich guy’s kid, but by all accounts he’s had a pretty rough go of it. Yet he always seems to exude positivity and smiles. I’m probably grafting an emotional response onto a positive memory, but I just can’t help but like Nick Gilbert.
Watching the reactions is always bizarre too, as everyone tries to stay poker faced and not give away too much disappointment—well, except for the Jazz’s Randy Rigby who mouthed a minor obscenity as his envelope was revealed at 14. I guess he overestimated that 1.5% chance of getting in the top three. And Charlotte’s Fred Whitfield looked like he was going to burn down the studio with his look of disdain. But it was all eclipsed by the Gilberts (who had a large contingent). Dan’s wine colored Cavaliers monogrammed sport jacket was special, in its own way. The pink shirt and bowtie really completed the ensemble. He looked like a really bad magician. [Ed: so, any magician, really.]
But yeah, Nerlens Noel! I am much more excited than I thought I’d be. Most of you guys don’t live in the Cleveland area. I’m pleased we Clevelanders are going to be talking about it around the water cooler for the next few weeks. The Cavs have some juice, the Indians are winning, the weather is lovely. All seems right with the world. And Nerlens Noel is an intriguing prospect. Calipari seems to coach big men to block shots to teammates rather than into the third row like Dwight or Serge. I’m eager to see Noel in a Cavs uniform in 9 months. What about you, Colin? Did you think this was possible? No one I know seems to have been able to fathom the Cavs had a chance at landing this pick. I think it’s because there’s only like 10,000 people in the world that understand probability.
Colin: I think a lot of us harbored less-than-discrete hopes that Anthony Davis would become a Cavalier. Like, if you asked us straight up if we thought the Cavs would win the lottery two years in a row, we would’ve denied it, but a Kyrie-Brow core was too tantalizing to not hope for. Plus, in the Davis draft, the Cavs ended up with the fourth pick, which was a decidedly “Well, [crap]!” sort of moment, especially since so many of us were attached, in the wake of a lottery non-miracle, to the idea of the Cavs drafting Brad Beal or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. (Ay, Dion: keep turning our disappointment into fireworks, buddy.)
In this lottery, I don’t think we dared to dream. In part because the dream itself wasn’t an Anthony Davis-level prospect: it was Anthony Davis Lite with a knee injury that’ll keep him out until at least late December. Because of Noel’s bust potential or otherwise, we—and jeez, I’m generalizing here in a way that makes me uncomfortable, but I thinkI’m echoing the Cavs fan consensus here—resigned ourselves to Otto Porter-dom. Were we all thrilled about Otto Porter? I don’t think so, but it was at least a near-certainty the Cavs could and would get him. Now we’re all woozy and disoriented, I think. We didn’t much ponder the Nerlens Noel Era, either because of the Cavs’ not-great odds or Porter love (which I can’t quite understand) or… fatalism? We’re looking at the Cavs having—draft strength be damned—four top four picks in three years, two of which were first overall. It’s hard to complain, y’know? You can talk about luck and how the Cavs have had high picks in purportedly weak drafts, but the lottery balls have been kind to them, on the whole. I beg of you not to fret, Cavs fans: if every other force in the world is raining down crap on the jewel of the rust belt, math certainly isn’t.
Nate: It amazes me the way teams and communities of fans talk themselves into players because they fit a need. Porter was more likely to be available than Noel, but he wasn’t necessarily even the fifth best player in the draft. At least now you don’t have to have an internal Alex Len debate. [Ed: This debate would not have been pleasant.] With that in mind, is Noel the guy? Is there any part of you that wants …McLemore? …Oladipo? …Porter? I was super wary before the draft. Truth be told, I thought Oladipo was the most can’t-miss player, and he didn’t fit on the team, at least in any sort of conventional way. Does Noel’s weight bother you at all? If there’s a player he reminds me of, it’s Alonzo Mourning: similar bodies, similar explosiveness, similar defensive instincts. Mourning was always lighter than the players he played against but made up for it with mettle and tenacity. If Noel can perform similarly, it should make for good times.
One thing that bodes well for him is that successful ACL surgery is more likely the younger a player is, and by all accounts Noel is progressing well. Additionally, players often come back as better shooters after ACL surgery because as they rehab, there is little other basketball-related activity they can do. So, let’s hope ol’ Nerlens pumps up that free throw percentage and gets a shot out to 15 feet. Just don’t let Tristan teach him push shot jumpers, because I don’t think that kind of kismet can be replicated.
In parting, I’m excited for the summer: pictures of Kyrie play-acting with TT and Noel, Summer League, free agency, etc. I’m pretty sure this is the start of a new subsection in the Wikipedia history of the Cavs. As Nick Gilbert said, the goal is to not be back in the lottery next year. I think that’s an admirable goal, even if it’s going to be harder to achieve than many people think it will be. The post-LeBron dark ages are over. I can feel it.
Colin: To answer your most urgent questions: yeah, Noel’s the guy because the Cavs need a rim protector—plus, you can’t pass on a guy who might be a transformative defensive player—and yes, Noel’s going to have to add some weight because, wow, he’s a twig. He’s at 204 right now, though when he was walking around on two sturdy limbs, he weighed something like 215 pounds. I think he’ll be able to pack on some muscle over the next few years. He’ll need to if he wants to play center. And hell, I’m flying high: in my mind, he’s a more athletic Tyson Chandler. Don’t you dare tell me otherwise, and also, if you could send me some photoshopped images of Noel with the sort of Castro-ish beard Chandler favors, that’d be great.
To answer your other questions: I like Oladipo, but he’s a guard. I like McLemore even more, but he’s a guard. (It’s a post-Saint Weirdo world, if you’re contemplating draft scenarios in which either one of them ends up a Cavalier.) I like Porter just fine, but if the Cavs draft him with the first overall pick, I’ll have a meltdown. I mostly—and I know we can and will ponder flipping the number one pick for established talent—just want to settle into and accept a reality in which the Cavs have a Noel-Irving-Thompson-Waiters core. I like the idea of that. I think it’s the makings of a team that will, yeah, perhaps stumble a bit but eventually become interesting and fun to watch and—we can only hope—able to win a fair share of basketball games. This is a good night, no matter your angle.
Every year at roughly this time, representatives from 14 NBA teams gather in one of the most uncomfortable collections of current and former players, old, rich white men and Nick Gilbert the world has ever seento battle and win favor with the gods, David Stern and Adam Silver, using the most devastating and soul-crushing weapon the world has ever known: probability. The winner will have the chance to draft a 6-11 center with a bum knee, a 6-4 athletic marvel with a picture-pretty shot who has been criticized by, among others, his college coach for not being “assertive” enough, or taking a pass and, for the first year, utilizing the option of forgoing this year’s selection for the same slotted spot next year.
Yeah, just kidding about that last option. Sorry.
Outside of actual in-game action, the single best on-screen moment in the NBA season is (shockingly) the draft lottery. More specifically, it is the lead up to the lottery results, when each team’s representative is introduced and captured on camera, if briefly, in amazing comic squirm. It’s the NBA’s version of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Consider the following:
1.) This is, essentially, the NBA’s roll call of its losers for this (and, in most cases, several) season(s). For all the build up of dangling this year’s best college players in front of these win-starved teams, the only way they can broadcast this beautiful train wreck is to attach it to a playoff game. So, all of these team reps, knowing their shortcomings are being paraded out by the league in advance of a Conference playoff game, seem to call out to the audience from behind watery eyes, “Please, this is the part of the season where we get to disappear! Let us go away! Why are you making us do this?!”
(This is Part 14, the final in the series that I published at Hardwood Paroxysm throughout the year.)
The 2013 NBA combine is behind us. After thirteen parts attempting to quantify what it all means, now it is time to declare winners & losers. Let’s start with the crew deserving a bump in their draft status.
Shane Larkin – If his NCAA-leading points produced through pick & rolls (scores plus assists) didn’t impress you, or his 24 points per game during Miami’s ACC Tourney run, then how about his joining this crew: Derrick Rose, Russ Westbrook, Mike Conley Jr, John Wall, Nate Robinson, and Jerryd Bayless? Those were the drafted underclassmen point guards with sprint speed below 3.15 seconds and no-step vert of 30” or more. Ignore concerns about his tiny stature; this Hurricane is primed to do big things.
Otto Porter – Tall small forwards rate as the NBA’s most-productive two-way players. Who stood tallest of the 2013 small forward class? Of course, Otto Porter, also the draft’s most productive 19-year old. I see a strong NBA career, despite middling athleticism tests…which aren’t consistently reflective of NBA success or failure for a small forward, anyways (actually, most of those correlations were negative).
Phil Pressey – He surpassed 3.2 seconds in the sprint and 11 seconds in the agility drill as a draft-worthy upperclassmen point guard. That’s been a can’t-miss combination over the last thirteen years and a great source of late value. Peyton Siva also bested these thresholds, but currently ESPN and Draftexpress include him outside the likely draftees*; at nearly 23, he has never been a particularly effective collegiate offensive player. This serves as opportunity to say, don’t overrate players that otherwise may not warrant drafting, just because of favorable combine results (obviously an Olympic track athlete isn’t likely to find NBA success).
Nerlens Noel – Did I bump my head? I am giving Noel the benefit of the doubt here. The small group of very long, very speedy prodigy centers is fairly glamourous. Nerlens’ 110” reach meets one criteria, and I have faith that his sprint speed bests 3.3 seconds.
Victor Oladipo – The complete list of underclassmen (Oladipo is still 21 as of February 1st, 2014) shooting guards with first-round talent and a 6’ – 9” wingspan, 31” no-step vert and 35” max vert in the last fourteen drafts is: James Harden, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Eric Gordon, Ronnie Brewer and Jeremy Lamb. I expect the young Hoosier will fit nicely into this list. Ben McLemore also leapt over 31″ from a stand-still, exhibiting a trait often portending success for first-round, underclass shooting-guard talent. Allen Crabbe barely missed the combination of qualifiers that Oladipo met.
Cody Zeller - His sprint speed ties the third best of the centers evaluated by this study. His no-step vert rose the highest of the entire 2013 Combine. Given the precedent of these traits predicting success in underclassmen centers, this helps solidify Zeller in the top-ten.Norvel Pelle flashed an exciting blend of speed and length…who is he? I don’t know, but as a late second round project, he may be worth a look.
Rudy Gobert – Here’s the shocker; my big, contrarian view. Also, this may not be fair, because this project focused solely on NCAA players. But heading into May 16th, reports of his wingspan were 7’ – 9”…now it’s a confirmed 7’ – 8.25”. Why would this bump his draft stock? As an anecdotal case, the players in the draftexpress.com database with wingspan greater than 7’ – 8” include: Mamadou N’Diaye, John Riek, Alexis Ajinca, Saer Sene, Michael Olowokandi, Chris Marcus, and Boban Majanovic. Is this a list that inspires confidence? Detailed here and here, as a general rule, increased size did not correlate to improved offensive or defensive success for centers; instead, elite athleticism generally corresponded to raised performance.
Follow me on this gross simplification, as I attempt to illustrate a point. Of the players investigated in this study:
Gobert’s reach of 9’ – 7” exceeds the 70th percentile of centers by 3.5”.
His max vert of 29” falls below the 70th percentile by 4”.
OK. Ignore the second bullet point. Based on his sprint speed of 19.7 ft / sec, compared to 70th percentile speed of 21.2 ft / sec, it takes 1/5 of a second for the faster player to gain 3.5″.
While I’m not sure that solved anything, athleticism provided much more reliable prediction of NBA success for Centers. Gobert’s sprint speed was third-worst of the 2013 combine, his agility second from the bottom, with max-vert tied for last. He failed at the more important stuff. I don’t think the events of May 16 and 17 did anything to positively differentiate from May 15th .
Shabazz Muhammad – At the one position where size rated as consistently beneficial, the UCLA freshman comes up short. Turning 21 at the start of next season, combined with non-elite NCAA production, he is probably a reach in the top ten.
Late draft shooting guards – Snagging a “two” in the final quarter of the draft is a longstanding popular decision amongst NBA front offices; following that pattern, a recent draftexpress.com mock shows five coming off the board between picks 46 and 60. Invariably, these picks have not worked out…potentially bad news for Ricky Ledo, BJ Young, Vander Blue, Brandon Paul, or Michael Snaer. Rolling the dice on a fast point guard is historically smarter.
Myck Kabongo – In addition to the facts that he was not particularly productive at Texas, and that he technically qualifies as an upperclassmen (22 years old by February 1st), his athleticism results were gross. Not a good combination for a prospective point guard.
Upperclassmen Centers – Over the last 13 drafts, this has typically been the domain of marginally performing players. The exceptions are Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert, Emeka Okafor, and Brendan Haywood. Accounting solely for defense, Jason Collins can be added to the list. Disappointing speed and leaping results from Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Withey do not help their case towards breaking into this tiny group of successes. Gorgui Dieng skipped the athleticism testing.
Any sub-six foot point guard – Size showed zero inclination towards predicting offensive success for point guards, so if you like Trey Burke, Shane Larkin, Phil Pressey, Pierre Jackson or Isaiah Cannon, don’t be scared-off that they’re shorter than you.
Undersized big men – Richard Howell, Andre Roberson, DeShaun Thomas; if you liked these guys before the combine…carry on.
Anyone not listed here – Basically regardless of how amazing or disappointing the thing they did was…you shouldn’t let it dramatically change your perception of their draft stock.
*Casper Ware did not possess the necessary skill-set to get him drafted, hence he would not qualify in a re-do of this study in five years. As a small, fast point guard though, I featured him with a picture in the second part of this series. Due to that, I will always feel a small interest in his career. This year, in his rookie professional season in Europe, he sits as the second leading scorer (20.4 ppg) and fourth-best assist person in Italian Lega2. Despite struggling around the basket, he posted respectable true shooting of 55% to go with his bulk scoring. His team currently battles in their playoffs, clinching a first round series yesterday, behind Ware’s 20 points on 59% true shooting. Good luck in the semifinals, Casper. Come on, NBA cellar-dwellars and higher-level Euro teams…next year, we can do better than the Italian second-division for Mr. Ware!!
After a massive delay due to computer issues, I present you all with our 2013 Playoff discussion. Unfortunately it’s all moot at this point – all the teams have passed the 2nd round. Still, Robert, Colin and I touch on some pretty great topcs about the four second round match ups. It’s definitely worth a listen!
More draft combine news out. The agility, speed, and leaping measurements are out, at least for those who participated. Here is the link. One of the best bloggers in the business, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress, does a good job pondering what it all does and doesn’t mean, here.
The big winners? Shane Larkin of Miami bested the vertical (44″), the 3/4 court sprint (3.08 seconds), was tied for second in no step vertical (34.5″), and was 5th in agility drills. At 5’10″, Larkin can jump and touch four inches above the rim from a standstill. I’m 5’10″, Shane Larkin, and I hate you.
Other winners include N.C. State’s C.J. Leslie (pictured above) who had a 40″ vertical, a 10.19 agility drill (#1), and a 3.10 second 3/4 court sprint (#2). At 6’7″ with a 7’2″ wingspan, expect this showing to push Leslie into the first round, where he would be a good backup plan to Otto Porter. Cody Zeller had a very nice showing as well, with a 37’5″ standing vertical, a sprint time of 3.14 (#6), and an agility time of 10.4. Those are extremely good numbers for a guy who measured over 7 feet in shoes. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the 6’6″ shooting Guard from Georgia also posted very nice speed and agility numbers, likely increasing his draft stock after a season where he posted good numbers, but his team played poorly.
Players who didn’t fare so well included Deshaun Thomas who posted the worst agility drill at 12.94, the fifth worst sprint at 3.53 and a 32″ vertical. My boys Rudy Gobert and Kelly Olynyk were the slowest of the bunch at 3.59 and 3.57 seconds respectively. Olynyk at least posted a decent agility drill, but Gobert trailed only Thomas at that too. DraftExpress has been tracking these things for a while now, and their results weren’t good historically, either. In Gobert’s defense, players of his size rarely compete in these events, and I give him his props for trying. His numbers compare favorably with a guy not quite his size, Brook Lopez.
DraftExpress just published the NBA Draft combine measurements. Notables include Rudy Gobert with the third biggest wingspan, (7’8.5″), and the second tallest standing reach (9’7″) in combine history. Also, Otto Porter ranks among the lightest players for his size in combine history at 6’7.5″ and 198 pounds. The entire sortable historical database is posted here.
Colin McGowan is the editor in chief of Cavs: The Blog. He has written for Deadspin, The Classical, and ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @cs_mcgowan.
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