Archive for the ‘Draft Profiles’ Category

Clearing House

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

While primarily draft-related, let’s start the article addressing other quick topics.

First, the coaching search didn’t proceed exactly as anticipated, but at the end of the day (literally, one day), I feel much better about Mike Brown as Coach than Byron Scott.

Next, regarding the vague whispers of trade-talk, I hope the team stands pat.  It seems the storm has been weathered, and next season the wounds begin to heal.  I want to see the current core of players lead that charge.  Here are five indisputable facts about the 2012 – 2013 Cleveland Cavaliers:

  1. Kyrie Irving represented the team as the NBA’s youngest All-Star.
  2. Tristan Thompson turned 22 in March, works tirelessly, and of 72 qualified power forwards last season, he ranked 27th for PER.  I won’t be placing even-money bets on multiple All-Star appearances from TT yet, but last season reflected great progress from the second-year forward.
  3. In the 33 games from January 1st until his injury on March 18th, Dion Waiters averaged twenty-points per thirty-six minutes.  His PER climbed to 16.3, his Offensive Rating hit 104, with usage of 26.6 (those numbers thanks to the esteemed Randall Cooper of laughingcavs.com).  Once Dion quit routinely hoisting off-balance jumpers and instead persistently attacked, his age-21 performance compares reasonably with several other recent guards**.  A list includes: James Harden – 16.4 PER, 119 orating, 19.5 usage; Eric Gordon – 14.1 PER, 107 ORtg, 21.5 usage;  Russell Westbrook – 17.8 PER, 105 ORtg, 25.7 usage; Dwyane Wade (age 22) – 17.6 PER, 101 ORtg, 25 usage; Jamal Crawford, 15.3 PER, 102 ORtg, 21.5 usage; J.R. Smith – 15.6 PER, 112 ORtg, 22.8 usage.  Not saying he will match all of those guys, but the Dion we saw in 2013 performed admirably.
  4. The franchise picks top-six in this year’s draft and continues to carry-forward the NBA’s most future draft picks.
  5. Their salary cap situation is as favorable as any team in the League, with no guaranteed contracts in 2014 – 2015.

Give Mike Brown’s defense one year, stir in 60 games of Varejao, sign four respectable bench players this off-season, and let’s play ball.  I want to see these youngsters do work next year.

Porter swings it to Kyrie in the corner! The Bottom!

Certainly in my scenario, the team’s second high-profile addition (after Mike Brown) is the guaranteed top-six pick.  So who are my early favorites for the Cavs?

  1. Nerlens Noel sits atop everyone’s draft board.  Big and cat-quick, he is a fierce shot blocker that will play the entirety of his rookie season at 19 years old.  Considered an amazing athlete with a great attitude, the only thing more outstanding is his flat-top.  Either he or Tristan would need to develop a jumper.
  2. Here’s the thing about Otto Porter…what are the odds that he is available regardless of where the Cavs pick?  Because I have talked myself into some Otto Porter.  The two teams with worse records than Cleveland, Charlotte picked MKG last year, and Orlando traded for a 2011 (Tobias Harris) and 2012 (Moe Harkless) first-round small forward.  So they are both out of the running, right?  There is a 40% chance that a different team jumps all three of these squads.  In that scenario, three of the maximum five picks ahead of the Cavs aren’t picking Porter.  Draftexpress ranks the Otto-bahn at sixth, and David Thorpe argues for Trey Burke at #1.  If Porter was a near-lock to Cleveland in the top-five, I would be stoked.  I noted on Friday that Kevin Pelton’s projections consider Porter to be the second-most successful rookie.  Turning twenty in June, he is younger than freshmen Ben McLemore and Anthony Bennett.  A box-score stuffer, he posted a nightly line of 16 points, almost 3 assists, 7.5 rebounds, 1 block, and nearly 2 steals on 48 / 42 / 78 shooting.  Questions abound regarding his ability to be the go-to guy, but Cleveland doesn’t need that anyways.  A big, no-nonsense wing that rebounds, moves the ball well (of 94 small forwards in draftexpress’s database, his Pure Point Rating ranks fifth), plays defense, and knocks down jumpers?  Yes, please.    That is almost the prototype of the small forward to place amongst Irving, Waiters and Thompson.
  3. Described as a gym-rat, and universally acknowledged as the NCAA’s best-wing defender last year, Victor Oladipo finds himself third on my list.  According to draftexpress, nearly two-thirds of Oladipo’s shots come at the rim; his jumpers are typically of the catch-and-shoot variety.  Is Tom Crean preaching an all threes and layups diet, or is Oladipo a student of basketball efficiency?  Converting 60% of his field goals, the young junior averaged 14 points with an impressive offensive rating of 122 (best on this short-list) on respectable 22% usage.  Not a player that creates well off-the-dribble, fortunately like Porter, this isn’t what the Cavs are lacking.  A relentless defender that can shut-down the opponent’s best perimeter player, knock down open-shots, and finish spectacularly…checks enough boxes for me.
  4. Starting here, the Cavs start facing interesting positional dilemmas.  Anthony Bennett traditionally gets assigned to power forward, just like our boy Tristan (he’s also Canadian.  Are the Canucks going to be an absolute international force in the 2020’s?)  A knock on Bennett is his height of 6’ – 7” in shoes.  On the bright-side, he is an uber-athlete, capable of handling the ball with both hands, and also knocking-down 38% from long-range.  Tallying a 16 & 8, with PER of 28 as a freshman facing a reasonably difficult schedule, if desired, could he pair with Thompson?  Would this be the best all-Canadian front-line ever?  Can the Cavs sign Tiago Splitter and trot-out an all Brazilian / Canadian front-line next year?  I lost focus there…let’s just answer the first question.  I say yes; on Wednesday I watched Oklahoma City play a line-up of Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher, Kevin Martin and Nick Collison.  That’s the NBA’s second-best team…playing three point-guards at once…in the playoffs.  Teams are pushing boundaries.  If Bennett proves his shooting is legit, he and Tristan could play twelve minutes per night together as a small, fast tandem.  Given his limited-height and outstanding athleticism, if the team employed a center with passing skills, could Bennett play small forward for twelve minutes a night?  In the last five years, the Lakers showed that championships can still be won by “going big”.  Anyways, if bad lottery-luck besets the Cavs, snagging Bennett as consolation appeases me.
  5. I am putting Alex Len at number five, but at this point, I start getting less excited and would have to think about trading down-or-out (edit: or pushing hard to move-up and snag Porter); maybe another team is mega-excited about Trey Burke.  The Ukranian Maryland sophomore turns twenty in June.  A legitimately long seven-footer, he receives praise for him nimble movement, quick feet, and above-the-rim play.  His block rate ranked fourth in the ACC, where he finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds on 57% true shooting.  ESPN lists his ceiling as Zydrunas, a 16 & 8 guy and two-time All-Star; also a player with great familiarity in Cleveland.  Of course, Len’s floor is Darko Milicic.  My concerns begin with a potential lack of aggressiveness from him; his defensive rebounding rate ranks ninth of eleven centers that draftexpress expects to see selected this year.  And while his teammates deserve much blame, what sort of top-notch second-year center prospect doesn’t lead his team to the NCAA tourney?  Forging towards an exit in the NIT semifinals, Len averaged 11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks.  He needs to keep getting stronger, and if he reaches Ilgauskas’ level, there are certainly worse outcomes from number five picks.
  6. Going six-deep, and ignoring Trey Burke (don’t need Kyrie’s back-up in the top-five), Ben McLemore assumes the worst-case scenario for Cleveland’s lottery pick.  Not that “worst-case” is a bad thing when talking the better-half of the lottery.  A gravity-defying highlight factory, he also canned 42% from deep (50 / 42 / 87); his sweet stroke draws comparisons to Ray Allen.  Despite this, he draws a rep as not possessing the killer-instinct; over his last six collegiate games in the Big Twelve and NCAA tourneys, he averaged 12 points on 45% from the field, with nine total assists against fifteen turnovers.  My inclination is that he is a complimentary player, not a star, and this freshman is only nine months younger than Oladipo, a junior.  On offense and defense, a reasonable goal for McLemore would be to reach Oladipo’s level in nine months…hence, the Hoosier at #3 and the Jayhawk at #6.

That’s it for today.  Hopefully the Cavs can pick Porter in June, sign-up a solid bench in July, then start rolling in October.

** – In 2011, Basketball-reference published an article equating offensive rating with usage. Based on that research, and normalizing each of these shooting guards to 25 usage, their respective Offensive Ratings at age 21 were: Harden, 113; Smith, 110; Westbrook, 105.5; Waiters, 105 (after January 1); Gordon, 1o3.5; Wade, 101; Crawford, 98.5.  Waiters needs to keep working on his shot, his body / explosiveness, and watching a lot of tape of himself while off-the-ball on offense & defense.  And he will be just fine.

Kevin’s Summer Project, Part 2: Point Guard Speed

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

(I will preface this article by saying that while I was on the calendar for today, Nate Smith and Tom Pestak also posted excellent articles on Kyrie’s defense and Andy’s untradeableness.  Bear down for a long sit of Cavs: the Blog reading and check out the articles below.  It is worth it.)

Last week, hopefully you read the intro to “Kevin’s Summer Project”, when I laid out the groundrules of a study correlating pre-draft measurements with NBA offensive performance.   The first article primarily asserted that most of the measurements do not prove highly useful, with some exceptions.  Today, the first of those exceptions will be explored; the implications of speed for point guards.

Who is this guy? Perhaps he could have been the Cavs' back-up PG. Apparently he was too small or something.

For primary ball-handlers, of the pre-draft measurements, three-quarter-court sprint speed served as the truest barometer of future offensive success.  The other athleticism tests, primarily leaping, also featured frequent positive correlations, but size proved unimportant.  Actually, nearly 90% of the size-to-offense correlations were negative.   Small, fast floor generals ruled, starting at the top with sub-six-foot Chris Paul and including players as short as 5’ – 8” Nate Robinson.

The following table reflects the accumulation of speed correlations with offensive win shares.

Fairly strong, including nothing lower than 0.10, one of the two ‘all player’ correlations above 0.50, and two robust values of 0.63 and 0.66; definitely a promising trait corresponding with NBA offensive production.  But what else can this info tell us?

First, note the sub-trend of speed factoring as a larger predictor of success for upperclassmen.    I will credit this to the overall importance of skill and production over athleticism or size.  While many highly regarded underclassmen flex strong athleticism, a more critical component to being draftable at a young age is dominance on a basketball court; athleticism alone does not provide for elite basketball.  Many underclassmen posted marginal measurements, but were very skilled, and  progressed to highly successful NBA players.  The list includes Chris Paul, Michael Redd, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Al Horford, and Al Jefferson.  These are highly skilled players that began exhibiting their abilities at a very young age, whereas many upperclassmen were not draftable at an earlier age, because they could not develop their talents to this high of a caliber.  Hence, a higher tendency for reliance on size and athleticism.

Now back to point guards and how the idea relates to pre-draft valuation.  While speed registers as a valuable commodity at draft time, the impact on draft positioning does not seem prevalent enough for upperclassmen.  The correlation between draft position and sprint time for upperclassmen point guards is 0.22, a number far exceeded by each of the applicable values in the table above.  The list of drafted upperclassmen point guards from 2000 through 2010 with sprint speeds below 3.20 is:  Speedy Claxton, George Hill, Darren Collison, Kirk Hinrich, Derrick Zimmerman, Ty Lawson, Jameer Nelson, Chris Duhon, Will Blalock, Eric Maynor and Earl Watson.  This looks fairly unremarkable until the average draft position of 28 is viewed, with only one player selected before 18th.  Despite the inauspicious draft positioning, nine of the eleven players outperformed their selection status.  The two non-contributors came off the board at 40th and 60th, so even with higher draft-day weighting towards speed, these players are probably second round picks.  Each of the other players warranted earlier selection than actual.  Finally, one addition expanded this list in 2011; 60th pick and eventual all-rookie team member Isaiah Thomas.  Apparently the trend towards small, fast point guards was not realized sufficiently to fix that one.

So; small, speedy, upperclassmen point guards are undervalued by NBA teams.  A sub-trend is that the new hand-checking rules initiated in 2004 – 2005 increased this group’s success.  While three of the five underclassmen correlations showed mild upticks, upperclassmen correlations rose dramatically, including all values above 0.50.  The graph below reflects the most-correlated data, with Ty Lawson, Jameer Nelson and George Hill populating the upper-left section and several less successful candidates filling up the low-lying portions.  The primary outlier at 3.9 offensive win shares is Jarrett Jack.

Drilling down further to determine combinations of traits that even more reliably provide NBA success, elite upperclassmen performers in both speed and agility rise to the top.   While not as strong for agility as for speed, correlations were always positive with occasionally high results.  From 2000 to 2010, the list of drafted, upperclassmen point guards who finished their sprint in less than 3.2 seconds and their agility drill in less than 11 seconds is: Speedy Claxton, Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, Jameer Nelson, Earl Watson, Darren Collison, Ty Lawson, and Eric Maynor.  As the only player to meet these thresholds in 2011, Isaiah Thomas provided a stellar rookie season.  Every one of these players exceededed the expectations associated with their draft position, which should lead NBA teams to draft similar players higher.  No dice though; no upperclassmen selected in 2012 met these levels, even though Casper Ware was otherwise draftable and surpassed these marks.   Now playing in Europe, through six games in Italian LegaDue, his 22.6 PER helps pace his team to 4 wins and 2 losses.   Draftexpress.com lists his ‘best case’ as Isaiah Thomas, and I had Ware ranked 46th in the class of 2012.  Too bad the Cavs don’t desperately need a shot-creating second string point guard.  They do?  Apparently they needed Luke Harangody more.

For underclassmen point guards, the highest correlations were actually with leaping, with speed sitting in second place.  In a somewhat interesting twist, upperclassmen posited negative correlations for the leaping drills.  This will be explored deeper during the look at defense, but the agility drill may be more conducive to skills associated with role-players, a position more likely to be the dominion of older draftees.   The combination of strong speed and jumping from underclassmen produces a very exciting list of prospects.  Young point guards faster than 3.15 with a no-step vert of 30″ or greater is: Derrick Rose, Russ Westbrook, Mike Conley Jr,  John Wall, Nate Robinson, and Jerryd Bayless, with no additions in 2011 or 2012.  Obviously, this package is highly sought-after, featuring five lottery-picks, four top-fives, and two number-one overall selections.  There is no additional draft-day-value to be extracted from young, talented, explosive point guards; possibly my most shocking discovery from this series.   (one side note; the recent run of Rose, Westbrook, and Wall sort-of served as Kyrie Irving’s primary weakness leading up to the draft.   Pundits generally thought that Kyrie’s lack of athleticism removed him from ‘star’ potential.  In hindsight, clearly there is still a place at the top of the point guard heap for non-freak athletes who are young, highly skilled and ridiculously productive.  Kyrie, Chris Paul, and Deron Williams…your jobs are safe.)

Ok.  So I have potentially proved too expansive for one article and missed many important points, while hitting (or missing) on lesser elements.  Let’s wrap this up.  To summarize, as it relates to offense for point guards, there are four main takeaways supported by numbers:

  • Athleticism is helpful, with speed as most prevalent, and agility (upperclassmen) and leaping (underclassmen) also relatively important.
  • The success rate of fast, agile upperclassmen point guards is very much underappreciated on draft day.
  • Since 2004, the importance of speed in a floor general has marginally increased.
  • Size doesn’t matter

Come back next time, for a deeper look at shooting guard offensive production.

Kevin’s Summer Project

Monday, November 5th, 2012

Cavs fans, bear with me here.  This summer, my NBA draft-experting led me down a rabbit-hole I could not evade.  As the draft approaches, a plethora of athleticism data arrives in late May and early June, and I struggle with the question: “what does it mean”?  Dion Waiters is only 6’ – 4”; Jeremy Lamb has long arms; in a laboratory, Harrison Barnes jumps really high.  Should I care about any of this?  I embarked on a project to track how pre-draft measurements correlate to actual, eventual NBA production.  In today’s post, I hope to introduce the process.

Who is this guy? I don't know, but he has a 7-foot wingspan.

I started by compiling the pre-draft measurements for every drafted NCAA player from the 2000 through 2010 drafts.  This data was gleaned from the world’s most comprehensive draft website: drafexpress.com.  I focused on eight measurements:

  • Barefoot Height
  • Wingspan
  • Reach
  • No-Step Vertical Leap
  • Maximum Vertical Leap
  • Three-Quarter Court Sprint Speed
  • Lane Agility (Cone) Drill
  • Bench Press reps of 185 pounds.

To my spreadsheet, I assembled every player’s Offensive Win Shares (OWS), from basketball-reference.com, for each of their first four seasons.  For players drafted in 2000 through 2007, their “peak” season of OWS from their first four years is also evaluated.  The analysis ignores the strike-shortened 2011 – 2012 season, hence no four-year-peak season for 2008 draftees.  I purposefully chose separate offensive and defensive metrics.

Also, players were sorted into two groups by age; 21 and under as of February 1st of their rookie year, or Older.  Additionally, players were categorized by the five standard basketball positions.  Utilizing the positional-labels proves important, as comparing OWS across the entire spectrum of possible heights and athleticism would be meaningless; obviously both tall and short players are successful; clearly little guys are faster than big men, but both succeed.

After sorting into those various categories, I correlated each of the eight measurements with the players’ OWS’s.  Each player had a maximum of five OWS values: 1st season, 2nd season, 3rd season, 4th season, and peak.   Near-zero correlation meant no discernible relationship between the measurement and NBA offensive performance.  Highly positive correlations reflect that players strong in that particular measurement were likely to be successful offensive players.  Negative correlations can largely be regarded as near-zero; I won’t advance any theories that a certain group of players is better off being smaller or less athletic.  (As a final note, speed and agility correlations were made negative; i.e. smaller sprint times resulting in larger OWS are reflected as positive correlation.)

With that as the basics of the study; the pre-draft measurements provide a fairly minimal array of predictive uses for offensive production.  For five positions, two age groups per position, five seasonal OWS values, and eight measurements; there were four-hundred correlations.  The graph below reflects their distribution.

As you can see, this is approximately a bell-curve centered near zero.  Of the 400; only 228 (57%) are positive correlations, only sixty-five (16.3%) exceed 0.25, and only two exceeded 0.50.  As a frame-of-reference, here are graphs reflecting 0.25 and 0.50 correlations:

The 0.25 correlation graph is fairly useless.  In the specific case of this graph, Danny Granger was both tallest and overwhelmingly most offensively successful.   This alone drove the positive correlation.  The next four-tallest players were all offensively worthless.

The 0.5 correlation starts to resemble something meaningful.  Four of the five highest-leapers managed successful seasons, and the fifth was Greg Oden.  With one exception, the low-fliers all struggled.

Part of the draw towards the low correlations is second-round picks adding noise to the data, as every NBA flame-out was awarded zero win-shares for each season.  Looking only at first-round picks, with their guaranteed contracts, provides the distribution below.  There are only 320 correlations here, due to sample-size issues.  For both guard positions, there were relatively few upperclassmen first round picks, so I left everyone in one age-group.

194 (60.6%) were positive, with sixty-six (20.6%) exceeding 0.25. Most encouragingly, a tantalizing eighteen rose above 0.50.

Well, hopefully I have capably communicated the basics.  The only conclusion I hope you drew today is that the pre-draft size and athleticism measurements offer little predictive information relating to NBA offensive performance.  Over the course of the season, I plan on providing insights into:

  • What are those high-correlation measurements?  How useful are they?
  • What about defense?  A reasonable hypothesis would say that size & athleticism are more critical there.
  • Which measurements rarely or never provide strong correlation with offensive or defensive performance and hence, are reasonable to ignore?
  • Are there athletic traits that NBA teams are over or under-valuing?  Certainly some negative correlations are due to GM’s overpersuing players based on certain athletic profiles that do not reliably prove successful.
  • Are there combinations of traits that prove highly reliable towards predicting success of a drafted player?  What about failure?
  • Did the hand-check rules initiated in 2004 – 2005 make speed & athleticism more important?

I hope this turns out to be an interesting and provocative series.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

A Post-Draft Fireside Chat

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

In the wake of this draft we’re trying to make sense of things. Kevin and Colin are hanging out in an Edenic garden/irradiated wasteland sitting on giant, colorful toadstools/the carcasses of loved ones discussing the implications of whatever the hell happened tonight.

Kevin: Obviously this was not a “best-case” scenario, but I’m going to start with a glass-mostly-full take.  How did the Cavs respond to missing out on their two favorites: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Brad Beal?  They answer the question: what would a Russell Westbrook and Kyrie Irving backcourt look like?

In May 2008, the UCLA sophomore was projected as a non-lottery pick.  As an uber-athletic combo-guard, playing next to stud freshman Kevin Love, and upperclass stalwarts Darren Collison and Luc Richard Mbah a’ Moute, his college playing days passed by as a high quality role player.  In his second NCAA season, he averaged 13 points, 4, rebounds and 4 assists on 47 / 34 / 71 shooting.  Draftexpress listed his “best case” as Leandro Barbosa.  Mainly lauded for his athleticism and defensive intensity, questions existed about his position and offensive polish.  But then, a funny thing happened.  He started creeping up draft boards, by late June reaching the mid-lottery on most mock drafts.   On draft day, something CRAZY happened; GM Sam Presti did a solid job to resist the temptation to add (a more highly regarded player) and take a player with considerably more upside at the fourth pick in Russell Westbrook”.  The local media was surprised, as everyone thought the team may trade up or down.  Most were left scratching their heads.

Well, you see where this is going.  Four years later, it’s deja vu, except Cleveland shocks their fans by selecting an athletic combo-guard at #4.

And really, the two players have some similarities.  Admittedly, Westbrook was young for a sophomore, nearly one year younger than Waiters on draft day.  But both measured 6’ – 2” with a 6’ – 7” wingspan, except Waiters packs on thirty extra pounds.  Westbrook is more athletic.  Per 40 minutes pace adjusted, the 16, 5 & 5 of Westbrook and the 21, 4 and 4 of Waiters match-up favorably for Waiters.  Waiters’s 26 PER and 116 offensive rating with 26 usage thrashes Westbrook’s collegiate numbers of 19, 110, and 23.  Both players gained praise for their defense, while carrying offensive question marks.

What are your thoughts?  Is this a disaster?  What do you think of my best case scenario: Kyrie and Russ Westbrook?  Is it feasible from Waiters?  How does that work on the basketball court?

Colin: I’m from the Syracuse area, so I’m somewhat familiar with Waiters. It’s true: he’s Westbrook-y. That’s the comparison people make, at least. (You should know that the Syracuse basketball team is pretty much the main draw sports-wise in central New York; they tend to overrate their own out of love and boredom.) I hesitate to compare anyone to Westbrook because he’s a.) one of the very best players in the NBA, and b.) probably a singular talent. But Waiters is strong, fast, good with the ball in his hands, and a streaky shooter. He can defend when he wants to because he has great lateral quickness and active hands. I understand the pick, I think. He might have the highest ceiling of any player not picked in front of him. He’s a bit of a jerk, and has some work ethic issues; if he can get his head right, we’ll see what he can do.

How does he fit in next to Irving? That’s the tough question. Obviously, when Westbrook (and we’re really using “Westbrook” here under erasure) was brought into the OKC organization, the idea was to make him into a point guard. What would have happened if he remained at his more natural position? That’s a rabbit hole I can’t see far enough down, really. The pick isn’t a disaster. I really don’t think that. It’s just that Chris Grant has put his zeppelin-sized testicles on the table, and proclaimed “Come at me, bro! I stake my reputation on Dion Waiters being a very good player.” We will see, CG. I respect your sense of daring.

Kevin: Fair enough. To a large extent, the point I was trying to make is: Westbrook was a surprise.  One month before the draft, people weren’t saying “Russ Westbrook will be a top-ten NBA player”. A large majority weren’t saying it on draft day.  Also, there is a decent amount of similarity in them as players, as far as their skills, draft trajectory, etc.

You call him a “bit of a jerk.” I’ve read he thinks of himself as the best player on the court. That could be an issue next to Kyrie, who we all plan on being the best player on the court. But really, isn’t that an interesting dynamic of the Westbrook/Durant teaming?

Obviously Waiters will end up going the shooting guard route of a “combo guard”. I think an aggressive, scoring guard can work well next to Kyrie, and is kind of what was hoped for in Beal. You could even stagger Waiters off the bench, like a Harden, to keep a strong scoring threat on the court at all times. He’s a pretty well-rounded offensive player; in addition to his aggressive, attacking nature, his three-point shooting percentage finished better than fellow sophomore Harrison Barnes and the next-Ray Allen. The Cavs definitely got faster and more skilled today than they were yesterday.  Even defensively, Avery Bradley only stands 6′ – 2″ and wasn’t he a lock-down two-guard revelation this year?  I’m not sure Waiters’s size is completely prohibitive, and think Irving and Waiters form an intriguing next-decade backcourt.

Definitely props to Chris Grant. He went all-in. Speaking of, what do you think of the Tyler Zeller trade?

Colin: I should clarify: I don’t consider Waiters’s confidence to be a problem. I’m glad he thinks he’s better than he is. I think his jerk-ness is wrapped up in the fact that he sometimes doesn’t work hard. SU coach Jim Boheim called him the most talented guard he has ever recruited (high praise, though not quite as lofty as it sounds; it’s not like SU is a guard factory), but he sat the bench his freshman year, then threatened to transfer. Boheim essentially called his bluff, saying, “Fine, transfer. Maybe a change of scenery will be good for you.” After this incident, Waiters settled down and started to work harder in practice, care about defense more, etc. The work ethic thing is what bothers me. I like his arrogance. I like players with a little bit of “eff you” in them; the Cavs are lacking in that department.

Tyler Zeller’s a nice player. I have family that teaches at UNC (the Cavs really picked players in my wheelhouse tonight), so I’ve watched Zeller somewhat regularly for the four years he’s been at Chapel Hill. To sum him up in terms of tangible skills: he can post up a little bit; he runs well; he’s got pretty good hands and a soft touch around the basket. More crucially, I think he’s a good fit next to Tristan Thompson because he can knock down an open 14-footer. He’ll help the Cavs space the floor a little on offense; the paint won’t be so clogged for Irving and Waiters. He’s a little light, muscle-wise. He’ll get pushed around by some of the bigger centers in the league. But he’s a solid “5″. I think the Cavs overpaid for him in terms of value–there were  guys like Moultrie, PJ3, Barton, etc. available at the end of the first round and they lost the opportunity to take fliers on guys early in the second round–but Zeller will compliment TT pretty well moving forward. And overpaying to get the guys they like seems to be Chris Grant’s philosophy when it comes to the draft. Which is fine; he just better damn well be right about who he’s acquiring.

Kevin: It sounds like Waiters turned a corner during his freshman season. This year, he was the best player on one of the five best teams in college basketball, and seems to have willingly accepted a back-up role. Certainly, he could have acted out much worse.  I can’t speak specifically to his work ethic, but his defense was strong this year and to me, that’s a solid indicator of motor, intangibles, etc.

On to Zeller; my final “favorite” scenario this morning was Waiters and Zeller at 6 and 11. Obviously the day played out as 4 and 17 instead, but the Tar Heel seven-footer is a solid addition to the team. He did not shoot much from the perimeter at UNC, but did make 81% of his free throws, and in limited attempts, he was actually the 4th best outside shooter of 26 big men that Draft Express looked at. Pairing him with Andy and TT, could look really good. Maybe shades of Zydrunas.

Zeller has always been praised for how quickly he runs the court, and his “measurables” came in strong. Of 44 centers, he was 3rd in the agility drill, 8th in speed and 9th in vertical leap. I don’t love combine measurements, but when they match up with solid production that’s always an additional level of assuredness that a player can survive in the NBA. So in summary, today was ballpark of one of the ideal draft day scenarios I laid out this morning. Pretty hard for me to complain.

I agree there were a lot of likable players left at 24, 33 and 34. Will passing up Perry Jones III, Doron Lamb and Jae Crowder look regrettable in a few years when compared to Zeller? The NBA is definitely a game of quality over quantity. Cavs management accumulated all these draft picks to make moves like this.

Colin: We should probably address the “value” aspect of the draft. I’m actually one of the people who thinks value is overrated in the draft: get the guys you like, and if you pick them a few slots too high, so be it. But this seems like an extreme example of that. Was Waiters going before seven? I can only assume Chris Grant worked the phones to trade down and couldn’t. And was Zeller worth sacrificing the opportunity to take late first-round/early second-round fliers? Your answer can totally be “yes,” but I wonder what your thoughts are on that.

Kevin: I really liked the depth of this draft and was excited about the potential of the 24, 33 and 34 picks.  I had Zeller ranked top-ten though; so personally, at 17, the value of those later picks is pretty appropriate for him.

It’s hard to answer the question on draft day. Does PJ3 make Kevin Durant expendable?  That’s a joke, but you know what I’m saying.  Some really intriguing talents existed at the later picks, but are they just exciting draft day thoughts, or real NBA players?  When the rumor was #4 and #24 for #2, I took the tenet that Chris Grant needs to get his guys.  It appears that’s what the organization did, and it matches up well with “my guys”, so I’m ready to see what 2012 – 2013 brings.

With Waiters, yeah, I assume no other team wanted to trade up, or maybe Cleveland thought Portland really liked him at #6.  If there were other options to get DW; surely those routes were explored. I enjoyed the back-and-forth, but it’s about my bed time. Remember, I’m an old man.

Next year, Cleveland can suit up Irving – Waiters – Gee – Varejao – Zeller with Gibson, Casspi and Thompson off the bench.  Add a back-up point guard, and that’s a fun, young team.  Not too small, with decent floor spacing, ball-handling and defense.  They still have a lot of cap flexibility and plenty of draft picks moving forward.

This draft night did not work out like anyone hoped for, but ultimately, I think it’s all right.

Colin: As old man Kevin dozes—I begrudge him nothing; he has children and a wife to attend to; I’m just a responsibility-less dude sitting on my couch with a fuzzy black cat asleep on my foot—I relent: I’m okay with this? That’s the proper inflection, I think. On a day when dreams were stepped on like an Edokko beneath Godzilla’s reptilian sole, I think the Cavs made the best of it. I assume there were no reasonable options in terms of moving down, and that they decided they liked Waiters a lot and so drafted him where they knew he was theirs.

For the sake of pointing out something that feels obvious to me: Zeller is an admission that the front office botched Valanciunas pick, no? We flubbed on the last talented center that came our way, so we’re going to make sure we land a decent one in this draft. That’s a great strategy, if not the ideal one. It is better to acknowledge your mistakes while you can still remedy them. Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller might develop into an above-average frontcourt. Zeller’s set of skills will allow Thompson to focus on rebounding, shot-blocking (still very much a work in progress), and finding baskets by cutting into the paint. Now, Tyler, if you could hit the weight room a little bit, just so you don’t embarrass yourself against Roy Hibbert, that’d be great.

Final point: the Cavs didn’t move Varejao for a draft pick/picks. He was involved in a lot of trade rumors both before and during the draft; I’m pretty positive, from what I’ve heard, that he was dangled to various teams. He’s a great guy, and one of my favorite Cavaliers, but he’s more valuable now than he’ll ever be. He will be 30 when the season starts. What are the Cavs doing with him, exactly? Will he be around after next season’s trade deadline? I thought he was going to be gone six to eight months ago, which shows what I know. Perhaps they conceive of him as the perfect mentor the young big men they’ve acquired. Or perhaps he could leave tomorrow. Just some food for thought.

NBA Draft Open Thread

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

So, this is it. I’d rally you all with a Braveheart speech or some such, but I’m kind of a fatalist. It’d be a downer, probably. (“I know we are all deeply flawed human beings, alienated from one another, incapable of true empathy, but arbitrarily bound together by this basketball team. I’m not even from Cleveland, by the way…“) But tonight’s the night where the future of our Cleveland Cavaliers is determined to either a large or small extent. Probably large. Big night, in all likelihood. Might not be, though. We could totally look back on this night, and go, “Remember when we were all convinced of how momentous an occasion the 2012 draft was going to be, and then nothing particularly consequential happened?” That would be weird, though. Seems like we’d be saying that sort of thing in a nuclear wasteland wrought from war with a brutally violent alien race. Y’know, after some perspective was gained. It’s hard to care about sports when your entire family has immolated, and you’re drinking irradiated water out of a cup you carved from your dear pet dog Hobbes’s pelvis.

I’m geting off track. This is an important night, probably. So let’s get out there, and KILL SOME ALIENS! draft boldly and intelligently. Not us, of course. Chris Grant is the actor here. We will not participate in the decision-making process at all. We’ll be sitting at home, because none of us are qualified to work in an NBA front office, with our hope and sweaty palms. Maybe a beer. Definitely a beer. (If you’re wondering, had the linked article been mine and not Mallory’s, all the players would have been PBR, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would have been the cheapest bottle of champagne imaginable.)

Anyway, updates: we’ll have them for you here as picks and/or trades are made. Feel free to cheer, argue, yell, pontificate, etc. in the comment section. Enjoy the spectacle, everyone.

UPDATE I: Chris Broussard is reporting the Cavs are offering the Bobcats the fourth, 24th, and 33rd pick in exchange for the second and 31st picks. Most everyone assumes they’re going after Beal.

UPDATE II: The Cavs take Dion Waiters. The world disintegrates like a cookie beneath the rump of a corpulent eight year-old.

UPDATE III: The Cavs traded the 24th and the two second-rounders to Dallas for Tyler Zeller.

My Draft Day Favorite Scenarios (plus a sixth tier)

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Of all the rumors out there, I like two the best: picking MKG at #4 or trading the two first-round-picks for Brad Beal.  That said, if the Cavs proceed a different direction, no complaining from me…not worth the wasted breath.

Earlier this season; I posted a series called “Building a Winner”.  In the first post, a discussion of the “OKC Plan” entailed.  I pointed out that the Thunder really posed an exception to the rule.  Most runs of high lottery picks result in continued mediocrity.  Over the last two drafts and next few, Cleveland owns an outstanding opportunity to insert themselves on the OKC side of the ledger.  If they do – another exciting era begins for Cleveland basketball.  If not…no need talking about that; the Cavs surely draft three future hall-of-famers tomorrow.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist reacts to Cavs:the Blog selecting him in the True Hoop mock draft. He was like, "yeah, those guys are cool."

So with those as the stakes, here are four favorite draft day scenarios.

#4 – Michael Kidd Gilchrist

#24 – Evan Fournier

#33 – Doron Lamb

#34 – Festus Ezeli

Three years from now, a Kyrie, Fournier, MKG back-court would be amazing – provided one of the two teenaged wings learns to shoot.  Great size, scoring, defense, and if MKG or Fournier never learn to shoot, they only need to play a quarter together.  Doron Lamb spells the Frenchman at shooting guard, as Fournier switches to small forward while MKG rests.  Ezeli serves as an upgrade over Erden, Samuels, etc.

#4 – Michael Kidd Gilchrist

#24 – Will Barton

#33 – John Jenkins

#34 – Mike Scott

Same story as before, except four NCAA players are drafted, tempered by the aged influence of 24-year-old Mike Scott.  The Virginia Senior does not add great size, but his floor spacing at the four might look really nice next to Andy.

#2 – Bradley Beal

#33 – Quincy Miller

#34 – Jae Crowder

In this scenario, Miller slips a little, as ESPN shows him at #30 and draftexpress at #31, but I can dream.  Best case scenario, Miller turns into the 6‘ – 10” wing scoring machine envisioned of him in high school.  Relied upon as a back-up; perhaps Crowder can defend both back-court positions.  Maybe not, but as a quality defender with an amazing physique and a great combine agility test, back-up shooting guards might struggle with his strength and length.  And obviously, the scenario is rounded out with Brad Beal, eight-time-all-star and one-time Finals MVP (The voters didn’t want to give Kyrie four in a row).

#6 – Dion Waiters

#11 – Tyler Zeller

#33 & 34 – repeats of above

Ahh, the fabled Portland trade.  I have halfway convinced myself that Dion Waiters becomes the next Russell Westbrook and Zeller provides a needed seven-footer with shooting range.

Finally, a sixth tier of players that I’ll define as “in the right situation, with good coaching, you might here these names again”.  I didn’t  invest much time sorting these players, but this takes me from 38 through about 70.  No one not included in this list will play in the NBA.  It’s impossible.

  1. Kevin Murphy – I have a certain affinity for the Tennessee Tech senior.
  2. Khris Middleton – The Texas A&M Junior struggled this season, but played solidly his soph year.  This year was a mess, with his coach leaving before the season and new coach diagnosed with Parkison’s.
  3. Jared Cunningham – I think there are better slashing & defense wings in this draft.
  4. Miles Plumlee – I liked him before the combine, because of his offensive rebounding and how hard he played.
  5. Drew Gordon – Started at UCLA before transferring to New Mexico.  NCAA’s fifth best defensive rebounder is a relatively young senior, turning 22 next month.
  6. Furkan Aldemir – A young Euro energy big man, but he just signed a four-year extension with his Turkish club.
  7. Tyshawn Taylor – I could have been talked into ranking Taylor higher in Tier 6.
  8. Darius Miller – 6′ – 7″ tall, reasonably athletic and a quality jump shooter and, he may stick as a fourth wing somewhere.
  9. Casper Ware – The little dynamo from Long Beach State will not approach the season Isaiah Thomas finished, but his speed, shooting and intensity make him a decent bet as a back-up point guard.
  10. Hollis Thompson – 6′ – 8″ and hit 43% of his threes his junior season.  Marginal athleticism and associated defensive consequences possibly serve as his undoing.
  11. Kim English – He turns 24 before the next NBA season, but his sweet-shooting as an NBA sized two guard throws him in the mix as a nice spot-up shooter to have around.
  12. Jamychal Green – An athletic power forward that tries to dunk everything; he made 55% of his catch & shoot jumpers his junior year, but only 39% this season.  Which percentage he approaches consistently will determine his NBA ability.
  13. Kevin Jones – Lead the Big East in scoring and rebounding.
  14. Kyle O’Quinn – I think he has gotten by based on overwhelming his competition with his size.  That is not going to work anymore.
  15. Jordan Taylor
  16. Orlando Johnson
  17. Ricardo Ratliffe
  18. Bernard James
  19. Henry Sims
  20. Garrett Stutz
  21. Kostas Sloukas – Greek point guard made over 50% of his threes in Europe this year.
  22. Terrell Stoglin
  23. Darius Odom-Johnson
  24. Zack Rosen
  25. J’Covan Brown
  26. Robert Sacre
  27. Herb Pope
  28. Alex Young
  29. Robbie Hummel
  30. Tony Mitchell
  31. Quincy Acy

Kevin’s Tiers 4 and 5 (or, this draft stuff is exhausting)

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Tomorrow, I look forward to declaring my ideal Cavs draft.  Today though, I’ll continue to trek through my Draft Board into Tiers 4 and 5.  Let’s say that Tier 4 means players with 80th percentile career equal to “top-50 NBA player” and 25th percentile of “fine rotation player”.  Tier 5 equates to “this guy looks like a really solid bench player”.

Kevin’s Draft Board

  1. Anthony Davis (tier 1)
  2. MKG (tier 2)
  3. Robinson (tier 2)
  4. Beal (tier 2)
  5. Drummond (tier 2)
  6. Barnes (tier 3)
  7. Waiters (tier 3)
  8. Zeller (tier 3)
  9. Henson (tier 3)
  10. Marshall (tier 3)
  11. Fournier (tier 3)
  12. T. Jones (tier 3)
  13. Sullinger (tier 3)
  14. M. Leonard (tier 3)
  15. J. Lamb (tier 3)
  16. PJ3 (tier 3)

Tier 4 (players 17 – 26)

  1. Marquis Teague – One year ago, Kentucky’s PG ranked as the seventh best high-school player from a loaded group.  Since then, leading the NCAA champions in minutes and assists ensued.  A great athlete whose numbers improved as the season progressed; a solid NBA career waits for Teague.
  2. Terrence Ross -  Great size for an NBA wing and a talented perimeter game finds Ross in the top-twenty.
  3. Will Barton – The ninth-ranked high school player from the class of 2010, who in his sophomore year posted a PER higher than every other first-round-projected wing, can not drop below twenty.
  4. Quincy Miller – Before his ACL injury, Quincy Miller ranked as the fifth best prospect in the stacked high school class of 2011 behind Davis, Rivers, Kidd-Gilchrist and Beal.  Standing 6’ – 10” with a potentially diverse offensive game, a team drafting for upside will take a chance on the freshman small forward.  Maybe Clevleand.
  5. Damian Lillard – Probably nit-picking; but his pure-point rating falls below Teague, Waiters and obviously Marshall, despite being the oldest of the group.  His foot-speed clocked in the bottom-third of draftable point guards. Given his scoring came as a fourth-year-player against the NCAA’s 296th most difficult schedule, I want to be blown away by everything else.  I ask myself; how would Marquis Teague look playing for Weber State in three years?  Pretty awesome, probably, and I rank Lillard behind him.
  6. Moe Harkless – Many compare his NBA impact to Trevor Ariza.  That works for me.
  7. Austin Rivers – Finding reasons for excitement about Rivers is difficult for me.

    Jae Crowder salutes Cavs: the Blog on making him a top-25 pick (I can't stop talking myself into high-energy small forwards)

  8. Jae Crowder – This may be obvious, but I am a sucker for this type of player.  Originally, he fell below Jeff Taylor on my list.  Eventually though, the fact that Crowder measures longer, stronger and more agile than Taylor dawned on me.  The truth about him scoring, rebounding, and passing better than Taylor at 14 months younger hit me like a bombshell.  The percentage of possessions he ended with a steal ranked 21st in the NCAA.  Sometimes you need to rank the younger player who is better at everything further up on your draft board.
  9. Arnett Moultrie – Hopefully I don’t upset the boss, but Moultrie’s rebounding and shooting are respectable enough to be deceptive, and he needs a serious defensive mind-set adjustment.
  10. Tony Wroten- Another player with a huge range from “floor” to “ceiling”; I like closing my tiers with that type of talent.

Tier 5 (players 27 – 37)

  1. Draymond Green – Ranking as the NCAA’s seventh-best defensive rebounder against the second-toughest schedule, draining 39% of his threes, and playing a high IQ-style of ball; he overcomes his “tweener” status.
  2. Doron Lamb – Lamb plays quick and made 47% from long-distance.
  3. Andrew Nicholson – His jump shooting is not enough to rank higher than this.  He plays slow and needs to increase his toughness.  I don’t think he poses a low post threat in the NBA or blocks shots at the rate shown at St. Bonaventure.
  4. Jeff Taylor – Taylor fully-displayed his athleticism at the combine; his career as a three-and-D guy goes as far as his ability to drain jumpers.
  5. John Jenkins -  Defense presents an issue, but this man can shoot.  Extremely fast and accurate – while chucking nine threes per game, he converted 44%.  As a bench scorer on a good team, he has value.
  6. Festus Ezeli – Watching Ezeli in March, I came away impressed with his physicality.  His numbers slumped this year after starting with a knee injury and a suspension, but massive, aggessive, and athletic big men need snapped up at #34 in the draft.
  7. Mike Scott – Rumor says his skill level and motor have shown well in workouts.  Three weeks ago, I espoused a scenario where Cleveland trades into the later part of the second round and drafts him.  Now he is climbing draft boards, but his “veteran” presence as a 24-year-old rookie may be a strong influence on an otherwise young Cavs team.

    Ranked 34th by Cavs: the Blog...the most disappointing day of Royce White's life

  8. Royce White – Definitely in the minority here; White does not rate highly for me – and little of the reason relies on his anxiety.   A horrid shooter, combined with an isolation game marred by four turnovers per game, and marginal defense, makes him an ummmm…rebounder?  Statsheet.com logs on-court, off-court information for college games; according to their data, Iowa State outscored opponents by 133 points when White played and 77 while sitting.  White played over thirty minutes per game…I have not taken a math class in a few years, but didn’t that make the Cyclones better with him on the bench?
  9. Fab Melo – To me, Melo rates as a one-trick pony, and his flaming-hoop-jump fails.  While taking notes on two games, a pair of goal-tends and one scold-inducing bonehead play ensued.  No thanks.
  10. Marcus Denmon – The Missouri Senior’s 127 offensive rating on 22 usage against a quality schedule looks really strong.  In athletic testing, he ranked top-ten percent in both the speed and agility drills.  Last season, draftexpress described his defense as demonstrating “very good lateral quickness, which combined with his toughness and aggressiveness, allows him to guard all backcourt positions at the collegiate level.”  As a ceiling, how about 2008 – 2009 Delonte West?
  11. Scott Machado – Machado notches the second highest Pure Point Rating in ten years of the draftexpress database.  Possessing NBA shooting range, he knocked down 40% from deep this year.  Despite defensive struggles as a surety, capably managing a second-string offense seems probable.

Whew – this is wearing me out!  Two days until the draft and I’m ready to learn the future of the Cavs franchise!

Truehoop Mock Draft: Pick No 24, Arnett Moultrie

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Across the Truehoop Network we are, as we do every year, staging a mock draft. With the fourth pick of this mock, the Cavs selected Kentucky small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Having filled one of their greatest needs by landing an athletic wing, the Cleveland Cavaliers select…

Arnett Moultrie, Power Forward/Center, Mississippi State

If you examine what the Cavs have done over the last few years, including a period of time when Chris Grant was the Assistant GM under Danny Ferry, they have an affinity for spectacular athletes: J.J. Hickson, Christian Eyenga, Tristan Thompson, et al. Whether those names fill you with dread or not, that’s been the trend. It’s why, for example, I don’t think the Cavs will take Thomas Robinson with the fourth pick even if he’s still on the board. They tend to go for players with higher ceilings.

Moultrie is nearly 6’11″ in shoes and weighs 235 pounds. He’s one of the very best big men in the draft in terms of leaping ability. He’s a great rebounder when he wants to be, a clever finisher around the rim, has a nascent shooting stroke from fifteen feet and out, and a decent face-up game thanks to his above-average handle. That “when he wants to be” hangs over Moultrie’s game like a succubus, though. He is an intermittently unreactive player on the defensive end, failing to defend the basket from the weak side or show properly on the pick-and-roll. When things don’t go his way—when he works hard in the post, but doesn’t get the ball, for example—he has a tendency to pout, which means he fails to grab rebounds he should, or he doesn’t run back on defense.

If you’re getting J.J. Hickson PTSD flashbacks, let me try to sell you on Moultrie. Or at least my vision for him. At almost 6’11″ with the ability to tell gravity to cram it with walnuts, he has the tools to become a center if he commits himself to putting on some additional muscle. On the Cavaliers’ roster, he makes the most sense as a “5,” considering Andy Varejao will be 30 by the time the season starts, Tristan Thompson is 6’9″, and Semih Erden is only marginally better at basketball than a papier-mâché model of himself. Moultrie, despite his struggles in terms of team defense, is a pretty good one-on-one defender who could conceivably check most centers in the league without embarrassing himself. On offense, his developing jumper is the reason he could fit well next to Thompson. Unlike TT, whose shot is broken to the point that I worry he’ll never be able to score from outside of eight feet, Moultrie has a high, fluid release that reminds me a little bit of LaMarcus Aldridge.

And that’s the idea, really. That Arnett Moultrie could grow into the role of a poor man’s Aldridge: a PF/C tweener who can rebound the ball, is competent defensively, can post-up a little, and knock down a few jumpers to open up the paint for slashing guards and wings. Lofty expectations, certainly, but Moultrie a.) improved measurably each of the three years he was in college and b.) seems to think he’s a little better than he actually is. If the coaches could sell him on his role, I think he would relish the challenge of becoming a starting center for this Cavs team. Plus, he’ll love running up and down the floor with Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Kidd-Gilchrist is an important component of this pick, by the way. If we suppose the Cavs land MKG, they will have a core of him, Andy Varejao, Irving, Thompson, and Boobie Gibson (give or take Alonzo Gee and some free agents). I think there will be enough dedicated professionals on this team that they can absorb a more temperamental player like Moultrie. That’s one of the main reasons you build a team full of model citizens, really, is so you can take a chance on a mercurial talent. Why not gamble on a possible solution at center?

It you’re displeased with the notion of drafting Moultrie, you probably needn’t worry too much. He fell in our Truehoop mock—and I think Chris Grant would jump on him if he dropped to the Cavs—but it’s unlikely that he’ll be around at 24. He’s slotted in most mocks to go somewhere between the end of the lottery and the early 20s. Alternatives to Moultrie include wings like Memphis’s Will Barton and Washington’s Tony Wroten, and big men like Syracuse’s Fab Melo and St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson. And whatever the hell you wanna call Baylor’s Quincy Miller. Obviously, predicting who goes at 24 is a difficult task. There’s a lot of fluidity in terms of how teams value prospects once the draft moves out of the top 10 or so. (What I mean is there’s almost zero chance Damian Lillard falls out of the top 12, but Moe Harkless could go anywhere within a 10-to-12 slot range.) The Cavs have also been very active in the trade market, and I wouldn’t surprised if, one way or another, they end up picking higher than 24. And of course, there’s always the possibility that the spirit of Russian novelist Andrey Platonov possesses Christ Grant’s body on draft night, in which case the Cavs will probably select Inevitable Death, a lanky shooting guard out of Wichita State who might just be the steal of this draft.

Truehoop Mock Draft: Pick No 4, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Across the Truehoop Network we are, as we do every year, staging a mock draft. To catch you up: Anthony Davis is headed to New Orleans, T-Rob went to the Bobcats at no. 2, and the Wiz selected Bradley Beal. Which allows the Cleveland Cavaliers to select…

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Small Forward, Kentucky

This is it. The Wiz take Brad Beal (*pours out a 40 oz*), and Chris Grant hands his intern an index card and tells him to “[expletive]-ing run!” to David Stern’s side. The index card reads: “Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Gentleman Sidekick.” This is a perfect fit for the Cavs, who upgrade from a small forward platoon of Alonzo Gee and Omri Casspi to a breathtaking athlete who, if he wasn’t a basketball player, would have hobbies like liberating small island nations from tyranny and demolishing buildings with his will. He instantly becomes the second- or third-best Cavalier.

You know how some people have a charisma that seems to vibrate the room as they enter it? MKG’s work ethic is something like that. The top half of this lottery is packed with likable gym rats (and Andre Drummond), but scouts and experts have labored to point out that Kidd-Gilchrist stands apart from his peers in terms of competitiveness. I don’t doubt he will struggle, like all rookies do, to adapt his game to the NBA, but he will not have to learn how to be a professional. From the moment he steps into the Cavaliers training facility, he will belong.

When Tristan Thompson and Kyrie Irving were introduced to the Cleveland media shortly after the Players Association and the NBA put the final touches on a new CBA, Chris Grant described them as “two high quality humans… [that] just happen to be really good basketball players.” There’s a whit of disingenuousness in that statement; obviously Grant would have said nice things about TT and Irving even if they were miscreants, but this front office has consciously and deliberately prioritized character. They are mindful that building a team (almost from scratch, really) means also building a culture that determines how the team is going to operate and grow. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would be a phenomenal addition to the group of industrious young players the Cavs have assembled over the past couple of years. The sheer voracity of his game is bound to rub off on his teammates.

In terms of the more tangible aspects of his game, MKG is a 6’7″, 235-pound wing who can guard three (or four, depending who you ask) positions. He will afford the Cavs some flexibility on defense because he can slide over and guard the other team’s best perimeter scorer, a luxury the team hasn’t had since LeBron left, and even then, LBJ usually wouldn’t check the other team’s best player all game because he also needed to shoulder the scoring load. MKG is a very good rebounder for his size, and has the strength to finish at the rim after he pulls down offensive boards. He’s mostly a slasher at this point in his development. He’s very quick and a good leaper. He reminds many scouts of Andre Iguodala, which sounds about right. In a perfect world, he will develop into a better shooter than Iggy and his ball handling needs work, but he doesn’t turn 19 until September, so he has plenty of time to grow his game.

I think he’s the best fit for the Cavs not named Anthony Davis, and I would love to have him. There’s a good chance Chris Grant agrees with me, but the Cavaliers have thrown up a lot of smokescreens as far as who they’re selecting with the fourth pick. According to Chad Ford, if both MKG and Harrison Barnes are available, it’s anyone’s guess who they’ll select. (Again, if they take Barnes with MKG still on the board, I will punch a hole in this blog.) Also, if Beal and Kidd-Gilchrist are out of the picture by the fourth pick, and Andre Drummond might be in play. There’s also a chance there will be a rupture in the space-time continuum, and from that rupture will saunter forth Morgwroth, Ravager of Worlds. In that scenario, I see the Cavs trading down.

Kevin’s Draft Board: Tier 3

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

First off, the “Defend Cleveland” show on 91.1 FM will be interviewing me tomorrow (Monday), immediately after their 11 am break.  The station is Case Western University’s campus bandwidth; if you are clamoring for more Cavs related draft talk, please tune in, on your radio or online.

Today’s post defines Tier 3 of my Big Board; players whose career spectrum looks like 75th percentile of “one-time all-star”, while 25th percentile equals “starter on a 40-win team”.  That range is completely subjective; since eleven players are included – two or three will meet or exceed the top end, while an equal number match or fail to reach the bottom.

Before moving on, I will briefly mention the rumors of Cleveland trading #4 and #24 for Charlotte’s #2 pick.  Because of my MKG infatuation, and the apparent likelihood of him sliding to four; it’s not my first-choice draft-day scenario.  Grabbing a highly regarded prospect while keeping the other first-rounder sounds great.  If the Cavs really prefer Beal however, the value of the respective picks seems very reasonable for the Cavs.  Beal possesses great potential, and the stakes for this year’s first pick are high; Cleveland’s management needs to get it right.  It will be interesting to see what happens on Thursday.

Now, on to tier 3.  A chance of two of these players falling to #24 exists.

Tier 3

  1. Anthony Davis (tier 1)
  2. MKG (tier 2)
  3. Thomas Robinson (tier 2)
  4. Bradley Beal (tier 2)
  5. Andre Drummond (tier 2)
  6. Harrison Barnes – The first tier 3 player starts a run on North Carolina Tar Heels.  Possessing great size, solid offensive production  and “NBA-combine MVP status”; Barnes offers a lot from a guy that turned 20 last month.  Like many though; I have not convinced myself of his rising star.  Drawing a firm distinction between Beal and Barnes represents a large reason my Draft Board posts split into tiers.

    Dion Waiters gets excited about his draft stock

  7. Dion Waiters – Ten weeks ago, when Waiters resided in the early-twenties of most mocks, I placed him above Austin Rivers.  I should have followed my instincts further though.  A lengthy list of positives exists for Waiters: efficient on offense, committed to defense, young, strong & athletic; this diamond in the rough eventually received notice from many.  The Sophomore Syracuse Sixth-man shot up draft boards and apparently received a promise in the mid-lottery.  I see shades of Russell Westbrook.  In May 2008, the UCLA sophomore resided in the mid-first round in most mocks, before rising to the mid-lottery by draft day.  Undersized for a wing, not exactly a point guard, but efficient, explosive and a top-notch defender; Oklahoma City snagged him at a surprise #4.  Could this be shades of four years ago?  Are all the pre-draft Cleveland rumors smoke screens and they made the promise at #4?  How would a Kyrie Irving & Russ Westbrook backcourt look?  I’m rambling now and do not think this happened, but the thought was fun.
  8. Tyler Zeller – In May, I forecasted Zeller as a 14 & 8 guy on 56% true shooting.  That still stands.
  9. John Henson –   Henson probably never develops a money eighteen-footer or a reliable post game, but destroying opponent pick-and-rolls, swatting weak-stuff as help, rebounding, and finishing strong all help accumulate wins, too.
  10. Kendall Marshall – Draftexpress’s best-case of Andre Miller and worst-case of Jose Calderon sums up my thoughts on Marshall very well.  With fear of being too precise; I think a 10-year NBA stint with accumulated PER between 17.4 and 17.8 sounds right.  Basically, a solid and steady career seems imminent.
  11. Evan Fournier – I’m going out on a limb here; bear with me through another Austin Rivers comparison.  Many mock drafts still show the Duke freshman as a lottery pick.  Fournier is three months younger than Rivers.  His PER in the top French professional league bested Rivers’ mark in the ACC.  Without attempting to prove this; French Pro-A is a grown man’s league and at least half of the players in the ACC will someday wish their career reached that level.  Athletically the Frenchman and the Dukie prove similar, except Fournier stands three inches taller.  A bit of a hunch; I bet the young foreigner proves to be a talented NBA scorer, and he serves as the first of my “tier 3” players that potentially slips to Cleveland.
  12. Terrence Jones – In a vein similar to Kendall Marshall; I think Jones is a can’t miss, with a relatively low range between “ceiling” and “floor”.
  13. Jared Sullinger – Did you know that Dejuan Blair missed three games in three NBA seasons after being medically red-flagged by the NBA?  Obviously, I am not a doctor and would not know what Sullinger’s x-rays meant even with access to them.  That said, what if he was treated the same way the Spurs treated Blair?  Basically, he averages 20 minutes a night…no exceptions.  Could Sully offer 8 years of above-average PER as a big-body stretch-four?  As one of the NCAA’s best rebounders and most-efficient scorers as an underclassmen; I say yes.  Sign him up, if he slips to #24, and team doctors think his back handles controlled NBA minutes.
  14. Meyers Leonard – Really big, surprisingly agile, and producing effectively at a young age; Leonard is worth a dice-roll late in the lottery.  As a best case, I envision him approaching the season Roy Hibbert recently posted.  On the other hand, a lot of super-sized bigs flopped in the past; Leonard needs to improve his physical and mental toughness to prove world-class.
  15. Jeremy Lamb – Many pass-off Lamb’s 2012 struggles due to the dysfunction of UConn’s season.  I’ve never been in a pro locker-room, but my guess is that the internal dynamics of the average NBA team picking in the top-ten proves approximately 78 times more ridiculous than the Huskies.  Last week, I discussed a reasonably likely career for Lamb as statistically similar to Jamal Crawford; a skinny, scoring guard with average shooting efficiency that does not otherwise stuff the box score.
  16. Perry Jones III – Did you know that Perry Jones once spanned 275 consecutive minutes this season of on-court time between blocked shots?  And summing his “Standing Reach plus Max Vert” leaves him third-best of the 150+ draft prospects in Draftexpress’s 2012 database?  Also he registered a top-ten-percent three-quarter-court sprint time?  How do these three questions make sense in succession?  The player whose career outcomes, according to DraftExpress, range from “Rudy Gay meets Josh Smith” to “Yi Jianlian” rounds out tier 3.

That’s it.  Tuesday, I’ll move on to my arbitrarily defined Tier 4.