The draft is over, so this will be my last posting to Cavs:the Blog for a while. Writing these entries does take a lot of time. Lots of credit to John Krolik, for maintaining such a high quality blog for the last several years.
My “reaction” to the draft was a look at draft day from a “glass half empty” perspective. This will contrast that; reflecting on things that went well, as I want to end on a positive note. The negative reaction was based on spending a lot of time, as the Cavs: the Blog Draft Expert, thinking about the draft and having formed opinions on what the Cavs could do. I strongly preferred the Cavs to draft Jonas Valanciunas with #4. I preferred the Cavs do something like trade the #32 and #54 to the Spurs for #29, and take Jimmy Butler. Or at #32, draft Jon Leuer and keep him. Basically something to end up with a player from the 32 pick. At #54, I preferred a lot of players over Milan Macvan. I was unsatisfied with three of the Cavs four picks and dwelled on that. I still would have preferred different selections (and am confused about all the PF’s), but ultimately I’m just a fan with a computer. The Cavs have ways to quantify player contributions that I can’t begin to understand, and they like Tristan Thompson. Here are the positives I see in the drafted players:
Kyrie Irving – It’s folly to forget the Cavs’ good fortune of acquiring the #1 pick in the draft. The Cavs took on an extra $12 million in salary commitments to acquire a likely late lottery pick in a weak draft. Obviously this pick became #1 and has allowed the Cavs to begin laying a great groundwork for the future. Kyrie Irving is an excellent young point guard. The low end of his potential is considered as an above average NBA starter and the high end is as an All-Star. He’s everything a point guard should be; an efficient scorer, good shooter, quality distributor, hard worker, and intense defender. At 19; he is mature and confident, and appears to have a great NBA career ahead of him. On Thursday, the Cavs re-building process took a big step forward in acquiring Kyrie Irving.
Tristan Thompson – Going into Thursday, the Cavs had one player under 25 that was potentially a part of the long range plan (my opinion, see draft reaction). With Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, that number has tripled. Thompson still needs to develop his offensive skills, but he undoubtedly brings a lot to the table on defense. He has good size and strength for a 20 year old and was the most agile big man at the draft combine. Thompson should be able to defend power forwards in the post, on the perimeter, and even cover some small forwards. Per 40 minutes, he averaged 3.1 blocks and 1.2 steals in his freshman year. He had very effective defensive games against two other lottery power forwards. In a narrow NCAA tournament loss, he held Derrick Williams to 17 points on 42% true shooting, and in a mid-season victory over Kansas, he had five blocks while the Morris twins struggled to the tune of 26 total points on 42% true shooting. As John noted in his post draft summary, the Cavs were very lacking in defense last year; and Irving and Thompson will both step in and begin restoring the Cavs commitment to defense. Finally regarding Thompson; I would be remiss to not mention that he rated as the third best prospect in John Hollinger’s 2011 draft rater. Hollinger’s draft rater is not perfect, but it historically has been good at picking top performing big men.
So there are definitely positives from draft day that I didn’t discuss in my “reaction”piece. Similar to the reaction though, I still am look forward to an interesting trade, a 2011 – 2012 NBA season, and the start of the Irving / Thompson era in Cleveland (complete with a championship where Thompson shuts down Durant).