So, under normal circumstances, I would have sat down this morning and tried to spend 1,200 words comparing Alonzo Gee to an antelope or whatever, but I’ve got a few thoughts kicking around my head that I don’t think I can channel into a coherent essay, but wanted to talk about anyway. Bullet points: engage!
–I think it was David Thorpe who recently wrote about team-building through the draft, and how drafting certain types of prospects in the same draft or consecutive drafts has a significant impact on their development and, by extension, the direction in which a team grows. Considering that this Cavs team is likely going to have to be built through the draft (last year’s, this year’s, and the next), I think this draft is the one in which fit becomes important. Not “fit” in the sense that the Cavs shouldn’t draft Anthony Davis if they win the lottery because they already have a lanky, athletic forward, but “fit” like not drafting too many projects or ball-dominant players or guys who can’t shoot. For example, I like Andre Drummond. He scares the hell out of me with his intermittent passivity, but I think, in the right situation, he could sort himself out and become one of the best centers in the league. Let’s suppose I’m right—that if there are six realities that lie in front of Andre Drummond, in one of them he is a seven-time All-Star—and that Chris Grant agrees with me. The Cavs have the fifth pick, and they’re deciding between Drummond, Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, and trading down. What should they do? I think the answer revolves around a number of questions.
–Are you okay with having a future front line (TT and Drummond) that can’t shoot free throws? We’ve seen the Clippers have this problem with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. When your starting forward and center pair can’t shoot a respectable percentage from the line, you’re leaving points on the table every game. On top of that, you can’t run your offense through the post late in games. Everything has to be isos, pick-and-rolls, and running shooters off picks. Because the Clippers have the best point guard in the world in Chris Paul, they often get away with this. Are the Cavs comfortable running literally every play through Kyrie Irving late in games? Maybe they are.
–This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the previous question: is a TT-Drummond front line going to be sub-par offensively and is that an issue? I think OKC is a good team to look at to answer this question. They start two offensively-deficient big men in Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. One is a hyper-athletic shot-blocker, and the other is… well, whatever your opinion of Kendrick Perkins is. This works fine for the most part. Perkins sets screens, guards the other team’s center capably, and grabs rebounds while Ibaka catches alley-oops and protects the rim. It doesn’t much matter (except when it does, late in games, but I’ll get to that in a minute) that neither can score because OKC has two of the best perimeter scorers in the league in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Plus James Harden is eminently capable of going off for 25 and six. I don’t think, unless the Cavs are incredibly lucky in future drafts or free agency, that they will have three perimeter scorers on the level of KD, Russ, and The Beard. So where do those points come from? Is Irving going to have to become Derrick Rose and score 30 a night in order to carry his team offensively? We also occasionally, in crunch time, see the problems OKC experiences as a result of having two non-scoring big men. Because neither Ibaka nor Perk is particularly apt at making a 15-footer, the paint becomes clogged with defenders, and OKC has to either live or die by long jumpers or pray Westbrook can pull off one of those impossible Westbrook drives where he knifes through three defenders and lays it in. It’s not the most efficient way to get clutch baskets.
–Is Tristan Thompson a project? So, we’ve talked about this a bit. You can’t write a sentence about TT without using the words “raw” and “athletic.” But where is his ceiling, exactly? I think, defensively, he has the potential to be similar to Serge Ibaka. But offensively, it’s hard to know where his game is headed and what the Cavs expect from him. Do they think he will learn to shoot? Do they expect him to be the third-leading scorer on a playoff team? His status as a project depends on what you expect him to be. If he’s supposed to be a good offensive player, then he needs a lot of work. If he’s supposed to grab rebounds, block shots, and score in the same ways Andy Varejao does, then he’s closer to his objective. I mention this because Drummond is definitely a project. He needs to be coached in terms of asserting himself, playing hard on every possession, etc. I don’t think there’s a giant disparity in talent between Anthony Davis and Drummond, but the difference is Davis works his ass off, and Drummond seems like a weird, moody giant. My point is the Cavs don’t want two projects. You can overhaul one raw talent’s game, but two? That’s a challenge the coaching staff likely can’t handle.
–How do you feel about PJ3 and Barnes? This is not a question I care to answer. Go bother Kevin about this. But it’s something that needs to be considered. PJ3 actually has a lot of the same problems as Drummond re: work ethic, disappearing from games, etc., and Barnes is a kind of terrifyingly limited player.
Anyway, I’m just throwing this out there as something to chew on. Feel free to fight about this in the comment section.