It’s March Madness, and the Cavaliers are lottery bound. So other than a tough Texas two-step, with games at Dallas and San Antonio, what’s the big story of the weekend? NCAA Conference Tourneys! Who are the Cavs:the Bloggers keeping a particularly close eye on?
Question 1: Who ya’ watching in the Big Ten Tourney? IU, Ohio State, Michigan…there are alot of powerhouses there.
Dani: Tim Hardaway Jr. (Michigan) is a player whom I could see as being very effective in the NBA, especially if he can get a little better at creating his own shot. At 6’6″ Hardaway has ideal size for a shooting guard in the NBA today. Also, his jumper is pretty. The main fear with Hardaway is that a lot of his effectiveness seems to stem from playing with maybe the best point guard in college hoops, Trey Burke. But then again, the NBA is in the midst of a sort of point guard Pax Romana. Keep an eye on him for the Cavs.
Tom: Aaron Craft (Ohio State). He shuts down the elite offensive players in college, why not in the pros? According to draft folks he’s one of the most polarizing players – that means he’s going to play in the NBA. He’s 6’2”, 190, and is just tenacious on defense. Every time I watch him play, he seems to get a “clutch steal” when his team needs it most. He can’t shoot at all outside 15 feet – if he could he’d probably be a 1st round pick. His profile bears a striking resemblance to Eric Snow – he of almost 1000 NBA games. Snow was better around the rim but abjectly horrible outside of 3 feet. Snow was also a better pure point guard but did not rack up the insane amount of steals that Craft does.
Nate: No, I’m not picking Aaron Craft, the Chris Dudley of point guards; rather, Victor Oladipo (Indiana). Is there any doubt that Tom Crean is one of the best coaches at any level in basketball? The guy simply turns good athletes into great basketball players: Dwayne Wade, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder… Victor Oladipo is another in a long line of very athletic players whose skill level Crean has helped hone. Shooting a ridiculous .614/.745/.464 from the field for 13.7 points, Oladipo is currently #3 in the country in effective field goal % at .66. Additionally he’s one of the nation’s best defenders. He posts a stellar 2.2 steals per game, and though he doesn’t have the handles of Shabazz, or the length of Otto Porter, he could be the best two way wing in the draft. Oladipo has a chance to sneak into the top three if he has a good run the rest of the season, and could be a better shooting Andre Iguodala in the pros.
Kevin: Glenn Robinson (Michigan) – He could be interesting with the Lakers pick. Although low usage, his offensive rating is an obscenely high 128. He is a great athlete with size to play small forward, that gets to the line frequently and shows potential as a shooter. Just turning 19 in January, he needs to bulk up. He struggled yesterday against Penn State, but his 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 0 turnovers and 0 fouls helped compensate for a rough shooting night. With a few big games in March, the middle portion of the first round appears to be in play.
Mallory: I know it’s already been said, but the guy I’m watching is Aaron Craft from Ohio State. I’ve had the privildge of watching this guy play live many, many times, including his freshman year, and I’ve got to say, he’s one of the most exciting players to watch in person. Even as a frosh Craft showed a tenacity on D that few guys ever match. If he can continue his hot scoring, he’s a sure-fire pro.
Question 2: What about the SEC? Lacking Nerlens Noel limits the luster, but what about the other guys?
Dani: Alex Poythress (Kentucky) is one of the most fascinating NBA prospects in quite a while. He’s 6’8″, an explosive athlete with a 7’1″ wingspan, and is perhaps the most up and down player in college basketball. He started the season as a top-five pick, but a prolonged slump and positional concerns (where the hell is he going to play on offense?) have dropped him all the way to anywhere from middle of the first round to out of the first round entirely. He reminds me a lot of Perry Jones III, who was absolutely stolen by OKC as the 28th pick. A big tournament from Poythress could do wonders for him.
Nate: This is really a down year for the SEC, with few first round prospects outside of underachieving Kentucky (from which I like no one). I’m interested in seeing the best prospect on the best team, Patric Young (Florida). Young is an enigma, a former McDonalds all American with a chiseled 250 pound, 6’8″ frame, and a 7’1″ wingspan. An impressive athlete who throws down thunderous dunks, Young is a pedestrian rebounder, but a solid shot blocker and steals man. He is also trapped on a perimeter oriented team that infrequently sends the ball inside. As a rare guy who could be a second round pick with upside this summer or next, I’d like to see if he can pick up his game in the next two weeks.
Tom: Nerlens Noel (Kentucky). I’m interested in his fashion sense. And if he’s not even on the bench, I’ll watch Kentucky in his absence and compare to how they looked with him. It’s Nerlens or bust for the Cavs this draft.
Kevin: I’ll say Alex Poythress (Kentucky). ESPN and Draftexpress currently show him around where the Lakers pick would be. He’s big, athletic, and potentially a solid set-shooter. With tantalizing defensive abilities, he could serve as a solid consolation prize if Porter isn’t available in the lottery. We will see if he can put together a run of high-level March performances.
Mallory: It’s been well documented how badly the Cavs need a center. Yet I’d contend it’s not really size that’s missing, but more toughness, explosiveness, focus. These are attributes that Florida’s Patric Young has, particular on the defensive side. Despite his momentary passiveness in some games, Young continues to be a standout prospect. He’s long (7’1 wingspan on a 6’9 body!), he’s tough, and he’s great in the post. He’s the sort of undervalued center who could end up being the gem of the draft.
Question 3: Duke! North Carolina! North Carolina State! Maryland? Which of these guys should be on Cavs’ fans radar?
Dani: Erick Green (Virginia Tech) is far from a complete prospect. He’s too skinny, and doesn’t do pretty much anything but score. And score he does. 25.4 points a game, and Green is electrifying when his jumper is falling. Is his ceiling Nick Young? Possibly. But there’s always room for scorers in the NBA, and Erick Green can score.
Nate: Kenny Kadji (Miami). Who needs Mo Speights? At 24 years old, Kadji probably has limited upside, but he’s a potent weapon on one of the most surprising teams in college basketball this year. He’s a true stretch 4/5 who can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. He’s an adequate rebounder — though he’s improved from last year — and has good length and will block some shots. Still, he’s older than Kevin Durant. But this is another guy who might be a good second round prospect. Lord knows the Cavs could use a stretch 4 who can actually shoot.
Tom: Alex Len (Maryland). Cavs are bereft of centers. Len is 7’1”. Needs to go on the same training regimen that Kevin Hetrick prescribed for Tyler Zeller.
Kevin: I will give a shout-out to James McAdoo (North Carolina), a player that Scout.com ranked top-five in his high school class, in the rarefied air of Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Austin Rivers, and MKG. Last year, he popped up in top-ten discussions. Now, after a sophomore season when he struggled to a 92 offensive rating (27 usage), and woeful rebounding rates, can he salvage the previously elite expectations following him?
Mallory: Looking at the Cavs roster, what’s the biggest hole? That’d be a resounding SF! If the front office decides to go big with the top pick, that’ll mean a need to find a SF in the middle or end of the draft. Enter Reggie Bullock from North Carolina. A crazy good three point shooter, this Tar Heel would be a PERFECT late-draft compliment to Kyrie and Dion. In addition, Bullock has a reputation as a great defender. That’s definitely something I can get on board with.
Question 4: Does anyone else play in the Big East besides Otto Porter? What is there to see at Madison Square Garden this weekend?
Dani: Who else but Otto Porter (Georgetown)? He’s the all-around, ultra-skilled type of player that general managers everywhere should be drooling over. He’s also shown a propensity for coming up in the clutch (game-winners galore), and is a great defender. I do think Porter’s athleticism (or lack thereof) issues cap his NBA potential somewhat, but not everyone is a superstar. He can and will be a contributor from day one in the NBA.
Nate: Another conference with a down year in terms of prospects… Who else am I going to pick? The only option besides Otto Porter is Michael Carter-Williams (Syracuse), but he’s a lousy shooter. So I want to check out Porter, just like everyone else on this blog. He could be playing himself into a top three pick as well. Last year’s #1 pick, MKG is a very similar comparison: a lock-down defender who can run the floor and who is developing on offense. Well Porter’s offensive efficiency far surpasses MKG’s, especially behind the three point line. Porter’s better at getting points, steals, assists, and at limiting turnovers and fouls. He could be the number one pick in the draft if he leads Georgetown far, especially in the last Big East tournament as we know it.
Tom: Otto Porter would be a good consolation prize if Nerlens cannot be had. He’s super long and steady – he seems to have an instinctive feel for the game. Knock on him is he’s not wired to “take over” or whatever. That’s fine – Cavs have that role filled.
Kevin: I’ll say that the Cavs actually pick a second-rounder, and that we should keep an eye on Gorgui Deng of Louisville. His defensive rebound rate ranks second in the Big East, with a block rate sitting 51st in the entire NCAA. He’s already 23, but as a second-round flier for a formidable defensive presence, it’s worth looking out for.
Mallory: I could say the obvious ones here, but I’m going to go with Gorgui Dieng out of Louisville – depending on how things play out with the Lakers/whatever the top pick is, this may be in play for the Cavs. And really, they could do a lot worse than Dieng. Huge wingspan? Check. Good rebounder? Check! Great off the PnR? CHECK! Awesome defender? SIGN ME UP!!!! Sounds like we have a fit for Kyrie and the Cavs.
Question 5: Last, but not least (well, depending on your East Coast bias), tell me about players you like in the Big Twelve?
Dani: I’m going to avoid talking about Ben McLemore (Kansas). Everyone already knows he’s a stud. Instead, let’s take a look at Jeff Withey (Kansas). He’s unspectacular in most areas of the game: 13.6 points, 8.6 rebounds….eh. And then you spot the block totals, and your eyes widen. Withey is averaging a full four blocks per game. Watch a Kansas game some time, and Withey’s defensive ability jumps out at you. His positioning and timing are flawless. Four blocks a game is nothing to sneeze at, especially from a center without the boundless athleticism of someone like Nerlens Noel.
Nate: Remember when the Big 12 was falling apart? They’re loaded with basketball talent this year. Everyone loves McLemore, and why not? He’s probably the top pick in the draft, and one of the few players with superstar potential. But I want to see Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), who is supposedly the best point guard in the country and who inhabits an NFL free safety’s body. #3 in the country at three steals a game, and a top prospect, Smart is rumored to have wisdom and muscles beyond his years and an ability to control the flow of the game from the point guard spot. I want to see if he’s quick enough to play in the NBA or whether he gets by on strength alone.
Tom: Isaiah Austin (Baylor). Dyslexic AI makes Tyler Zeller and Alex Len look like Magnus Samuelsson and The Incredible Hulk, respectively. Still, if the same guy has been described as “a poor man’s Kevin Durant” on offense and “a poor man’s Kevin Garnett” on defense?? I can glass-half-full the living daylights outta that dude. And so will NBA GM’s. He’s gonna be picked sneaky high methinks. Maybe the Lakers’ pick that the Cavs are gonna get (wooo!).
Kevin: Ben McLemore. Rightfully, people are excited about the electric, efficient Kansas freshman. His blistering 51 / 44 / 87 shooting, combined with Kansas being +359 when he plays, compared to -20 when he sits, make for an enticing package. He is twenty years old though, due to sitting out one year. Has there ever been a good rationalization for his academic ineligibility, arrest for failing to show up in court, or his dismissal from Oak Hill? I haven’t been paying enough attention. This month, he gets an opportunity to put those questions even further behind.
Mallory: I could settle with watching Baylor’s stud center. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll keep my eye on Oklahoma State’s SF, LeBryan Nash. With a crazy upside, Nash is the sort of project a coach dreams about. Absurdly athletic, Nash hasn’t really been all that efficient in college, but is noted as a guy with the tools to put it all together. If the Cavs elected to draft a project in the late first or early second, this would probably be the guy.