Alright, so here’s how I see the basic overview of how the draft is going to go down:
-Unless something fantastic happens, we are looking at a bench player. First of all, let’s all pause for a second and think about how fantastic it is we have competent starters at every position. This time last offseason, pre-Mo trade, I would have gladly taken Chris Douglas-Roberts as our starting shooting guard, no questions asked. (And in my own defense, I would still take him over Wally and Sasha.)
Mo and LeBron are obviously not losing their starting jobs anytime soon. Delonte is an above-average starting guard who could get pushed by a big trade, but I don’t see the draft replacing him, especially considering how well he fits with the starting unit. An upgrade is certainly possible with Andy and Z, but there is just no chance in hell you’re getting a starting 4 or 5 at 30-legit 6-10 guys get drafted before 30 even if they’re legally blind.
(The one big man who might possibly be considerable and in our range would be OSU product B.J. Mullens, who was once projected as a #1 pick, has freakish athleticism, and could be a pick-and-roll monster catching oops from LeBron. But he probably won’t be available, and more importantly, for a player who would be the cornerstone of one of the best and most complex defenses in the league, you do not want to see this in a row in his “weaknesses” section on DX:
|- Advanced post moves|
|- Commitment to playing defense|
|- Defensive awareness|
|- Defensive fundamentals|
|- Man to man defense|
|- Off-ball defense|
And don’t forget you have J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson still developing. So what is it that we should end up looking for off the bench from this draft? Here’s my list. (A disclaimer here that this is unofficial and purely speculative on my end.)
1. Change-of-pace guard off the bench
I have been asking for this for, like, forever. I have gone so far in this as to openly pine for Sebastian Telfair on the roster. (This was before the Timberwolves decided to give him an actual contract, even though Al Jefferson ensures they’ll never play up-tempo. I’m literally the only person I know who likes Sebastian Telfair as a basketball player, and I don’t think he’s worth actual money.)
Having a point guard capable of pushing fast breaks and get inside the paint would do two things-with the 2nd unit that has LeBron sitting, it would hopefully allow for somebody to get into the defense and at least get it off-balance a little bit, which would allow Mo and Delonte to do what they do best-neither one has elite speed, but they’re fantastic shooters and can make quality drives if the defense can’t set up against that. As it stands now, most of the time that unit gets an ugly post-up for Z or Mo settling for that 20-footer when his defender goes under a screen that he loves. Someone has to pressure the rim when LeBron isn’t in.
And when LeBron is in, just give me 10 minutes of a guy changing the pace and running the fast-break with LeBron James. Do you realize that LeBron James has done everything he’s done in his career without ever having any sort of player or strategy to get him in the open-court, where he might be the most unstoppable player in the history of this league? (Really, the only other guy at his level is Magic. And that’s ever.)
And off-the-ball, LeBron has gotten to be incredible catching and shooting and especially working backdoor plays for dunks and alley-oops-there’s a whole side of LeBron offensively that’s dormant without a true point, freakish as that is.
I realize that the way to get wins is what we’re doing, which is to put defense first and keep the pace slow, which might limit his stats but actually maximizes his net impact on the game. But just give me 10 minutes a night of LeBron running the break and playing off-the-ball with a true point guard. He’s really, really good at it, and we can still dictate our tempo most of the way. There is no way it will ruin our defense as much as JJ or Wally did in similar roles this year.
Guys who fit the bill:
Ty Lawson (I salivate. He would’ve been available to the Cavs last year-if the Cavs had passed on him, which they probably would have, I would have put my face through a wall. I am absolutely in love with Lawson. There are a lot of guys with more potential, but I’m telling you-if I had to bet on one guard in this draft, Rubio included, I’d bet on Lawson. I’m going to do a full profile on him, because I can. I know he won’t be there.)
A.J. Price (2nd round)
2. A Swingman who can score
Here’s the thing: a rotation big is hard to find. Really hard to find. And even if Andy comes back, this team, as Ben Wallace’s corpse made clear in the ECF, is having trouble filling those minutes, especially considering Joe Smith seemed to be out of the playoff rotation. JJ Hickson is a great prospect, but even he has serious question marks at the defensive ends.
The good news: LeBron James can give you 15 absoultely unbelievable minutes at the 4 on a nightly basis. The numbers were eye-popping (sidebar: probably my greatest challenge as your faithful Cavs Blogger this year has been trying to find synonyms for “freakish” regarding LeBron) this season when he played at the 4: A PER of 38, 39/11/8.5, and 2 blocks per 48 minutes, a higher net +/- per 48 minutes than his minutes at small forward, and he holds his man to less than a league-average PER defensively.
And this is all with Wally Z holding down the three spot and essentially doing nothing and getting exploited defensively. In the playoffs, Wally was simply too much of a liability. With a true rotation-quality swingman, the Cavs could take advantage of LeBron’s ability at the four without leaving a hole, and it’s much, much, much easier to get a rotation-quality swingman than a rotation-quality power forward.
Guys who fit the bill:
3. A Perimeter Stopper
It’s just foolish to have LeBron try to lock down the other team’s best scorer 40 minutes a game, 82 games a year. And as good as Delonte is defensively, it’s more about his heart than his size or speed-elite guys can still get past him, and besides he can’t play the whole game either. And past those two, Pavlovic has gone foul-crazy (to the point he nearly cost us game 2 of the ECF), and Gibson, Williams, and Wally are not plus defenders. And at some point, you’re going to see Rondo/Pierce/Allen, Jameer/Turk/Rashard, or Kobe/Bean/Bryant in a playoff series, so it can never hurt to have an extra stopper, especially since playing with LeBron can hide the offensive deficiencies so many stoppers have.
Guys who fit the bill:
That’s all for now, campers- prospect profiles coming in the week leading up to draft day.