Cavs Draft 2009: Did I Mention We Traded For Shaq?

June 26th, 2009 by John Krolik

Well, that happened. This draft was about expectations management. Remember that the consensus is that this is one of the worst drafts in recent memory, and the Cavs held the last pick. They came away with one player who I’d expect to join the rotation next year. That’s not too bad.

That said, if you look at the TrueHoop Network live-blog music festival or whatever, you can see that I was distraught at several points in this draft. Here’s a breakdown of the scenarios where things could theoretically have gone a different way:

Question #1: Why didn’t the Cavs Buy Up In the Middle of The Draft?

From Windhorst’s reports, there were three guys in the middle of the first round the Cavs were said to be considering trading up for: Earl Clark, Ty Lawson, and Sam Young. Clark went in the lottery, and would appear to be a guy they see as a part of their core as they go into rebuiding mode. So no Earl.

Lawson went 17th in a pick the T-Wolves were clearly planning to move, and for a second I was stoked. And so it is tonight that I end my years-long pimping of Tywon Lawson on the Cavs. It began when I saw this YouTube Video (it’s mainly a Durant video, but Lawson’s awesome in there-check out his string of plays beginning at 1:04 of the video), intensified last year when he slid due to his DUI, and became an all-out frenzy when he somehow slid this year despite absolutely dominating for a national championship team. One last time:

1. Lawson is a pure point guard, which the Cavaliers could still desperately use, if only for a change of pace.

2. Lawson’s better in transition than anyone in this draft by a wide margin-the Cavs would hugely benefit from having a guy who can push the ball for fast-break baskets.

3. Lawson had the best statistical year of any player in the NCAA, according to the Hollinger draft rater. Statistically, he was maybe the best pure point in college. Then add in the fact that he scored 16.5 points a game as a freaking 183 shooter,¬†with “only” an 80% free throw percentage. Absolutely amazing.

4. And it’s not just about the box score. Since the hand-check rules, no one type of player has been as consistently valuable on the offensive end as ultra-fast point guards who can score efficiently and play pick-and-roll. I’m telling you, regardless of need, I think Lawson is the safest player in this draft outside of Blake Griffin. And even when you do potential+production, I only have him behind Griffin and maybe Rubio. This guy is an absolute monster.

5. He did all of this playing for the NCAA champions.

So that crushed me a little bit inside. I’m not sure the Cavs could have gotten the pick-a #1 from the Bobcats next year is better than any pick the Cavs could have offered, and I can’t see why the Wolves would want anything other than a pick.

The only other guy the Cavs were rumored to want to buy up for is Sam Young, and…

Question #2: Why didn’t the Cavs pick up Sam Young?

The answer here seems to be that the Cavs felt that they’d rather have Danny Green on the cheap than pay the full rookie scale for Sam Young. And there is a little bit of sense in that. I don’t think there’s room for both players in the rotation, as both would/will be coming in to replace the minutes Wally Z will be playing, and they’re more the same than different as players.

-Both have long wingspans and are billed as lock-down perimeter defenders, which fills a need, although Young is a little bigger and supposedly more physical. Green, however, is a little faster.

-Green is the slightly better shooter, with a better free throw percentage and 3-point mark, and seems to be the better player in open catch-and-shoot situations. That’s what he’ll mostly be getting in the lineup he’ll be playing in, so that should work.

-Green is more of a swingman, while Young is more of a tweener forward-that means more of LeBron at the 4, which is good.

-Green seems to be the smarter offensive player-he averaged twice as many assists and less turnovers than Young, and has a better understanding of how to be effective without the ball in his hands. Young is better inside and more capable of creating his own shot.

-Green has the experience of being on a championship program, which the front office has to like.

Question #3: Okay. But Christian Eyenga? Why? Dear and Sweet Lord, Why?

The reason they drafted Eyenga is because they didn’t feel like there was anybody at 30 worth paying the rookie scale to. It’s that simple. Considering the Lakers straight-up sold the pick right before the Cavaliers’, this doesn’t seem like the craziest thing in the world to wrap my mind around. Eyenga is apparently very athletic, and the party line is that he could develop in a few years and become an impact player. But he wasn’t in the rotation for a Jayvee-level Spanish team. The only safe assumption here is that he’ll never play in a Cavalier game in his natural life.

The rookie scale is real money, so it’s not ridiculous that a team as far over the luxury tax as the Cavs wouldn’t want to pay it. Here’s what the 30th pick could have theoretically yielded them:

-Sam Young or Chase Budinger as an insurance policy for Danny Green. That’s a lot of money for rotation-player insurance, and maybe the Cavs didn’t want to mess with Green’s confidence by entering him into a battle for minutes. And a lot of times you see front offices try to “take guys out of the hands” of the team’s coach: sometimes a coach will play a guy who’s doing better in practice or seems slightly more established over a player with higher potential who the front office would like to see developed.

And remember, the Cavs still have Cavs: The Blog favorite Tarence Kinsey.

(Sidebar: To clear the air, this blog’s official statement on Kinsey’s DUI: DUI is not cool at all. It’s not “boys being boys,” it’s not something you roll your eyes at and say “these wacky athletes,” it’s not something that everyone does from time to time with only a few getting caught. It’s how innocent people get killed, and it’s inexcuseable behavior. Most of us personally know people who have been killed by instances of drunk driving. At USC we saw how devistating a DUI, which in that case turned into a hit-and-run, can be on an entire community this past year.

That said, Tarence knows what he did, he will be punished, he’ll do what he needs to do under the eyes of the law to pay back his debt, and that’s between him and the court. If the team wants to suspend him, that’s between him and the team. Those are the entities that should judge Tarence right now, and if both of them see fit to give him a second chance then hopefully this fanbase can allow him the chance to learn from his mistake and go about re-gaining his credibility and the trust of his fans. Just my two cents. I’ll get off my soapbox now.)

-The Cavs also could have gotten Patrick Mills. Mills is a guy who hasn’t shown the ability to put his game together in terms of being able to make plays or score efficiently at the college level but has tremendous upside. Clearly, a lot of teams didn’t think too highly of Mills either, and with Shaq coming to an already slow-paced team it’s understandable that the Cavs wouldn’t feel the need to take a guy whose primary strength is his ability to play in transition.

-The Cavs could’ve gotten an “asset” pick who they didn’t plan on using (e.g. DeJuan Blair) and looked to move him later in the moves that probably will happen later this summer to attempt to accomodate Shaq a little more. It confuses me a little that they didn’t at least do this, but considering the picks surrounding 30 couldn’t fetch much more than cupons it’s understandable that the Cavs felt financial flexibility would help them make moves more than the player they would’ve gotten with the 30th pick.

Does the financial strategy behind saving money a first-round pick after getting Shaq seem kind of like buying a Bentley and deciding to save your change when you park, hoping the meter maid won’t come while you go in to rent a movie? Kinda. But Gilbert did just spend A LOT of money on this team, and in the last two days we’ve added Shaq and a rotation player while maintaining financial flexibility in 2010 and saving a few million bucks in the first round. Not a bad few days.

Oh, and the Cavs also bought Emir Preldzic in the second, who scored 7.3 points on 36% shooting in Turkey last season, and whose “best-case” on DX is¬†Theodoros Papaloukas. I’m going to hold off on buying his jersey for now. According to Windhorst, he’s more accomplished than our first-round pick. Did I mention we traded no rotation players for Shaq yesterday? Until next time.