The following post is fairly critical of the Cavs’ draft day decisions. I will preface the post by noting that the Cavs have much more information at their disposal than I do and surely have very talented people working on their player evaluations. They could also have a big trade in the works. Finally, it is foolish to evaluate a draft one day afterwards. With that said…
My reaction to the Cavs’ draft is confusion. Draft day started with so much promise. The Cavs had the 1st and 4th picks, two second rounders, a huge trade exception, and an owner willing to spend money. The options seemed limitless and, at a minimum, it appeared the day should end with the Cavs having two long-term starters and a quality role player in tow. Something completely different happened. No picks were bought or traded for; instead a pick was traded away. At #4, the Cavs reached for a player that most had in the 8 – 10 range; who also plays the same position as two of their three best players under the age of thirty. Of their fifteen players, the Cavs have four point guards and six power forwards. Are the Cavs trying to remake themselves as the Minnesota Timberwolves? The trade exception expires in two weeks. Surely a trade is coming. This can’t be the last memory prior to a depressing lockout, can it? For pick by pick analysis:
Kyrie Irving – Kyrie should be the Cavs point guard for the next 12 years. If I was taking a glass half-full approach, more time would be spent discussing this pick.
Tristan Thompson – After the Irving pick, my assessment of the Cavs current roster of players under 30 would have been:
Part of the 10 year plan – Kyrie Irving
Part of the 5 year plan – Anderson Varejao
Gets one more year to prove he belongs as a starter in the five or ten year plan – JJ Hickson
Belongs in the NBA, but isn’t part of future plans – Daniel Gibson, Ramon Sessions. I’m sorry, Boobie. You were fine when the Cavs dominant ball handler was a 6’9” small forward. Now that the dominant ball handler is 6’3”, it’s time for us to go our separate ways. Thanks for the memories and good luck with your continued NBA career.
Players with one more year to prove they at least belong on an NBA bench – Samardo Samuels, Ryan Hollins, Semih Erden, Christian Eyenga, Manny Harris & Luke Harangody.
The top five are point guards and power forwards, so the Cavs could really use a center and some wing players. Hickson, Gibson, and Sessions would have been available for the right price. Fortunately for the Cavs, the best player available was a center; Lithuanian Jonas Valanciunas. Jonas is seven feet tall with a 7’-4” winspan. He has been a great U18 player in Europe and had a very promising season in the Euroleague, the second best professional basketball league in the world. Some scouts thought he could eventually be the best player from this draft; and two of the best run organizations in basketball (Spurs and Thunder), were rumored to want to trade into the lottery to draft him.
Then the Cavs draft Tristan Thompson. I liked Thompson well enough and had him rated as the #11 prospect; but he wasn’t the best player available and fills a lesser need than Valanciunas. Despite being a freshman, Thompson is 20 years old (2 months older than Derrick Williams, 14 months older than Valanciunas). Thompson has great potential as a defensive player, but overall he is very raw. A few random stats on him:
Draftexpress.com compared 17 big men’s situational play. Overall, Thompson was fourth to last for points per possession (ppp). His 0.747 ppp on post-ups was second to last and his 0.654 ppp on jump shots was the worst, despite taking less than one jumper per game.
Thompson got to the free throw line more frequently than any other big man; however he only shot 49% when there. Thompson is a very raw offensive prospect. He scores on putbacks, cuts, and occasionally in isolation situations when he can beat less athletic players off the dribble. He will face many fewer “less athletic” players in the NBA.
Thompson was a great offensive rebounder, grabbing 14.0% of available offensive rebounds. If he can eventually rebound with the same efficiency in the NBA, he would be a top five offensive rebounder for a power forward. The flip side is that he only grabbed 13.6% of available defensive rebounds. It’s pretty rare for someone to rebound better on offense than defense. Even if he can grab defensive rebounds at the same rate in the NBA as in college; he would rank as a bottom ten power forward in the NBA, comparable to players like Danilo Gallinari and Rashard Lewis. His poor defensive rebounding is generally attributed to poor fundamentals and positioning. He definitely needs to improve these skills in order to fill his most likely role in the NBA.
Hopefully time reveals that this draft is a huge success for the Cavs, but one day later it’s hard to get excited about Tristan Thompson at #4, considering the huge potential that the start of draft day promised.
#32 pick – This pick was confusing when the Cavs picked Justin Harper. Another power forward? The Cavs and Timberwolves should play one game next year where all that plays is point guards and power forwards. Anyways, Harper was at least a quality addition and a player that I had rated as #31 in the draft. Then the Cavs traded him for future 2nd round picks. What? I thought the Cavs were the team that was going to be buying draft picks; or they were going to trade #32 and #54 to move into the late part of the first round. Instead they punted? Perhaps with the lockout coming, the Cavs thought it was better to have picks in future years. Maybe they tried to trade into the late first round and draft Nikola Mirotic, but the Bulls made a better offer. Regardless, as far as short term satisfaction is concerned; the outcome of the #32 pick is surely lacking. Even for long term considerations, the value of two picks in the 40 – 50 range is unlikely to have better benefit than picking someone at 32 this year.
Milan Macvan – This is a throw away pick. Macvan is 6’9”, 265 lbs. He is technically a center in Europe, but there is no way he ever plays center in the NBA at 6’9” with poor athleticism (so the Cavs drafted another PF). Even as a PF, many expect he will never play in the NBA; both due to lack of necessary ability but also due to lack of desire to come to the NBA. He is a totally serviceable center in the Euroleague, and I wish him a great career. If the Cavs wanted to stash a Euro here; they could have drafted Adam Hanga (who the genius Spurs drafted at #59) or Georgi Shermadini, a 7’-1” center who had a PER of 23 in fifteen Euroleague games this year. There were also at least ten American players that were drafted later or weren’t drafted, that are more likely to see minutes in the NBA than Macvan (ten players with a chance greater than zero).
Like most Cavs fans, I was disappointed by yesterday’s outcome. I hope that several years from now, when I re-read this, all I can think is: “Wow, I was really dumb for doubting the Cavs. They never would have won their NBA championship if Tristan Thompson didn’t lock down Kevin Durant like that. I wonder if they’ll retire his jersey some day?” For now though; I’ll hope for an interesting trade, a 2011 – 2012 NBA season, and the start of the Kyrie Irving / Tristan Thompson era in Cleveland. (I added Thompson to the last sentence as an edit. Welcome to Cleveland, Tristan. Hopefully any doubts only drive you to become a better player.)