HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — After spending the past few days quizzing team officials from around the league, we’ve decided that it’s not only prudent for the Cleveland Cavaliers to pause for at least a few minutes and take one last look at their strategy before Thursday night’s NBA Draft, it’s a necessary move by an organization that owns two picks in the top four.
Even in a year when the Draft is considered to be top heavy with superstar talent (2003 and 2007 come to mind from recent years) or super deep with quality players at nearly ever position (2004 and 2008) , it pays to proceed with caution when you have one of the top picks. There is nothing wrong with a healthy dose of skepticism as the days leading up to the Draft turn to hours and them minutes.
This is, after all, the future of your franchise that is resting on you making the proper choice. Or, if we’re arguing semantics, it is the “right decision” about the player you choose to lead the organization out of the lottery some day.
But in a year such as this one, when the Draft class is seen by most as thin on “superstar” talents, it’s imperative that a team with a top pick operate with extreme caution.
“Bottom line, every player in this draft, 1 through 60, is going to be picked five to seven spots ahead of where he should be simply because this class is that weak,” an Eastern Conference executive said matter-of-factly. “It is what it is. And that’s not necessarily a knock on these guys that are coming out in this Draft. But it’s fact. There isn’t a Kevin Durant or LeBron James in this group. I don’t think there’s a Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin or even a John Wall in this group. What you hope is that there are some surprises, guys that will play above and beyond our evaluations. We need a few Russell Westbrook types to emerge from this class, because right now it’s tough to say with any amount of certainty that you are sure this guy or that guy is going to be an All-Star player in our league.”
While that certainly puts a damper on the spirits of some of Cleveland’s finest fans, it’s a dose of reality that the Cavaliers organization has surely grappled with in the past few weeks.
After the lottery, the professed love of Duke point guard Kyrie Irving as the likely No. 1 pick was nearly unanimous. And from all indications he’s done nothing to diminish his reputation since then. Yet the Cavaliers, per ESPN.com’s Andy Katz, have decided to push back from the table and study the situation again before making a final decision:
The consensus among NBA teams is that Cleveland will select Duke freshman guard Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s draft.
But the Cavaliers aren’t acting as if they’ve made a decision, and according to multiple sources, they are actively discussing a number of possibilities. They likely will go with Irving, but there are scenarios in which they might not.
The Cavaliers haven’t told Irving that he is the No. 1 pick, and Arizona’s Derrick Williams is a legitimate contender for the top spot.
Cleveland, which also holds the No. 4 overall pick, will bring in Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight for a visit early this week. Former Kentucky student Enes Kanter of Turkey, who was ruled by the NCAA to be permanently ineligible with the school, will return for a second visit.
Have you seen enough from any of these top four projected picks to feel safe about the future of your franchise?
Irving played just 11 games during his injury-shortened season at Duke, giving him roughly 11 more than we saw from Kanter, who didn’t play a second after being ruled permanently ineligible to play at Kentucky.
“There is potential galore in this Draft,” a Western Conference scout insisted. “Several of these guys could be special. But there are just so many unknowns right now that it’s hard to dive in without being skeptical about how things might turn out. The Draft is the surest way to rebuild your team in this league. But if you’re dealing in unknowns, it’s a much tougher sell than normal.”
This Draft is anything but normal.