The Cleveland Cavaliers are certainly consistent when it comes to the NBA draft under Chris Grant. A ton of misinformation, proposed trades that have no possibility of completion, silly multiteam scenarios, complaints of Chris Grant being unreasonable and turning off the league’s General Managers. All the while this craziness continues in the media and with the fans, Chris Grant and his crew are steadily digging down into their options about the players they can take.
This focus on the important issue (which is taking players) helps the Cavs to be involved in multiple discussions and options while still taking the player(s) they want. Two things that are much worse than not making the trades that you almost can make are: 1) Letting the media and distractions alter your focus on the important player issues 2) Making a trade that you would prefer not to make because of the pressure to show you can make a trade.
I will take on the latter possibility first. Chris Grant, by all media reports, drives a hard bargain and might even try too hard to “win” a trade convincingly. This approach probably does turn off some General Managers and frustrate those who work with and against him. I am not certain of this but it seems to be so. My response to that criticism, after suffering through years of Cleveland Sports trades where I shake my head and say “What just happened here?”, is GO GET EM CG!!! I really think that, when you have the cap space and assets to hold them over another team’s head, you must do it or be destined to failure.
As to the first possible draft mistake, the Cavalier front office could NEVER be saddled with that criticism. If nothing else, they stay firm to their philosophy of doing it the “Cavs” way. This year’s selections and draft is a clear indication that they have done it this way consistently since LeBron left the team. The reason anyone who follows the Cavs knows this to be true is the way they defy the “mock drafts” and “draftniks” and pick a player that is almost least expected. Of course this doesn’t apply to the Kyrie Irving selection but there were plenty of fans and media asking them to take Derek Williams and Brandon Knight. I think we know how that would have ended. No All Star player, no rookie of the year, no game closer, and no chance of really turning this thing around. That brings me to the part of this blog where we actually begin to analyze the players the Cavs acquired in this draft.
I have no intention of going into the picks with the depth of Draft Express. I feel that site does a premier job of analyzing the players and giving a tremendous video scouting report. In addition, the great local sites such as Waiting For Next Year are great for draft player analysis. Let’s move on to the pics:
Anthony Bennett is a beast of a player and virtually all of his weaknesses can either be corrected or, at the least, addressed by good coaching and exposure to the NBA. The only “weakness” that can not be corrected is his 6’7″ or 6’8″ height (depending on who you believe). That issue is partially, if not completely, addressed by his 7’1″ wing span. As I view tape on Bennett, he seems to play far bigger than 6’7″ would suggest. He holds his own with the college bigs and his solid body and weight for height should allow him to do the same in the NBA. I am not suggesting he could play center, but even that is not impossible for his size and athletic ability. He fits easily as a power forward and has many of the offensive skills consistent with a small forward. Defensively, he needs to add the intensity and nastiness needed in the NBA but I am quite confident that will come naturally to him once he feels the intensity and physicality at the next level. Plus, he will have Mike Brown’s defensive system and philosophy to carry him through. I am not concerned in the least about his defensive ability at the power forward spot once he has about a half season under his belt. Defense of the small forward spot is another matter entirely. Even there, his athletic build and huge wingspan will allow him to create problems for many small forwards in the league. His lateral quickness will be a liability defensing small forwards so I am not certain how that might work out in the future. My belief is that the Cavs will never start him at the SF position but will play him there in stretches on a match-up basis. That is good enough in my view.
Where Bennett really shines is on the offensive end of the floor. When the Cavs fans see him putting the ball on the floor from mid-court and taking it to the hole with a thunderous dunk, I think any disappointment with the pick will melt away. Especially when he then drifts back to beyond the three point line and drains a 3 on the next possession after the dunk. As all rookies, he will also force shots and get them stuffed and lose the ball trying to outmaneuver a quality NBA defender. I will simply smile knowing that is how this highly skilled young man will get better. At first his intensity will vary and he will be embarrassed from time to time, but I am confident that these experiences will only serve to fortify his reserve to excel. The Cavaliers have probably just acquired an eventual multiple year All Star who will quickly make fans forget Noel or Len or Porter (I am not as sure about Oladepo or McLemore).
In Karasev, the Cleveland front office proved that the best trade is sometimes the one you don’t make. It was not a secret that the Cavs coveted Karasev and tried to trade up to assure they could get him. In this case, as often happens for other teams, he fell to them at 19. This is a huge win for the Cavs. That is not to say I do not have serious reservations about Karasev, because I do. But I am happy that the Cavs let him fall to them knowing he was the one they were trying to get all along. I personally felt that Reggie Bullock was the better choice, but I can certainly see what the Cavs see in Karasev and I feel he will be a solid pick and has tremendous upside (as does Bennett). As I blogged before, I was against the Cavs trading up to get Karasev because of his potential defensive liabilities. In this case they didn’t, so I feel that the offensive potential of the pick will outweigh the defensive deficiencies.
Karasev is an NBA combo 2/3. He can put the ball on the floor, pass with great skill, and shoot with the best in this draft. His shot is a bit low (like Caspi’s) but his release is so fast that he will not be easy to block. He also seems to have a real sense for the mid-range game even though he plays below the rim. He is athletic enough to run the floor and crafty enough to actually run the offense in a pinch. I like his total package as an offensive player and only hope that his lack of lateral quickness doesn’t bite the Cavs in the butt. I sure hope Mike Brown’s defense will cover up some of the Cavs obvious problems staying in front of their man.
In Felix the Cavs have a defensive specialist who has almost no body fat, is 6’6″, and can guard multiple positions. I can see why they took him even though his talent level seemed to slot him for a much lower second round pick. He is a smart young man (has a master’s degree) and has great character by all reports. He goes 100% at all times in the game and in practice. This is a great person to have on the team and certainly fits a specialists role if not a full time rotational player. It is possible that he does become a full time rotational player because of his defensive ability to guard from the point to the 4 position. Kind of like a “poor man’s” Victor Oladepo. Not nearly the player for sure but a good piece to have on a championship team.
In their first two picks, the Cavs probably went for great offensive potential because they felt Brown could teach and demand defense but couldn’t make a player an offensive threat. By drafting this way, they allow Brown to coach to his strengths without the Cavs worrying who can make the next basket. In Felix, they gave Brown a tool to use in his defensive schemes that the Cavs other players could not easily fill.
I am very disappointed with the Cavs simply giving away the first pick in the second round simply because it exceeded their rookie quota. I respect the decision but, if they draft a player who is ineffective, they could simply cut him and swallow the minor cap inconvenience. Many players fell into the second round that were thought to be first round talent. I am not sure why the Cavs could not have used that to acquire another useful player. I realize I am in the minority on this point. But it is a consistent Cavs approach that I simply disagree with.
With that only minor negative and the whole free agent season ahead of us, I am completely optimistic that the Cavs will take another big step forward. I feel they are confidently moving toward building a quality and sustainable team that will not just compete for the playoffs but a run at an NBA title. There is still a long way to go, but this draft is another solid step in that direction.