Posted May 21, 2014 12:36 AM
The Cavaliers. Of course the Cavaliers.
The franchise's other annual rite of passage, along with firing Mike Brown as coach, took place Tuesday night as Cleveland won the lottery for the third time in four years, going from the ninth-best odds to No. 1.
That was luck. Now they need skill.
David Griffin, on stage in New York for the unveiling of the first 14 selections, takes over as general manager needing a coach, a direct hit at the top of the Draft after the disastrous rookie season of 2013 first pick Anthony Bennett and no sure thing staring back. Cleveland has a need at center (Joel Embiid) and small forward (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker), but will also strongly consider trades to break out of the lottery malaise once and for all.
The organization that previously seemed to delight in shock value on draft night - Tristan Thompson fourth in 2011, Bennett last year - has a very tough call ahead. Part of the decision will obviously be based on medical reviews of Embiid's back injury, part on knowing Andrew Bynum started almost one-fourth of last season, part on the gut within the front office of whether the Cavs have a chance to re-sign small forward Luol Deng. Being confident they can keep Deng negates the need for Wiggins and Parker.
For now, though, the first mock draft with team needs factored in, now that we know who is picking where, based on conversations with executives, scouts and coaches:
Being able to do more without the ball than Wiggins is a huge selling point for a team that will want the ball in Kyrie Irving's hands. Parker is the most NBA-ready top prospect, without the same high ceiling as some of the others but also without the same risk. That could become the deciding factor for a general manager who likes job security. He could play some power forward.
The feeling among a lot of front offices is that the back injury will turn out to be a temporary setback at the end of his college career, not a serious problem that will last into the pros. Teams picking at the top of the draft will obviously scour the medical reports to find out for themselves. Let the rise from unknown to the top three continue.
The son of former Bulls, Rockets and 76ers guard Mitchell Wiggins improved in the second half before exiting the tournament with the much-publicized 1-for-6 shooting night against Stanford. Teams still see great upside, with the stunning athleticism as a starting point, while acknowledging Wiggins is partly a victim to massive preseason hype. There are also concerns about not playing hard all the time.
This is as much about Orlando's belief in whether Victor Oladipo can really become a point guard or if it should call off the experiment and put Oladipo at shooting guard, his natural position. The problem is, Exum, for all the hype, is no clear answer. Some teams see him as more of a combo guard, or even more shooting guard, than playmaker.
Utah is in a tough spot, with point guards and power forwards on the board and Trey Burke and Derrick Favors on the roster and soon after a big financial commitment to Favors. But Randle, with a physical presence and a nonstop motor, has a chance to be special. Take him as the best player and consider trade possibilities.
Vonleh can play physical inside or step outside and hit shots from the perimeter, a promising start after one season as one of the fast-risers on the board. He is going in a very good direction.
A guy who does a lot for a team that needs a lot. Gordon's lack of perimeter game is a concern for someone who might play small forward, but he is an elite athlete who should grow into being able to defend multiple positions, only plays hard and has an advanced feel for the game for someone who doesn't turn 19 until about six weeks before training camp.
Smart will be a physical force, has a chance to be very good defensively and has a great attitude, but the team that takes him will have to see a true point guard through an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.8-2.6 on a college squad with other NBA prospects. Some front offices do see it.
A small forward who can shoot for a roster with non-shooter Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? Sold. McDermott has range and the experience of four years in college. The lack of athleticism will hurt on defense and in his ability to create on offense.
Apparently Andrew Bynum and Spencer Hawes were not the answer at center. Nurkic does not show star potential, but he is on an upward trajectory of improvements, a consistent physical presence and good energy.
A strong possibility for the 2013 lottery before withdrawing late, Saric has very good instincts and can play in transition or halfcourt. The concerns are that he is turnover prone and has an inconsistent shot.
Hood went from Mississippi State to sitting out last season as a transfer to pushing into lottery contention as a catch-and-shoot specialist with 3-point range. The 42 percent from behind the arc and 80.7 from the line draws attention.
The 41 points in the Spartans' tournament opener, while suffering from mononucleosis, was merely the public notice to the masses. Payne showed an expanded offensive game all season and added muscle, the kind of upward trajectory front offices love to see. He already has the athleticism.
Phoenix already has a nice backcourt with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, but Stauskas is more of a prototype shooting guard who can also handle the ball. He shot 47 percent overall, 44.2 percent on 3s, packed a lot of experience in pressure situations into two college seasons -- the Big Ten Player of the Year checks a lot of boxes.
Harris' stock took a slight hit as a shooting guard who went from 45.6 percent from the field as a freshman to 42.9 in 2013-14 and from 41.1 percent on 3s to 35.2. He has good strength and can get to the rim, even though a little undersized.
This is too low for the best true point guard available, though without physical wow factor of Exum or Smart, but it's tough to find a team with a pressing point guard need around 10 to 14 if the Magic choose Exum near the top. Ennis won over front offices and went from prospect for the future to the immediate impact of one of the best freshmen in the country with steady play and composure beyond his years.
Hairston finished his season with the Texas Legends at 21.8 points and 32.3 minutes in 26 games, reinforcing his standing as a first-rounder who can score from the perimeter or go hard to the rim. Teams will look hard at his background after being suspended by the NCAA, in part over some acquaintances.
He moved well into the first round with good showings in France, then pushed into lottery contention by flashing mobility to go with the size and toughness inside. Phoenix does not want three rookies on the roster. A nice prospect who could spend another season overseas is an ideal outcome here.
He can handle the ball for a forward, is versatile, has good size and a nice feel for the game. A lack of athleticism that will hurt his ability to create and defend, though, and some teams see the possible future role as a point forward oversold because NBA defenses will take away a lot of what made him effective in college.
The chance to let LaVine develop behind Lowry is worth strong consideration amid questions from teams whether he is a true point guard. UCLA didn't play him there last season, but LaVine, an electric athlete, insists that is his true position. If he proves it, there is a real big upside.
For depth, because Oklahoma City seems to be in decent shape at small forward. Without any consistent 3-point range, Warren can score in bunches, has nice instincts and does damage on the boards.
Though he doesn't have ideal athleticism, Young will be a nice scoring addition for any team. Memphis in particular can use the points, and especially from the perimeter. Playing when defenses have to pay so much attention to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph inside would be a good way to break into the league.
Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown called him a human stat sheet. McDaniels scores, rebounds and blocks shots as a mega-athlete who will be able to use those physical gifts to overcome the size disadvantage waiting for him in the frontcourt in the pros.
While he won't beat many people off the dribble, a potential problem, Micic is a pass-first point guard with vision, size and the ability to deliver the ball at the right time and place. He would be a nice complement off the bench to the smaller, quicker Kemba Walker.
Harvey's son/Horace's nephew, a reserve for the Orangemen, scores, rebounds and has the kind of wingspan and athleticism that indicates he could become a standout defender.
Payton has good size, ball skills, defends and experience with the United States under-19 national team last summer. He didn't face top competition much in 2013-14, and when he did: 6-for-19 against Baylor, 3-for-11 against Louisville, 9-for-20 against Creighton. The jumper has been a question all along.
It is possible Phoenix does the draft-and-stash twice in the same draft. The Suns will also look at trades. Porzingis is 18, already making a contribution for a team in Spain in the second-best league in the world and moves very well for a big man who could keep growing.
The son of Big Dog Robinson, in the lottery conversation at the start of the season, did not take advantage of the chance to star after the departures of 2013 first-rounders Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. and the injury to Mitch McGary. The Clippers were picking up a lot of small forwards -- Danny Granger, Hedo Turkoglu -- for help on the bench.
Oklahoma City has obvious issues at shooting guard, with Thabo Sefolosha having quickly played his way from years as a starter to somewhere near the end of the bench by late in the playoffs. Adams may be the third UCLA product taken, yet could easily turn out to be the best thanks to physical style and scoring instincts.
If McGary is cleared after a serious back injury -- if -- he has a chance to be part of a big-man rotation. The Spurs wouldn't need a major contribution right away, just the certainty he will be able to play and that the NCAA suspension for marijuana use was nothing more than youthful indiscretion.
Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.
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