Wrapping Up the Draft

After months of anticipation, the 2011 NBA Draft has come and gone.

Cleveland had four picks, but after some wheeling and dealing – and a selection of an overseas talent – the Cavaliers introduced their young dynamic duo – No. 1 overall pick, Kyrie Irving and No. 4, Tristan Thompson – on Friday afternoon at Cleveland Clinic Courts.

Cavs GM Chris Grant introduced the pair of “high-quality humans” who will serve as the building blocks of the franchise for the foreseeable future and after a whirlwind Draft process, the smoke has finally settled – for the Cavaliers and their fresh-faced rookies.

With the uncertainty of the offseason, here’s a brief look back on the Draft, the draftees and Friday’s rainy day in the sun …

  • When the Cavaliers two fellow rookies faced off in high school, Irving’s St. Patrick’s team got the best of Thompson’s squad as juniors in February 2009 – dismantling then-unbeaten St. Benedict’s Prep, 88-62. (And Irving reminded Thompson of that fact in a quick trash-talking session on the way to Cleveland Clinic Courts.)

    In Irving’s senior season, St. Benedict’s exacted some revenge, although Thompson had already transferred to Findlay Prep in Nevada.

    St. Pat’s lost by just a single point, although Kyrie still put up 26 points. In that game, future Texas recruit and Thompson’s fellow Canuck, Myck Kabongo – who checked Irving and scored 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter of the 65-64 win – boldly remarked: "Now I want to know who the best guard in New Jersey is?’’

  • Some fans and pundits wondered why the Cavaliers didn’t utilize the No. 32 overall selection on a swingman in this Draft. Players like Tyler Honeycutt, DeAndre Liggins, Chandler Parsons and Dave Lighty were all available. Instead, Cleveland dealt the pick to Orlando for a pair of future second-rounders.

    Chris Grant addressed that decision on Friday afternoon.

    “At that point in the Draft, we had made a decision, based on the number of players we already have on our team and looking at free agency – that the best decision for us was to trade that pick for two future second-round picks and go play in free agency,” said Grant. “We felt like we could get a better player to add to the position of need through free agency. So for us, it was a pretty simple decision.”

  • Like many of you, a question mark appeared over the heads of most media members when Deputy NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced the Cavaliers’ selection at No. 54 overall.

    The pick was bruising 21-year-old Serbian forward, Milan Macvan, who GM Chris Grant and staff observed at the Nike Hoops Summit, describing him as “one of the toughest, nastiest power forwards we’ve ever seen. He absolutely dominated the game and beat everybody up.”

    Macvan has been loosely described as – (have fun with this one) – the “Serbian Kevin Love.” And a couple looks at his highlight reel show that it’s not a totally crazy comparison. Macvan can obviously bang in the post as well as step out and hit the three. (And he’s already got all the NBA celebration moves – including Jason Terry’s “Jet.”)

    Maybe the best description of Macvan comes from the site, Draftexpress.com, which observed him at the Nike Hoops Summit – the same one that propelled Enes Kanter to the top of the
    first round …

    “At first glance, the big man doesn't look like he has the physical tools to play in the NBA, standing somewhere around 6'9" with a big body sporting plenty of baby fat, and unimpressive athleticism. On the court, he makes up for this with his solid wingspan, an incredible basketball IQ, and the fact that he's just stronger and thicker than anybody else on the court.”

  • Speaking of Adam Silver, one of the night’s highlights (after Wizards pick, Jan Vesely, planting a prolonged kiss on his statuesque date) had to be the Prudential Center faithful cheering him as an alternate to David Stern, who they booed and jeered with each selection – seemingly much to Commish’s delight.

    Stern’s only ovation (kinda) was when he playfully announced Denver’s pick of Newark’s own Kenneth Faried, drafted by the Nuggets.

  • In terms of interesting trivia, Kyrie Irving’s godfather (who he calls “uncle”) is former NBA star, Rod Strickland – who grew up in the Bronx with Irving’s father, Drederick.

    Drederick Irving is the second-leading scorer in Boston University history and played professionally in Australia, where Kyrie was born.

  • The Cavaliers front office was active on Thursday night, and they stand to have some busy late-Junes in the foreseeable future. Along with their own picks, the Wine and Gold have a slew of selections that they’ve acquired in recent deals.

    In 2012, the Wine and Gold have Miami’s first rounder and New Orleans’ second rounder. The following year, they once again have Miami’s first rounder, along with Orlando’s second round choice. In 2014, Cleveland gets the Magic’s second rounder once more and have the Heat’s unprotected first round pick again in 2015.

  • On the way to Cleveland Clinic Courts, I asked Kyrie Irivng if he still plans on keeping with the age-old custom of getting the Krispy Kremes for the veterans. Or if being the No. 1 overall pick gets him an exemption, or “first-round bye”?

    “No, I’m going to do everything,” replied the (serious) young point guard. “Just like any other rookie.”

  • Some thought that Tristan Thompson was a reach at No. 4 overall. But according to the Cavaliers Brass – the angular power forward was a target on their radar through the entire process.

    “We actually had him rated much higher than four, to be honest,” admitted Chris Grant on Friday afternoon. “He’s a player that we’ve watched all season, we’re very close to the Texas program. Our scouts did an unbelievable job, going deep and wide with the analysis. He’s a player – basically since high school – that we have been tracking and watching and just loved what he’s about and how he’ll fit into our organization. For us, this was an easy pick.”

  • Is there any argument that Browns cornerback, Joe Haden, should be named an honorary Cavalier? Even in a difficult season, the former Gator has been a faithful fan and supporter.

    Haden, who attended the Draft Lottery with fellow Browns Josh Cribbs and Bernie Kosar, was in attendance when the rookies were announced on Friday afternoon. Afterward, he spoke with both players and even took a few shots on the rims in Independence.

  • By tabbing two rookies who legally aren’t old enough to buy a beer – (Thompson turned 20 this past March; Irving not until next March) – the young Cavaliers got even younger. The average age, excluding veterans Baron Davis, Anthony Parker, Antawn Jamison and Joey Graham, is now exactly 23.0 years of age.

    In ascending order, the Kid Cavaliers consist of Kyrie Irving (19), Tristan Thompson (20), Manny Harris (21), Milan Macvan (21), Samardo Samuels (22), J.J. Hickson (22), Christian Eyenga (22), Luke Harangody (23), Semih Erden (24), Alonzo Gee (24), Daniel Gibson (25), Ramon Sessions (25), Ryan Hollins (26) and Anderson Varejao (28).

  • Samardo Samuels, Semih Erden and Christian Eyenga – along with the entire coaching staff – were on-hand for Friday’s welcome ceremony for the rookies. But according to Cavaliers strength and training staff, the two former rookies – along with other Cavalier youngsters like Alonzo Gee, Manny Harris and veterans Baron Davis and Anderson Varejao are down at the Cleveland Clinic Courts on an almost-daily basis.
  • Friday was an extremely busy day for the rookies, culminating a busy couple months preparing for the Draft. Both of the new Cavaliers talked about how relieved they were that the process was finally over, Irving adding that he’s glad he’ll “never have to look at another Mock Draft for the rest of my life.”

    The players were picked up at Burke Lakefront Airport by Cavs trainer Max Benton and taken directly to Cleveland Clinic’s Sports Health in Garfield Heights for physicals. Benton assured them that these physicals would be “nothing like the ones in Chicago.” Both players were visibly relieved by that.

    When the rookies arrived at Cleveland Clinic Courts and saw that bus loads of children and Cavaliers employees – not to mention an eager media – they were somewhat stunned. Tristan said he thought it would be a press conference with “five or six reporters.”

    Both players were quiet, wide-eyed and nervous at the thought of facing their new extended family before Max Benton turned around and beamed: “Smile guys! It’s a great day in Cleveland!!”

    After the press conference, Kyrie and Tristan – along with Samardo Samuels, Alonzo Gee, Byron Scott and the Cavs coaching staff – traveled out to Shaker Heights to unveil a brand new basketball court at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation - Shaker Campus.

    Afterwards, the Cavaliers young dynamic duo closed out a busy day with a nice dinner at Morton’s. For them, the long Draft process was finally over.

    Now the real work begins.