First Draft

June 8, 2012
Tristan Thompson
Because most Cavalier fans are actually watching the Cavaliers during the winter months – turning half our focus to March Madness when it heats up in late February – we’re never really the college hoops experts we pretend to be when the NBA Draft rolls around.

In reality, there are no true Draft experts. If it was an exact science, Kwame Brown wouldn’t have gone No. 1 overall in 2001 and the man who drafted him wouldn’t have gone No. 3 in 1984. If anyone really knew, the Sonics would’ve chosen Kevin Durant ahead of Greg Oden.

By the time June 28 rolls around, the Cavaliers will put the prospects through the paces – starting that process this weekend as the pre-Draft camp in Chicago tips off. The process then transitions into individual and group workouts as the date draws near.

Each Draft has its own storylines, and the 2012 version is no different. Anthony Davis is the presumptive top pick, but there’s already buzz that UConn center Andre Drummond has a higher upside. With the No. 4 pick, UNC forward Harrison Barnes has been linked to the Cavaliers as has Florida’s Bradley Beal and UK’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Even power forwards Thomas Robinson and Jared Sullinger could be in the mix. (For those rolling their eyes – how many of us had Tristan Thompson three weeks out last year?)

Each player after (and including) Davis has a unique skill-set, and any can help the Wine and Gold – a team in desperate need of added scoring and athleticism at the wing positions. For starters, the Cavs will likely need to replace the 17 points that Antawn Jamison – who may depart as a free agent – will take with him.

One year ago, the Cavaliers drafted their franchise quarterback, Kyrie Irving, and the reigning Rookie of the Year will be one year better when he welcomes this June’s selections at Summer League.

(Both Irving and Tristan Thompson have committed to this year’s run in Vegas and this can only help heading into next season. Last year, both had the distinct disadvantage of being drafted in late June and not working with fellow teammates until mid-December.)

This offseason will continue the new era of Cavaliers basketball – with as many as four draft picks joining free agents, returning veterans and Cleveland’s established sophomores throughout the summer and into Training Camp.

But in the coming three weeks, will examine every step of the process leading up to the Draft – looking back and looking ahead. Beginning Monday, among other aspects of the big day, we’ll take a look at …

Positional Profiles – With an assist from various scouting reports, we’ll break down each position in the Draft – from point guard to center. The Wine and Gold are set at starting point, but still could add depth at No. 24 or with one of their two second round picks.

As an example of the breakdown, here’s what the pre-Draft experts said ahead of Cleveland making their two top picks last June …

Kyrie Irving – top true point guard in the Draft; at 6-2 with a 6-4 wingspan, has similar measureables to Deron Williams and Chris Paul; unselfish and productive – was the National Champ’s top playmaker and go-to guy as a true freshman at Duke; can be dominant or deferential, but always productive; ideal point guard for up-tempo offense, loves to push the ball in the open floor; goes left or right with equal fluidity; extremely creative; high-character kid with fantastic basketball IQ; not the physical specimen John Wall or Derrick Rose were, but still has above average size and strength; excellent finisher at the rim; solid decision-maker; powerful extra gear; efficient shooter (53 pct FG, 90 pct FT, 45 pct 3-pt); battled turf toe injury just eight games into freshman season, but returned to play in NCAA Tournament.

Tristan Thompson – not ideal power forward size at 6-9, but an extremely long (7-2) wingspan with a solid 235-pound frame; struggled against top competition; lefty; played with Samardo Samuels in high school; moves well without the ball; good but not elite athlete by NBA standards, but extremely active around the rim; high-motor, blue-collar player who doesn’t take plays off; footwork and instincts are raw; good in the post over either shoulder and has a nice baby-hook with both hands; good first step but needs to improve his handle; doesn’t need plays called for him to be effective; game is almost confined to the low-block with jumper that needs major work; very poor free throw shooter; is a full year older than his class; potential to be a strong rebounder, especially at the offensive end.

Burning Questions – With the Cavaliers able to go any number of directions with four picks – including a pair of first-rounders – we posit some hypotheticals as to which way they’ll go.

Will the Wine and Gold shock the NBA punditry again at No. 4? Will they do a deal to move up or move down? How many Kentucky Wildcats will go in the first round? Where will Austin Rivers land? Which player, when we look back five years from now, will be the hidden gem of the 2012 Draft?

Wheelings and Dealings – The Cavaliers franchise has been involved in some big Draft day deals in the past – from stealing Brad Daugherty from the Sixers to swapping Keith Lee for Charles Oakley. We’ll take a look back at some of the biggest trades pulled off by the Wine and Gold and other teams – deals that altered teams’ fortunes and even the trajectory of the league itself.

The Cavaliers have been in the middle of a few Draft rumors heading into this year’s event and that chorus of speculation should only get louder as June 28 approaches. We’ll take a look at which prospective deals make sense and which ones don’t.

Mock Draft – As we established in the open, no one is a true expert at the Draft. By the time late June rolls around, mock drafts will be written and re-written and very few of them will even escape the Lottery selections unscathed.

In the next couple weeks, we’ll assemble our own group of “Draft experts” to put together a mock draft that predicts not only where the Wine and Gold will select, but which way Cleveland’s competition might go.

Steals and Sleepers – Each year, experts like us can sort through the Lottery selections and even have a grasp of the entire first round. But every year, a player slips through the cracks – a player no one had heard of on Draft night who becomes an integral part of that team’s success.

On last year’s list, players like Isaiah Thomas, Chandler Parsons and Iman Shumpert made our list of players who might’ve been overlooked in the weeks leading up to the Draft, but who were picked and then produced.

By the Numbers – There’s no telling who’ll be available when the Cavaliers make their selections, but we can look back to see what type of player might be available when the Cavaliers make their selections.

The No. 4 overall pick has produced the likes of Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Chris Bosh, Lamar Odom and Antawn Jamison. We’ll break down some of the other booms and busts that the fourth pick has produced. And we’ll do the same for past No. 24, 33 and 34th picks as well.