The Optimist

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Good afternoon, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea! It’s your old buddy – the Optimist. And if it’s Friday, June 17, 2011, that must mean one of two things. Either A. it’s the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s War on Drugs, or B. it’s time for another power-packed episode of NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE.

I’m not sure who actually won the War on Drugs. I’m pretty sure we did, but it’s so tough to tell without a final score. Either way, I’m absolutely positive that the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Title less than a week ago.

Now, this isn’t going to be some vindictive diatribe against former Cavaliers. I can be neither more succinctly accurate than Dan Gilbert’s tweet nor as poignant as Joe Posnanski’s brilliant column for Sports Illustrated this past week.

And as a natural-born optimist, I’d always rather light a candle than curse one’s darkness.

That being said: What we saw in the 2011 NBA Finals was that team basketball trumps all.

Do you need a superstar to win the whole enchilada? Sure. But the Mavericks proved that a solid, well-coached supporting cast can push a team over the top. Dirk was sensational. But he couldn’t have done it without contributions from Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, J.J. Barea and that bald dude from “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

As for the Miami Heat and their “Big Three” of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and former Cavalier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas – there’s always next year. Wade and Bosh were intermittently brilliant in the series, but Big Z disappeared so often in the fourth quarter, it was almost like he wasn’t dressed
to play.

As for Miami’s other Northeast Ohio transplant, LeBron James … you readers know how I feel about him. He never made out with my woman or knowingly stole anything off my person, so I don’t have any true ill will towards him. Overall, he’s a pretty good kid who made a pretty bad Decision. And he averaged 17.8 ppg in the Finals.

In every way, I’m glad that the 2010-11 season is finally over. Because our beloved Cavaliers have bigger fish to fry. And that big fish fry goes down this Thursday night in New Jersey.

As we all know, the Wine and Gold have FOUR selections in this year’s NBA Draft – including the 1st and 4th overall picks.

I don’t do Mock Drafts on no more. I did one way, way back in 2004 that was a complete train wreck.

In my 2004 Mock Draft, I had the Cavaliers taking Jameer Nelson at No. 10 overall and, instead, they took Luke Jackson. Luke was a good enough guy with nice hair and political science degree, but he averaged 2.7 ppg in 46 games as a Cavalier. Those numbers suck.


But just to show that I was just as confused as the guys who picked Luke, I had Emeka Okafor going over Dwight Howard at No. 1 and – better yet – former Cavalier stiff, Martynas Andriuskevicius going No. 7 overall to the Phoenix Suns.

So, in the best interest of the franchise I so dearly love, I’ve decided to refrain from any sort of mock drafting.

I’ll leave the mocking to Chad Ford and Ian Thompsen and the actual drafting to Chris Grant, David Griffin, Wes Wilcox and the all-knowing, all-feeling Cavaliers Brass. They’ve done a phenomenal job so far, and I’m confident they’ll take us the rest of the way. Cavs fans can also take solace in the fact that, in a Draft thick with overseas prospects, the Wine and Gold have the best international scout in the business – the great Chico Averbuck.

Instead, in today’s Draft-themed NEWS … AROUND … THE … LEAGUE, I’d simply like to discuss a few players that I find interesting – anywhere on the Draft board. What do any of us layman really know from a few YouTube highlights anyway?

Unfortunately, this Draft-talk won’t allow us to cover several topics of global importance, like the tragic hockey riots in lovely Vancouver, the resignation of Anthony Weiner or even the ongoing saga of Terrell Pryor, who Coach Woody Hayes would have punched in the face on national TV for besmirching The Ohio State University in such a way.

I did, however, want to pass along my congratulations to Sheikh Dr. Ayman Zawahri, who finally busted through the glass ceiling and, this week, was named Al Qaeda’s new terror chief.

I’d also like to advise Dr. Zawahri that if you hear a slight rustling sound in the middle of the night, please don’t be alarmed. It’s just the Navy SEALS coming to kill you.

With that in mind, let’s buckle up and talk some NBA Draft in this week’s N.A.T.L.

Feeling the Draft – I’ve broken down my Draft prospects into two categories: American and non-American ballplayers. That’s not a jingoistic jab at international players. If it was, I’d have labeled them “Un-Americans.” No, they’ll be Americans soon enough – eating Quarter Pounder value meals and driving on the wrong side of the road.

It also shouldn’t be intimated that I don’t like any players that’ve been omitted. Guys like Arizona’s Derrick Williams, FSU’s Chris Singleton, Colorado’s Alec Burks, USC’s Nikola Vucevic or OSU’s David Lighty would all look good in the Wine and Gold. And don’t you think it kills me not to discuss a guy named “Bismack Biyombo”?

These are just the eight guys I feel like writing about …

Kyrie Irving – The precocious point guard and presumptive top pick could be a Cavalier when we next speak. Wisely, the Cavs haven’t tipped their hand, but, to paraphrase Nick Gilbert: What’s not to like about Irving? He’s the whole package at point guard. He seems like he’s got a great head on his shoulders. He was tough enough to return for last year’s NCAA Tourney. And he sort of looks like a little version of Brad Daugherty – which I feel is a good sign.

Norris Cole – This one is just a vanity pick for me, seeing as how Cole matriculated at my beloved alma mater, Concrete State University. The lightning-quick and physically-tough Cole has a chance to be the first Viking drafted since Clinton Smith, who was selected back when I was in college – somewhere between the Stone Age and Bronze Age. I’ve had the pleasure of watching Cole play in person and the kid is legit. Plus, his hair is awesome to the max.

Kenneth Faried – Just like 50,000,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong, there’s no getting around Kenneth Faried’s rebounding numbers at Morehead State. He grabbed a jaw-dropping 1,673 boards – a modern-day record – in four years at Morehead. This past season, the undersized (6-7) power forward averaged 13.3 boards per contest and helped his school knock off the heavyweight Louisville Cardinals in this year’s NCAA Tournament. He doesn’t play above the rim, but he does all the dirty work. They’ll always be a place for a guy like that in the NBA.

Jimmer Fredette – I’ve heard Jimmer labeled as “the next Mark Price” by a local radio show host, and while I think that’s a possible stretch, I do believe that the BYU star is the most “Price-like” player I’ve seen since the former Cavs great retired in 1998. He’s not a total chucker, like George Costanza, but the Jimmer will fire it up from anywhere on the floor. He averaged almost 29 ppg last season in Provo and has reportedly been killing it in workouts. Where he winds up will be one of this Draft night’s big stories.

Jonas Valanciunas – Like Faried, it’s impossible to ignore Valanciunas’ numbers, even if they’re earned against inferior overseas competition. He’s a legitimate seven-footer with a 7-6 wingspan. He’s still a teenager and might need a few years of seasoning, but for a chance, time is on the Cavaliers’ side.

Jan Vesely - Europeans aren’t known for their open-court exploits or dunking skills, but Jan Vesely – known in certain circles as the “Dunking Ninja” – has made his bones doing exactly that. And in that respect – along with the fact that he’s a 6-11 small forward – I find him quite intriguing. Reportedly, he’s a fiery, emotional player as well. Vesely could be fun to watch Stateside.

Donatas Motiejunas – I don’t know a ton about Motiejunas other than – like Valanciunas – he’s a young seven-footer from Lithuania. What caught my eye is that he’s from Kaunas, the same city that produced the likes of Arvydas Sabonis, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Martynas Andriuskevicius and Linas Kleiza. At first blush, this seems like an amazing coincidence, until you learn – as I have – that every single person in Kaunas is at least seven feet tall. The acting mayor is 13 feet tall and newborns, on average, are the size of Earl Boykins.

Enes Kanter – Depending on who’s Mock you’re paying attention to, Kanter is either rising or falling on this year’s Draft board. It’s likely more pre-Draft posturing than anything. Kanter may not be a seven-footer, but his skillset – (what we’ve seen of it) – looks to be pretty impressive. He’s got ball skills, can play around the basket or pick and pop. At just 19, he’s already got a sturdy, pro-ready frame. Pairing him with an equally-bruising big man in Semih Erden could be a Turkish delight for Cavalier fans.

There you go, sports fans. Everything you’ve read about these potential Draftees is completely factual – especially the part about Kaunas’ 13-foot mayor. Now it’s time to process these facts and get your minds right for the 2011 NBA Draft.

My friends, it’s a great time to be a Cavalier fan! This season, we crawled through a river of crap and came out clean on the other side. A new era of Wine and Gold basketball is about to begin. And I can barely contain my excitement for its arrival.

As for you nerds, whether you’re going down to Progressive Field to take in some fantastic interleague play between the Tribe and Buckos or heading down to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to taste Lady Gaga’s delicious meat dress, please have yourselves a merry little weekend.

And remember, one week from whenever you’re reading this, the Cleveland Cavaliers will be a dramatically, fantastically different franchise. The beautiful part is that all you have to do is sit back and …

Keep the faith, Cleveland

The Optimist