Eight is Enough: 2018 Draft Preview

With the Eighth Pick in the 2018 Draft, the Cavs Have Some Decisions to Make
by Joe Gabriele
Cavs.com Managing Editor

Eight Is Enough:
2018 Draft Preview

With the Eighth Pick in the 2018 Draft, the Cavs Have Some Serious Decisions to Make

After some time to lick our wounds from the NBA Finals, it’s time to get right back on the horse. After all, there’s an NBA Draft to deal with.

In the recent past, the Draft was essentially an afterthought – something for other teams to worry about after the Cavaliers and Warriors finished locking horns in the Finals. But this year is different … for any number of reasons.

First and foremost, the Cavaliers have a top 10 pick – acquired from Boston (who acquired it from Brooklyn). They didn’t have the same unprecedented luck that they’ve had in the past – when Nick Gilbert’s good vibes landed Cleveland the top pick in 2011, 2013 and 2014. This year, the Lottery went chalk as far as the Cavs were concerned – and, barring a trade, will be making the 8th overall selection one week from Thursday.

There isn’t a Shaquille O’Neal or LeBron James – a guaranteed No. 1 – in this year’s Draft, although DeAndre Ayton sure seems to be getting all the early buzz up top. After Atyon – plus Duke forward Marvin Bagley and the intriguing international prospect, Luka Doncic – the Draft could shake out any number of ways by the time Cleveland is on the clock.

The Cavs brass has been busy down in Independence, working out some of the potential picks at Cleveland Clinic Courts, and on Thursday, one of them will be posing with Adam Silver, wearing a wine and gold Draft lid. In the meantime, here are some points to consider as Cavs.com continues our coverage leading up to the big night …

High-scoring guard Trae Young fields reporters questions at this past May's Draft Combine.
Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

1. By Position or Best Player Available?

This might be the understatement of the early offseason, but the Cavaliers enter this summer with a few question marks looming overhead.

Put it this way: Last year at this time the Cavaliers were coming off a five-game Finals loss with Kyrie Irving as their point guard. One offseason – and a series of major trades – later and the squad barely resembles the one from last June’s matchup against Golden State.

What the team will look like by the time August rolls around this summer is anyone’s guess.

Will the Cavaliers look to find long, athletic wing? Will they look to bolster their backcourt through the Draft or take their pick from the array of skilled big men?

Before the Golden State Warriors came along, the term “tweener” was a dirty word in the Draft. But these days, two-way wings who don’t have a designed position are among the most coveted players out there. Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith and Michigan State’s Miles Bridges fit that bill.

At the point, a pair of prospects are directly in the Cavaliers’ crosshairs. Oklahoma’s Trae Young is one of the most explosive scorers and distributors to come out of college hoops in a long time and Alabama’s electric Collin Sexton has drawn comparisons to a young Russell Westbrook.

Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton is the class of the Draft in terms of big men, with the player some are calling the Draft’s most physically-gifted, Texas’ Mo Bamba and Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr., not far behind.

And then there’s Michael Porter Jr., the player that’s been most associated with the Cavaliers in most mock drafts. Porter Jr. at one time was thought of as a potential No. 1 overall pick before a back injury sidelined his freshman season. He’s a unique blend of size, athleticism, playmaking and ball-handling skills, but with an infamously thin college resume.

2. Ghosts of Drafts Past

OK, here’s the Cavaliers’ recent Draft history – from LeBron James in 2003 through Sir’Dominic Pointer in 2015 – condensed into seven paragraphs …

The Cavaliers were looking to surround LeBron with shooters almost immediately and took Luke Jackson out of Oregon with the 10th overall pick in 2004. In 2006, they missed on Shannon Brown (25) out of Michigan State and hit with Boobie Gibson (42). In the final consequential Draft of James’ first go-round in Cleveland, the Cavs tabbed J.J. Hickson out of North Carolina State with the 19th overall selection in 2008.

In the Cavaliers first summer of discontent, they selected little-known international high-flier Christian Eyenga at No. 30 and North Carolina swingman Danny Green at 42. “Skyenga” lasted less than two years in the Association; Green won the 2014 NBA title with the Spurs.

In 2011, the Wine & Gold began rebuilding their roster, winning their first of three NBA Lotteries over a four-year span – tabbing Duke’s Kyrie Irving with the top pick (acquired from the Clippers in a trade for Mo Williams) and former Longhorn, Tristan Thompson, at No. 4.

The following June, Cleveland selected Syracuse sixth man, Dion Waiters, with the 4th overall pick and took two players in the second round – Jared Cunningham and Jae Crowder – who they dealt on Draft night but would re-emerge as Cavaliers years later.

With the top pick in 2013, an unusually thin Draft produced a top pick from UNLV, Anthony Bennett. Bennett got off to a notoriously slow start as a rookie and never caught on.

The following year, Bennett was packaged with another No. 1 overall, Andrew Wiggins – whose entire Cavaliers experience came during a few Summer League games before being dealt to Minnesota for Kevin Love. The 33rd pick in that 2014 Draft, Joe Harris, had a pair of quiet seasons with the Wine & Gold before finding a home in Brooklyn – averaging double-digit scoring on 42 percent shooting from deep this past year.

In 2015, the Cavaliers took Sir’Dominic Pointer with the 53rd overall pick – their last selection before next Thursday’s choice. Cleveland didn’t make picks in 2005, ‘07, ‘10, ’16 or ‘17.

3. The Great Eight

Let’s be honest: We’re spoiled.

To wit … and be honest again: You halfway expected Nick Gilbert and the Cavaliers to win this year’s Lottery, didn’t you? You probably knew in your heart of hearts it wasn’t going to happen, but still …

The Phoenix Suns were lined up to get the top pick and that’s exactly how things worked out. The Wine & Gold landed No. 8 – and there have been plenty of solid NBA players who’ve been tabbed at that position over the years (including a couple by the Cavaliers).

The past eight No. 8s are as follows: 2017 - Frank Ntilikina (NYK); 2016 - Marquese Chriss (SAC traded to PHX); 2015 - Stanley Johnson (DET); 2014 - Nik Stauskas (SAC); 2013 - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (DET); 2012 - Terrence Ross (TOR); 2011 - Brandon Knight (DET); 2010 - Al-Farouq Aminu (LAC).

The Cavaliers had the No. 8 pick in three straight seasons at the turn of the century – experiencing varying degrees of success.

In 1999, the Cavs snagged four-year man Andre Miller out of Utah. Miller would go on to play 17 NBA seasons, his first three in Cleveland – including the 2001-02 campaign in which he led the league in assists. In 2000, the Cavs took Michigan sharpshooter Jamal Crawford with the No. 8 pick before immediately trading him to Chicago for the rights to Texas big man, Chris Mihm.

And in 2001, it was relatively unknown big man, DeSagana Diop, who actually had a long NBA career – 12 seasons – despite never averaging more than 2.9 points or 5.4 boards in any of them.

Back in 1986, the Cavaliers rebuilt their entire core – and revived the franchise – in a single Draft – selecting shooting guard Ron Harper out of Miami (OH) with the No. 8 pick, seven slots after taking Brad Daugherty with the top selection and 17 spots before Georgia Tach point guard Mark Price, who Cleveland acquired from the Mavericks.

Other non-Cavs (at least on Draft night) taken with the No. 8 overall choice include Rudy Gay, Channing Frye, Larry Hughes, Vin Baker, Detlef Schrempf, Clark Kellogg and Tom Chambers.

4. Cavalier Possibilities

Cavs.com will do a deeper dive on some of the following players and go position-by-position as the big night approaches, but here is a Cliff’s Notes version of some names who may or may not be available with the Wine & Gold on the clock next Thursday …

Michael Porter Jr., 6-11, 210 – PF – Missouri – One of the top prep prospects in the country coming out of high school, Porter’s freshman season was derailed due to back surgery. He returned to play in the SEC and NCAA Tournament, but was obviously rusty. He’s 6-10 with a 9-0 standing reach (the same as Anthony Davis at the 2012 Draft combine). Scouts love his fluid athleticism, strong playmaking skills and versatility as a two-way wing.

Miles Bridges, 6-6, 220 – F – Michigan State – An explosive athlete and nasty defender, Bridges is two-way wing player who can play several positions; he’s quick enough to match up with guards on perimeter and strong enough to battle forwards. Defensive-minded, Bridges averaged 1.5 blocks per game at MSU. He’s built solidly, like Jae Crowder or P.J. Tucker with a high motor around the hoop.

Collin Sexton, 6-2, 185 – PG – Alabama – The floor general from Bama is slightly undersized but plays with great physicality. He’ll likely need to develop a jumper to be a true scoring threat at the next level. Sexton loves the spotlight, is excellent in transition but is not yet a pure point guard/playmaker. Scouts love that he’s constantly in attack mode, a kid that former NBA player and head coach Avery Johnson called “the fastest guy I’ve ever seen with the basketball, going from one end to the other.”

Wendell Carter Jr., 6-10, 250, PF/C, Duke – A high IQ prospect, Carter is a playmaking big man and floor spacer with a 7-3 wingspan and 9-0 standing reach. The one-and-one big man has mature post game for a young player. He’s a powerful finisher with an NBA-ready body who put up strong numbers in single season at Duke, averaging 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest, shooting 56 percent from the floor and 41 percent from beyond the arc.

Trae Young, 6-2, 180, PG, Oklahoma – Young – who averaged nearly 30.0 points and 9.0 assists through Oklahoma’s first 10 games of the season – might not still be there when the Cavs choose, but they’ll be intrigued if he’s still there. The prolific college shooter and scorer with seemingly limitless range already has scouts comparing him to Steph Curry. Young could be a liability on the defensive end, but his scoring and playmaking skills will be too tantalizing for most teams to pass up.

Zhaire Smith, 6-4, 200, SG, Texas Tech – The first one-and-done player since 2006 who wasn’t a non-top 100 HS recruit, Smith is an elite athlete who does a little bit of everything, especially on the defensive end. He has a high basketball IQ, but is still considered a project offensively. Playing the coveted two-way wing position, Smith has an NBA-ready frame and his excellent workouts have him rising up draft boards over the past couple weeks.

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Eight is Enough - June 11, 2018

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