A New Year means revised goals for a Cleveland Cavaliers franchise that, at this point, looks as if they will be among the teams in the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery. With a record of 8-26 going into Saturday’s game against the Houston Rockets, the Cavs are almost halfway through the 2013-13 NBA season and have won five less games through the same allotted time one season prior.
With multiple trades and leverage sent over from the Miami Heat in exchange for LeBron James, General Manager Chris Grant has stockpiled a heap of picks (some protected), and the bulk of them are (likely) due to happen this upcoming draft. Those could include the Heat’s first round pick (top-10 protected), Sacramento King’s first round pick (top-13 protected), Orlando Magic’s second round pick and the possibility to swap an unfavorable pick with the Lakers own first round pick (top-14 protected).
If the lottery were to happen today (January 5), the Cavaliers would own the third-best chance at securing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. With that said, here are 13 possible targets that the Cavaliers may be looking to snatch up in 2013 in order of seniority.
1. Shabazz Muhammad – Freshman SG at UCLA
After the NCAA deemed arguably the most noteworthy freshman in the nation eligible to play for UCLA this season, the focus from NBA personnel stayed within the state of California. Going into his first season, and most likely final one, at UCLA, Muhammad has improved on his three-point shooting ability. This was a concern for scouts who studied the five-star rated guard/forward. Coming out of high school, he was the most explosive finisher in his class and has showed off his outside ability from time to time. As of now, it looks like the Cavs would have to win the No. 1 pick to take home the prize of the 2013 class.
2. Alex Poythress – Freshman SF/PF at Kentucky
Although listed at both the three and four, Poythress seems like more of the player who thrives in the paint. Going into college he was listed as a strong shooter from the three-point range, but he’s only taken 15 attempts from beyond the arc so far this season. It looks like Poythress is developing into more of a four, which could still come in handy if Anderson Varejao is in fact gone by next season.
3. Glenn Robinson III – Freshman SF at Michigan
We will move on from freshmen after a few more looks, but for now let’s look at a pure small forward. Alonzo Gee is a great asset to the Cavaliers, but I think he’s better suited coming off the bench. Robinson III is the son of former professional basketball player Glenn Robinson, so the sport is in his blood. What I see from the current Michigan freshman is that he is more athletic and a better long-range shooter than Gee. Despite his ball-handling issues, I still see him as more proficient in that category than the current Cavalier starter. He is an answer to Cleveland’s problems at the wing.
4. Nerlens Noel – Freshman PF/C at Kentucky
For now, Tyler Zeller is not the long-term answer for the Cavaliers at center, especially from a defensive standpoint. I know it’s early, but Zeller’s well-exploited game combined with Noel already being heralded as the nation’s best defender has to be intriguing to the Cavalier front office. The Cavs rank last in the league in blocks per game (3.4), while Noel is already averaging 9.3 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 2.6 steals through 13 games. His length would help tremendously with Cleveland’s defensive problems.
5. Ben McLemore – Freshman SG at Kansas
After sitting out last season, McLemore is now ready to make his case as one of the premier athletic wings in the nation. His catch-and-shoot ability would make him a perfect fit for the pick-and-roll offense that the Cavaliers like to run. His mid-range game would compliment that of Kyrie Irving’s, as he would be able to play beside both Dion Waiters and the former Rookie of the Year. For now, McLemore seems to be one of the top prospects on the Cavaliers’ radar.
6. Cody Zeller – Sophomore C at Indiana
Zeller Twin Towers anyone? I don’t think either of the Zeller brothers are fantastic on the defensive side of things, but both run the floor very well and have a mid-range game that makes them difficult threats to cover. Their strength inside is what concerns me, resulting in an unlikely chance that the Cavs will boast both brothers on their roster.
7. Tony Mitchell – Sophomore SF/PF at North Texas
The Mean Green star would add an edge to the Cleveland defense, as he is currently averaging 9.3 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.3 steals. Standing at 6-8, which is about the happy medium for a small forward, the sophomore has already put up more three-point attempts in eight less games than the season prior. Mitchell would be a great asset for the Wine and Gold, but whether he’s still around for the Cavs to pick up later in the first round or early in the second round is the question at hand.
8. Deshaun Thomas – Junior SF/PF at Ohio State
Like McLemore, Thomas is another player that would fit in with the Wine and Gold offensive scheme. His defensive play has seen improvement over the years and he has the ability to match up against fours despite his 6-7 frame. Going into college many questioned his long-range attack, but in his third season as a Buckeye, things have improved immensely. Through 14 games he has already put up 87 attempts from three, knocking down 39.1 percent of them. However, I don’t think he’s the answer at three that the Cavaliers are looking for.
9. Sean Kilpatrick – Junior SG at Cincinnati
Kilpatrick is the type of player that can make adjustments from game to game in order to put his team in the best position to win. I’m not saying that Kilpatrick should be a first rounder because of this, but I do believe that he could be a good rotational player off the bench for the Cavs. Offensively there are few weak spots any place on the floor in his game. He is currently averaging 18.6 points and shooting 34.3 percent from three. His size is only one of the glaring problems in his game, but he counters that with his shiftiness in scoring.
10. Jamaal Franklin – Junior SG/SF at San Diego State
Don’t go and look at the statistics right away because Franklin is a player with a lot of upside with the range and athleticism he das displayed in sparks of excellence. Last year Franklin was named the Mountain West Player of the Year, wowing Aztec fans with his hustle, but he has taken on more of the wing role this season. Franklin would be a great second round pick for the Wine and Gold if he happens to be available.
11. Andre Roberson – Junior SF at Colorado
Could Robinson be the three that the Cavaliers are looking for? He has the follow-through mentality of Tristan Thompson mixed in with finishing ability of Alonzo Gee (just using these as easy-to-make comparisons). Roberson doesn’t possess the qualities to fit Cleveland’s needs at the three (a player who can contribute immensely in offensive production, while also being a three-point threat), but he would fit well in the rotation coming off the bench due to his explosive nature. I don’t see any Paul Pierce-type players in this draft, but Roberson would add athletic depth at the small forward.
12. Michael Snaer – Senior SG at Florida State
Regarding wing players, Snaer is one of the most well-rounded wing players coming into the 2013 NBA Draft. He’s a crunch-time threat from beyond the arc and would bode well in the man-on-man defense that the NBA has to offer. His lockdown mentality, especially off the ball, would make him a great shutdown asset for the Cavaliers and would help tremendously with the defensive problems that are persisting with Irving.
13. Dario Saric – 19-year-old SF/PF at Croatia
I’m not big on international players, but Saric has an even balance of an outside game coupled with the ability to finish strong at the hoop. Just by looks many question his strength, but watching him play tells a different story. He’s very aggressive in the lane and has great length. Coming from a basketball pedigree, he was first noticed due to his ball-handling abilities. As far as foreign players go, he’s close as it gets to a complete package. And wouldn’t it be fun to boast three players from three different countries on the roster at the same time taken if Omri Casspi and Anderson Varejao are around next season?