Even if the Cleveland Cavaliers had the No. 1 overall pick, there was no way they would have selected Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart with their draft pick. Considering he plays the same position as Kyrie Irving, choosing Smart at the top of the draft would have been a head-scratching move on the part of general manager Chris Grant and his staff.
But Smart, who this week announced that he would be returning to Stillwater for his sophomore season, still has a major impact on the Cavaliers drafting strategy. With Smart (a guaranteed top-3 pick) out of the draft, that bumps everyone below him (namely Georgetown small forward Otto Porter) up a spot. And thus, it could be harder for the Cavaliers to nag the player they want come June 27.
Let’s take a look at the latest Big Board from Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix – which included Smart.
1. Nerlens Noel, PF/C, Kentucky
2. Ben McLemore, G, Kansas
3. Marcus Smart, PG/SG, Oklahoma State
4. Anthony Bennett, SF/PF, UNLV
5. Trey Burke, G, Michigan
6. Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
7. Victor Oladipo, G, Indiana
8. Shabazz Muhammad, SG, UCLA
9. Cody Zeller, PF/C, Indiana
10. Alex Len, C, Maryland
Out of those 10 ex-student athletes, only three (Noel, Bennett and Porter) fit right into what the Cavaliers want to do with their team. Other players, like McLemore or Oladipo, fill a position that the Cavaliers already are stocked up on.
This becomes even more of a problem now. As it stands now, the Cavaliers hold a 15.6 percent chance of landing the top pick in the draft – only behind the Bobcats and Magic for worse records. However, since the NBA uses a lottery method instead of a standard “worst team drafts first” method, it’s up in the air as to where the Cavaliers will actually pick in the draft this year. It’s all but certain that they will draft in the top six, but let’s say the Cavaliers end up at six. In all likelihood, Noel, Bennett and Porter will be off the board. Porter, who in some mock drafts had fallen down to six, is all but certain to be selected before that pick because of Smart’s absence from this draft.
At that point, it’s hard to see whom the Cavaliers could take at that selection that could come in right away and make an instant, significant impact. Cody Zeller? No thank you to the twin Zellers as the building blocks for the front line. Alex Len? I’ll pass. Shabazz Muhammad? I’m not convinced that he is worth the risk.
The point is this: Smart deciding to go back to school is one of the worst things that could have happened to the Cavaliers. Everyone rated below him on team’s big boards are going to be pushed up and taken higher. If the Cavaliers get a top three pick, it will all work out in their favor and they can get one of their guys. But if not, and they end up with a later pick thanks to an unlucky bounce of a lottery ball, then it could get interesting.