Before the Cleveland Cavaliers landed the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, analysts and fans alike had zeroed in on Georgetown small forward Otto Porter as the de facto selection for the Cavaliers. With a huge hole at small forward, the lanky wing seemed like a perfect fit for the Wine and Gold.
But then, for the second time in two years, the Cavaliers had the balls drop in their favor and landed the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. That ball dropping changed everything for the Cavaliers. With a single twist in the plan, the No. 1 pick becomes a hard selection between Porter and Kentucky center Nerlens Noel. Both bring something the Cavaliers are lacking, but for obvious reasons, they are different players.
Otto Porter, small forward, Georgetown
Pros: Porter really would fill a major need at small forward. If he comes in and adjusts quickly, there is no reason that he should be doubted as a key player in the Cavaliers run at a title. Also, he can play defense on the wing, and that’s a skill set the Cavaliers are sorely missing. He’d instantly be a favorite of Mike Brown and would mesh well with Kyrie Irving.
Cons: I’m as high on Porter as anyone, but he realistically isn’t going to be a franchise-defining player. Granted, the Cavaliers don’t need that, but there is a certain gravitas that comes with being a No. 1 overall pick. Porter won’t provide that, and I think Noel, at the very least, has the potential to do that.
Nerlens Noel, center, Kentucky
Pros: Noel is a shot blocker, and that’s a skill no Cavalier has. No Cavalier big man averages more than a block per game, and that has to change if the Cavaliers want to become an elite defensive team. Once healthy, Noel can come in and make an impact right away on the defense end. And with Noel included, there are a lot of fun lineups in play for the Wine and Gold frontcourt.
Cons: Noel is going to miss most of next year due to his ACL injury, and it’ll be his sophomore season when he’s fully ready to return to action. Also, the Cavaliers just spent a first round pick on Tyler Zeller last season and it’s too early to give up on him yet. Drafting Noel would create a logjam at center that would take a lot of time to sort out. If the Cavaliers are serious about making the playoffs next season, they really don’t have time.
The Cavaliers have to take Noel. He’s going to be a better player in the long run than Porter and, once healthy, he’s going to make an instant impact on defense. Also, there are other ways for the Cavaliers to find an adequate small forward. Zeller could be used as a trade chip, while the 19th pick could also result in a small forward. And when you throw free agency into the mix, it’s pretty clear that Noel has to be the pick. It’s ultimately much harder to find a good shoot blocking center than a do-it-all small forward.