Thanks to the inexorable Nick Gilbert, the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the 1st pick in the draft for the second time in three years. Nerlens Noel seems to be the consensus number one pick and the most likely choice for the Cavaliers. However, Noel-to-Cleveland may not be a sure thing. ESPN’s Chad Ford says the Cavs still might have interest in drafting Otto Porter with the first pick, and Cavaliers GM Chris Grant hinted that the option of trading the first pick isn’t off the table. So as it stands Cleveland has at least three different ways they can go with this pick, which would take them in three very different directions.
Noel’s shot blocking abilities paired with his athleticism is unmatched by anyone else in the draft. Aside from that, he’s quite raw in the skills department. Also, history tells us that big men and knee problems can be a dangerous mixture, ask Portland. The ACL injury will keep Noel out until December, at which point he will have to assimilate himself with the NBA game on the fly mid-season. Noel won’t be able to come in right away and be a difference-maker on a team that is serious about making a playoff push next year.
If the Cavs select Noel, what do they do with Anderson Varejao? When healthy, Varejao is a force on the boards and possesses enough ability to contribute on the offensive side of the ball. A Kyrie Irving-Noel tandem would be a dynamic pick-and-roll pairing that would solidify Cleveland as an uptempo team.
The Cavaliers have been high on Porter from the onset. A lanky wing who can score the ball, Porter would fit nicely into what the Cavs want to do. Porter has a solid all around game and could help the Cavs immediately. On the downside , the 6′ 9″ small forward isn’t a dynamic superstar talent, and he can sometimes be too passive on the offensive end.
If Cleveland were to select Porter, he would immediately fill a whole in the Cavaliers lineup. Porter’s midrange abilities and improving three-point range could help space the floor to allow incumbent guards Irving and Waiters to drive the ball, which is what they do best. Porter is a better fit for what the Cavaliers need than Noel. But does he have the same unique upside?
Trading the first overall pick might be the most ideal situation for Cleveland. Owner Dan Gilbert hasn’t been shy about his aspirations for the playoffs next year. The Cavaliers have two picks in the first round and about $20 million of cap space. They would love to use these commodities for a veteran who could provide maturity to a young team. The problem is, including Noel, there isn’t a standout superstar in this draft. The Cavaliers know it, and so do the other 29 teams. Finding a trade-partner who is willing or even able to give up what the Cavs want is unlikely.
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