When big news breaks in the NBA, Right Down Euclid’s Chris Manning and RDE editor Zak Kolesar have you covered. In this edition of “Countertop Conversation,” Chris and Zak are joined by staff writers Dan Pilar and Trevor Magnotti in their discussion of the Cavaliers draft strategy.
For the second time in two years, the Cleveland Cavaliers nabbed the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. While this class is considered to be weaker than most, two players seem to be perfect fits for the Cavaliers. The debate on whether or not Cleveland should select Kentucky center Nerlens Noel or Georgetown small forward Otto Porter will surely continue to heat up until the start of the draft. And remember: The draft is just the starting point of a very important offseason on the shores of Lake Erie.
CM: For the Cavaliers, the draft lottery could not have gone better. In the weakest draft class in years, the Cavaliers are in the position to draft the one player who could become a big star and help define a franchise. And considering the Cavaliers’ issues with defending the paint, Noel could be a slam dunk pick. But with issues existing at small forward as well, Otto Porter could also be a good selection. This brings up an obvious question: How should the Cavaliers approach this NBA Draft?
ZK: I think Trevor’s draft profile on Noel summed it up perfectly. He is too much of a freak of an athlete to pass on, even considering the ACL injury he suffered that would put him at the earliest at a December return. Small forward is the greater positional need, but Noel fit better with the mix of the team. Anderson Varejao will likely be gone after this next season, so having a dominant shot blocker to come in and take his place would be ideal. Pick up O.J. Mayo in free agency, and we’re looking at a future Irving-Waiters-Mayo-Thompson-Noel lineup.
DP: Well I guess I’m the only one here who thinks drafting Noel is NOT the way to go. During my middle school history class days, if there is one thing I learned it was that history repeats itself. If you go back and look at the history of No. 1 picks that are centers, it’s pretty poor. I’ll be writing about it this week, but he matches up horribly against the centers the Cavs play against the most (Central Division). Otto Porter is a helluva player. He won’t lead our team, though. He’ll only be a complimentary piece, and that’s what we need him to be with Kyrie and Dion leading the way.
TM: I honestly think either of these two players would be a perfect fit on the Cavaliers going forward, which is why we are in such a good position. By drafting Noel, you’re getting one of the best athletes to play the center position in years, someone who will be a defensive anchor in the middle and form a devastating pick-and-roll combo with Kyrie Irving. Porter also helps the Cavs on both ends because he’s a great perimeter defender, something the Cavs desperately need and can also compliment Irving and Waiters thanks to his abilities as a slasher. What makes the difference for me is that the Cavs will be hard-pressed to find a rim protector in the draft or free agency if they don’t take Noel because many of the guys that fit that bill in the draft will be gone by that point, and the best rim protector that will be available for cheap in free agency is Brandan Wright. Draft Noel, and you can easily fill the small forward position through the draft with a guy like Dario Saric or Sergey Karasev, or in free agency with a guy like Corey Brewer or Kyle Korver. That’s a much better situation to me.
CM: For the record, Andre Iguodala is also a free agent as well. As for the draft, Noel has to be the pick. He’s the lone talent in this draft that has the potential to be an All-Star and help change the course of the franchise. Three years from now, you could have a core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Nerlens Noel and Tristan Thompson. Assuming everyone develops and stays healthy, that’s a damn good building block for a perennial contender. I like Porter – a lot – but the upside just isn’t there. At No. 1 overall, Noel is really the one option, and from a non-basketball standpoint, how anti-climatic would it be for the fan base to take Porter over Noel when basically every credible media outlet around is saying Noel is the pick?
DP: If every credible media source told you to jump off a bridge, would you? The time is now for the Cavs, and Gilbert has said it. They don’t have time to wait on Noel for him to heal and develop into the player who he could be. The owner of the team doesn’t want to be back in the lottery next year. Porter is the way to go, and I wouldn’t even rule out Victor Oladipo. I know it sounds crazy, but Gilbert told ESPN Cleveland’s Tony Rizzo he loves Indiana’s Oladipo. He would fit perfectly in Mike Brown’s defense-first approach. Look at the Eastern Conference playoffs: Small forwards are dominating. Porter matches up well immediately with guys, and with coaching from Brown, this guy can be just as effective on defense as on offense.
ZK: If the Cavs don’t want to make it back to the lottery next season, then Oladipo is definitely not the way to go. I get where you are coming from regarding your defensive stance, but I think drafting a SG with that top pick (even Ben McLemore) would be a huge mistake. You can argue all you want that Harrison Barnes was the better pick at No. 4 last season, but there’s nothing you can do about that now. We drafted Dion at No. 4 to be a starter, and after watching the tremendous strides that Tristan Thompson made this season, I’m excited to see what leaps Dion makes in his game under Mike Brown. Tristan added multiple offensive weapons to his catalog, and Dion has so much more at his disposal than Tristan had going into his sophomore season. Remember, Dion came into the summer league and training camp out of shape due to sitting out workouts thanks to an injury. We can find a starting three in free agency, I’m sure of that, but I’m positive we won’t be able to find a game changer like Nerlens.
TM: I agree with Zak. The thing you have to remember is that the free agency crop isn’t strong this summer, combining with the weak draft. There are very few difference makers available in the frontcourt, especially in the form of a rim-protecting big. The top centers available this summer are Andrew Bynum (injury risk), Nikola Pekovic (not a rim protector), Dwight Howard (don’t want that circus), Al Jefferson (elow the rim player, not a good defender) and Chris Kaman (old). Then you get into J.J. Hickson and Sam Dalembert territory. At small forward, you have plenty of available guys who could make an impact, basically taking your pick between Kyle Korver, Corey Brewer, Dorell Wright, Matt Barnes and Martell Webster. I feel this should definitely be a factor in deciding who the Cavs draft, and the fact is that taking Noel and signing one of those five small forwards is a better situation than going with Porter, a raw big at 19 and one of the available free agents.