After breaking down the 19th pick, the 31st pick and the 33rd pick, Right Down Euclid’s Chris Manning is back to do a three-part series on the No. 1 overall pick. In this post — the last of three —Chris takes a look at the several options the Cavaliers have at the top of the draft.
Unlike other years, this year’s NBA Draft is devoid of a consensus, rock-solid top talent. This holds especially true for the Cavaliers, who are in between a rock and a hard place due to the complexion of their roster. On one end, there is Nerlens Noel, the Kentucky center coming off ACL surgery. While there is risk, he’s the kind of player that could greatly improve the Cavaliers interior defense. On the other end, there are a group that all have their pros and cons. For example, Ben McLemore – who ultimately may be the best player in the draft – also plays the same position as last year’s top pick, Dion Waiters. Then there’s Otto Porter, a player who fills the Cavaliers biggest need but has a fairly limited ceiling.
And then there is a group of players I think make no sense for the Wine and Gold. That trio is as follows: Maryland center Alex Len, Indiana guard Victor Oladipo and UNLV forward Anthony Bennett. Oladipo and Bennett both are going to be good players but aren’t a natural fit on this Cavaliers roster. This brings me to Len.
There are growing rumors out there that indicate that Len, who like Noel has injury concerns, is becoming the Cavaliers man at the top spot. ESPN draft guru Chad Ford shot down these rumors in his latest chat, but they are still out there. Which leads me to ask this question: If you believe Noel and Len are equal prospects – which they aren’t – you’d logically have to pick the player based on their injuries. And when it comes down to it, Noel’s ACL injury is less of a concern long term than Len’s ankle stress factures. It’s that simple.
With that said, let’s look at the pros and cons of the three players I see as the top three options for the Cavaliers at No. 1, in order: Noel, McLemore and Porter.
1. Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
Pros: Noel, assuming he comes back fully healthy, is going to be an instant defensive force (something that Cavaliers statistically need) in the NBA when he makes his debut. He has a lower overall ceiling than fellow Kentucky product Anthony Davis, but with the Cavaliers already having Kyrie Irving, the franchise doesn’t necessarily need a franchise-defining talent. In regards to his rehab, it’s reportedly going well, and he’s also gained a healthy 12 pounds since the NBA Combine. For my dollar, Noel has to be the pick.
Cons: The only con out there is the ACL injury. Reports have surfaced that it’s not going as well as hoped, but those reports haven’t gained traction from major media outlets. He’s with the renowned James Andrews, who has a history of helping the best tathletes recover fully. I truly believe that this injury isn’t as big of a deal as some have made it out to be
2. Ben McLemore, SG, Kansas,
Pros: McLemore is compared to Ray Allen and the general consensus is that he is more athletic than the surefire Hall of Famer. Take a second to soak that thought in and imagine a player like that as a long-term backcourt mate alongside Kyrie Irving. Plus, the Cavaliers are always in need of scoring. That alone could make McLemore the pick.
Cons: Like Oladipo, McLemore plays the same position as Waiters. With neither guard being a taller shooting guard, the Cavaliers would have to go small on the wings to play them together. It could work, but there are a large number of questions that would need to be answered. Also, shooting guard is the Cavaliers deepest position, as Waiters, C.J. Miles and Wayne Ellington could also conceivably be under contract next season. Adding another body into the mix doesn’t exactly help that.
3. Otto Porter, SF, Georgetown
Pros: Porter would fill the biggest positional need on the roster and is probably the safest pick in this draft. He won’t ever be elite as a player or in a singular area, but every contender needs a jack-of-all-trades player. If Porter is the pick and develops into a Danny Green- type player, then he would be a perfect fit for the Cavaliers.
Cons: If the Cavaliers owned the second or third pick, Porter would be an easy pick. But at one, there is a huge difference. At one, due to the hype and stigma of being the top pick, and Porter is not going to be a star. In all likelihood, he may never be an All-Star. With two players that may be perennial All-Stars also in the discussion, the Cavaliers will have to ask themselves if they can take Porter after many months of hype surrounding other players.
I wrote about this dilemma when the Cavaliers won the lottery, and I stand by what I wrote then. For me, it comes down to Noel and Porter, and I think the pick has to be Noel. He has a far higher ceiling and could develop into a real star in the League. In my mind, it has to be Noel at the top. There is no other option.