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 how their opinions on whom the Cleveland Cavaliers will select in the 2013 NBA Draft on Thursday.
After the Cavaliers landed the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery a few weeks back, the writers here at Right Down Euclid sounded off on a previous edition of “Countertop Conversation” that showcased them discussing how the Wine and Gold should approach draft day. Since then, the rumor mill has been spinning furiously and no idea whatsoever hints right now that Cleveland will go a certain way or not. Like Chris mentioned in the last “Countertop Conversation,” the draft is only the beginning of what should be an even busier offseason on the shores of Lake Erie than what it is now. But have the opinions of the RDE staff changed since May 26th when they last sounded off? Read below to see if that’s the case.
Zak Kolesar: When Chris and I were watching the NBA Lottery anxiously waiting to see which top 3 pick we would have when it came down to the final stretch. All we were thinking was, “Nerlens, Nerlens, NERLENS!” and our shouts came to fruition when Nick Gilbert was the last one standing. But now after a few weeks of thinking about it, I’ve flipped. I’m still not on Dan’s side with Victor Oladipo (even though he is one of my favorite prospects in the ’13 class), but Otto Porter is now my man. People may say you’re getting a surefire thing with Porter, but I’m looking out for the betterment of this team in the now. Does Nerlens have the most upside? I’d say so because of his physical attributes (minus his somewhat concerning weight) but we need to make our stars (Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters) better with this pick as well. Porter’s wingspan will make for a great student under new (old) head coach Mike Brown on the defensive side of things, he’s proven to be one of the best all-around players while at Georgetown and he fills the No. 1 need for this team that will no way be filled through free agency this offseason. We’re not banking on anything happening next season, so why not fill our biggest hole while we can?
Dan Pilar: I like how you got off the Noel bandwagon, and have moved on. Porter fills the Cavs’ biggest need. Everyone talks about getting a superstar with the No. 1 pick, but as a lot of experts say their might not be one this year. Porter is a safe pick and is a player that doesn’t need the ball in his hands at all times to be effective, which is good because Waiter and Irving take a lot of shots, as they should. He has great size to guard the small forward — which is rapidly coming the most important position in the NBA. Like Zak just said, I’m still an Oladipo fan. Experts say his ceiling is Dwyane Wade –which I don’t think he will ever get to that status — and floor of Tony Allen. Now Allen isn’t worth the top pick, but if you can guarantee me Oladipo will be a defensive stopper who can hit 3s, then sign me up. His work ethic is better than any player in the league now, and that’s an attribute fans have to love and respect. Other players in the top 5 just have too big of a bust possibility for me to be comfortable taking them No. 1 overall.
TM: Still on the Nerlens Noel bandwagon here. Yeah, Porter and Oladipo might fit well for some people, but neither has the potential upside Noel does. And I think you guys are vastly underrating Noel’s fit with the players already on roster, and his capabilities that he’s already shown. For one, Noel is a proficient scorer out of the pick and roll and on the break, which happen to be two of Kyrie Irving’s biggest strengths. He rebounds well, which is also helpful. Yeah, his shooting sucks, but he’s already a more developed player than Tristan Thompson was coming out of college on offense, and a year younger than Tristan was. He’s a defensive juggernaut, ACL or not; even if his athleticism were limited, you can’t lose that kind of anticipation skill and understanding of team D. Also, the Cavs were awful on that side of the ball and need exactly what Noel brings to the table on defense: shot blocking and PnR D. Got concerns with his weight? He’s added 12 pounds in the past month and is already back at last year’s playing weight, with room to continue growing. And to top it all off, the Cavs’ doctors said Noel’s knee checks out. In fact, every team he’s visited that has looked at his knee has said it was 100% fine and ahead of schedule for rehab. But yet, we’d rather draft Tayshaun Prince 2.0, a shooting guard we don’t need, or the big center with stress fractures that is a project on both ends of the floor. I don’t understand the aversion to Noel on any level. I really don’t.
Chris Manning: If I could copy and paste what Trevor wrote, I would. Like my colleague, I firmly remain on the Noel bandwagon. Out of any prospect in this draft, he has the highest upside the greatest potential to be a difference maker on a Cavaliers team in need of one. And on this Cleveland team, he doesn’t need to ever fully evolve into a dominant, franchise-defining player. Assuming he comes back healthy (and I think that’s a safe bet) he is perfect fit to play alongside Kyrie Irving. He’s a superb pick & roll player and that plays right into Irving’s skill set. And I bring up this point: If you consider Noel and Alex Len to be equal prospects in terms of skill and ceiling, then you have to take a look at their injuries. For my money, I am much more confident in Noel’s ability to recover from his ACL than Len’s ability to recover from stress fractures due to the fact that the former isn’t chronic and the latter has the potential to be. One interesting note, though, is that Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Vitaly Potapenko both are reportedly are pushing to take Len at the top. I’m unsure of how much weight to put into that, but as far I know, that’s two more voices for Len in the Cavaliers front office that there are for Noel.
ZK: Even though Kyrie Irving is obviously the franchise-defining centerpiece for this Wine and Gold team moving forward, that doesn’t mean that another player in this draft can’t be franchise-defining, and again, I think that Porter, if drafted, would benefit this team both in the short term and long term in regards to Kyrie staying here for the long haul. I can’t argue with Chris and Trevor in terms of how well Nerlens would fit into an offense with a sharp-shooting backcourt, and Kyrie, from a distributing standpoint, would see a similar increase in assists as a scoring point guard such as Russell Westbrook saw in his second and third seasons (I’d think we’d see the same with a backdoor-cutting, successful perimeter shooter SF like Porter). But, besides Oladipo who is my second favorite prospect, I don’t think there is any other justifiable option. Chris is absolutely right about Len – why take him when there is a much more athletic, shot-blocking octopus (thanks Trevor) available when the League is calling for players like that?
DP: Why take Len? Because he’s an actual threat in the paint, something the Cavs don’t have right now. If you take Noel, then the core of your front line is Noel, TT and Varejao; three guys who do all their work in the paint, but all skinny as a rail. Taking on Noel becomes a spacing issue with none of them a real scoring threat on the block and makes it easier to defend our guards. Not saying Len is the right choice; I’m just saying as far as playing style, Len makes more sense then Noel. I don’t think any one will be upset about taking Porter. He fits the Cavs biggest need, he just doesn’t have that “sex appeal” as the No. 1 pick.
TM: Dan actually makes a great point that is one of the few positives I could see coming out of drafting Alex Len. Len is a decent mid-range shooter and face-up post player, and when playing with Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao, could be utilized to spread the floor and create spacing for the other players to work. However, I think Noel also will be able to do some of this because offensively, he’s not going to be playing under the basket like Thompson would be on most possessions. He’ll likely be either flashing out to the perimeter to set screens, much like Tyler Zeller’s role in the offense was last year, or set up on the elbow to take advantage of his passing ability, which is much better than Len’s. This is a severely underrated part of Noel’s game, and makes him useful on offense in another way outside of scoring. I could see using Noel in this manner working well offensively. As for Porter, I do agree that he’s a great prospect and would help the team greatly on the perimeter. However, I think you’re underselling the two small forwards that will be available later in the draft, Sergey Karasev and Reggie Bullock. Both guys are great shooters, which is a need for the Cavs that Porter does not solve, and in the case of Bullock, I think he could be just as effective defensively as Porter thanks to his versatility in guarding shooting guards. In my eyes, I can’t see the Cavs pulling the trigger on Porter over Noel or even Len, simply because we know they love both Karasev and Bullock at small forward at the 19th spot.
CM: I think the biggest story to come out of this draft is that the Cavaliers have A) over valued this pick in trade discussions and B) have no idea who they are going to take. I’d be willing to bet that the wild, jubilant and ecstatic celebration put on when they won the lottery have been replaced with long nights of frustration and stress. Trade offers like offering Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and the number one pick show me that Cleveland really doesn’t want this pick and they probably would have been happier selecting third and being able to select Porter with no questions asked. But unless a team like Orlando (who apparently loves Noel) wows the Cavaliers with a last-minute offer, I can’t see the Cavaliers not going with Noel. There are concerns about him, but I think every prospect in this draft have them. Plus, Noel has a higher ceiling than every other prospect – especially Len. He has a lot of room to grow and, based on his play at Kentucky, it’s hard for me to believe that he won’t reach his full ceiling. And Trevor is 100 percent right about the small forward position. Karasev and Bullock would be a nice fit at 19 and would still fill the Cavaliers biggest positional need. They can get everything they need in this draft and it really shouldn’t take much though. Take Noel at one and take a small forward at 19. Pretty simply if you ask me.