Amidst the considerable optimism for the Cleveland Cavaliers 2013-14 season that rapidly approaches, I couldn’t help but wonder if the team had missed the boat on a couple of first-round draft selections which could make or break the Cavs rebuilding project. I am as hopeful as anyone to see the team turn things around, especially with the addition of Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark to the roster. While watching the recent Las Vegas Summer League games on TV, I started to play the “what if” game, reconfiguring the Cavs team mentally.
Watching Victor Oladipo’s impressive performances and a few by Ben McLemore started me thinking that what if Chris Grant had elected to draft the best player available instead of reaching for Anthony Bennett with the first overall selection? Bennett may turn out to be a fine player, but for right now all we are seeing are teams that drafted after the Cavs flaunting their shiny new prospects. We will have to wait until September training camp before we have any idea what Bennett is capable of bringing to the team.
So far, Oladipo, playing for the Orlando Magic team, exploded to score 24 points, including a buzzer-beating game-winning jumper, while shutting down Michael Carter-Williams in a nail biter over the Philadelphia 76ers. Oladipo has also gone off for 22 points against the tough defense of the Miami Heat’s summer league entry. So far, Oladipo ranks second in in the league in scoring with an average of 19 points thru four contests.
Oladipo is not the only player that the Cavs passed on in the draft to be showing off what could have been. McLemore put up 27 points and hauled in nine rebounds, leading the Sacramento Kings over the Atlanta Hawks. This is coming off of a 26-point outing, defeating the Toronto Raptors. It took a few games to find his stroke, but McLemore is raining heat on opponents right now.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Grant blew the call, but if the Cavs were going to overstock the power forward position by drafting Anthony Bennett, they could have just as easily overstocked the guard positions by drafting either Oladipo or McLemore. Oladipo would have been a nice pickup, as he can play both guard slots and can also defend against both guard positions as well as small forwards. Many NBA experts hailed Oladipo as being the most “NBA-ready” player in the draft. With the Cavs paying so much attention to reaching the playoffs now, it is a bit confusing why the team wouldn’t have wanted to draft the player most ready to contribute immediately. With so much attention being paid to improving the Cavs defense, it is just as confusing to understand why Chris Grant wouldn’t have selected a shutdown defender such as Oladipo.
The bottom line is that there are no “do-overs” in pro sports, so the Cavs will have to live with their decisions. I just hope that players like Oladipo and McLemore don’t come back to haunt this team for the next 10 seasons or more. But then again, this is what most of us sports fans live for — the drama of which pick was the best and what if we had only taken this guy over the one we chose. It is also the reason why NBA general managers have little, if any, job security.