In two out of the past three NBA Drafts, the Cleveland Cavaliers have beat the odds and won the lottery. This year, with just a 1.7 percent chance of winning the lottery, odds are the Cavaliers won’t be picking first again. But if they do, whom would they take? Three RDE writers, who picked their player at random, will try to answer that question. In the first of three pieces, RDE’s Chris Manning argues why Jabari Parker would be the right pick for the Cavaliers at number one.
For the Cleveland Cavaliers, taking Duke forward Jabari Parker has its drawbacks. He’s a tweener. When you evaluate his skill set, there is some clear overlap between him and last years No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Bennett. It’s a little easier to envision Parker sharing the floor with Tristan Thompson, but not by much. He’s also bad at defense and the Cavaliers need another bad wing defender like they need Jarrett Jack to take long jump shots early in the shot clock.
But if the Cavaliers somehow win the No. 1 pick again, Parker should be the pick. It’s a take him and figure all the rest out later situation. Here’s why.
Out of the consensus top-three prospects (Parker, Kansas center Joel Embiid and Kansas wing Andrew Wiggins), Parker is most NBA ready offensively. Scouts have been saying for months that he could come into a handful of NBA teams right now and be the lead scoring option. Parker isn’t particularly athletic, but he’s skilled and developed on offense. When he grabs a rebound, he immediately looks to get the ball down the floor and is big enough at 6’8”, 240 pounds to finish inside. That’s a skill the Cavaliers need. He also has the court vision to know when to make a long outlet pass in transition. That too is a skill Cleveland could use. Off the ball, Parker catches the ball, pauses for just a second and pulls up with a high release. On team like the Cavaliers loaded with ball dominant guards, this skill set could come in handy.
Down low, Parker would fit in nicely with the Cavaliers. Until Spencer Hawes was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline, Cleveland didn’t have a legitimate scoring option down low. With Hawes possibly leaving in free agency, Cleveland will need to replace his scoring down low as well as the spacing he helped create with his 3-point shooting. Parker can do those things, as he had a 50.3 2P% and a 35.8 3p% at Duke. From day one, Parker would be able to come in, post up smaller threes and play some stretch four in small-ball line-ups. He would give the Cavaliers the offensive versatility and firepower that they desperately need.
Defensively, Parker is a project. At Duke, however, he didn’t have the luxury of an Embiid (or any decent big, for that matter). inside. When you watch film of his freshman season, there are a number of instances where he’s guarding the other team’s center and trying to be Duke’s rim protector. This unquestionably hurt his defensively development, as he spent a large portion of his freshman year playing out of position on defense. He also doesn’t use his size to his advantage inside and isn’t laterally quick enough to defend quicker wings. For that reason, it’s likely that when he gets older, he’s going to predominately play power forward.
But Parker has a 7” wingspan and you can’t teach length. His wingspan should help make up for some his quickness issues, especially down low. In the right situation, you can also hide Parker and let him defend players who won’t be attacking him isolation. You can bring him along slowly on defense and let him learn in his first seasons. You can also help him by finding a rim-protecting center to man the middle.
Perhaps most importantly, however, a duo of Kyrie Irving and Parker would give the Cavaliers a two-headed monster to build around for next season and the future. If you take Parker, you’d have to trade Bennett or Thompson. But with Irving and Parker, you have two players who compliment each other well and can give the Cavaliers two legitimate scorers next season. Throwing Dion Waiters into that mix makes things a little complicated, but Parker’s abilities off the ball could help Irving and Waiters work better as a duo. As for Thompson, he can move into his natural role as an energy big and his offensive issues aren’t as problematic moving forward. As for Bennett, he could continue to develop slowly as a bench player behind Parker.
There are problems with Parker as a prospect and as a fit in Cleveland. The upside, however, is there and he brings a lot to the table right away. For a team that has wanted to win right now a year ago, Parker is the best candidate to help make that happen next season and moving forward.
 Long live Anderson Varejao, the elbow jumper based God.
 Kyrie, Parker and [insert shooters name here] transition basketball, please.
 This is easier said than done considering the free agent market. Next year, however, there are a solid number of rim-protecting centers.