Cavs: Koby Altman’s comments about defense are a plus, regarding 2020 NBA Draft

USC Trojans big man Onyeka Okongwu (#21) blocks a shot. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)
USC Trojans big man Onyeka Okongwu (#21) blocks a shot. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Cavaliers should be prioritizing the defensive end in the upcoming draft.

It’s no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers need to strive to improve on defense next season. The Cavs have ended out having the NBA’s worst defensive rating each of the past two seasons, and in the upcoming draft, putting the emphasis on that end would be a smart move.

The Wine and Gold are set to have the fifth overall selection in the 2020 NBA Draft, and at that spot, they should be able to add a high level defensive piece. Players that come to mind there are wings such as Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, Florida State’s Devin Vassell and Deni Avdija of the I-BSL’s Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv.

Additionally, USC big Onyeka Okongwu should be in that realm, and possibly, albeit less likely it’d appear, lead guards such as Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton and Killian Hayes of the BBL’s Ratiopharm Ulm could be feasible options, maybe.

Although,’s Chris Fedor expressed in a Friday report that sources say “it’s unlikely the Cavs would view either player as a definitive better option than what’s already on the roster.” For added context, Fedor then noted how seemingly only if LaMelo Ball of the NBL’s Illawarra Hawks or Georgia’s Anthony Edwards fall, which seems very unlikely, that Cleveland will go with a “wing or big.”

Now, the Cavs will reportedly use the #5 pick as “bait” for a potential trade, which could seemingly mean they’d be looking to be involved in a deal to bring in an established player, but to me, Cleveland will still end up ultimately making their selection.

With their positioning, that “bait” seems like just a smoke screen and they’d be wise to make that pick at this point, too, as the Cavs defense would likely benefit.

Regarding the defense, these comments from Friday virtual media availability, via Forbes‘ Evan Dammarell from Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman on what I’d imagine was involving the club’s draft approach is a plus, also.

This soundbite from Altman should be great to hear for Cleveland Cavaliers fans.

The Cavs could possibly look to bring back the expiring Tristan Thompson, seemingly via one-year deal with the $8-10 million mid-level exception and there is mutual interest between the two sides. That’s per Altman and as Fedor detailed in a recent report, but that’s far from a certainty.

That’d fit into that defensive element, too, as would potentially bringing in suggested free agent target Josh Jackson on reportedly a more team-friendly deal it’d seem, for instance. Fedor noted in his first mentioned report how the Cavs would look to improve the defense via trade, but we’ll have to see on that more so down the road.

What jumps out to me regarding this quote from Altman, via that tweet from Dammarell, however, is how it appears the defensive end will be prioritized in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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That, to me, would seem to be a no-brainer, especially with Darius Garland having a long way to go, in particular, there, and with how Cedi Osman has struggled mightily against starting 3’s. Kevin Love is far from stellar as an on-ball defensive piece. But it’s encouraging to see that bit above from Altman, either way.

I acknowledge that Altman did state how in the 2020 NBA Draft, if that pick is made, the Cavs will go, again via Dammarell, with the “best talent.”

To me, though, factoring in how Fedor noted they’ll seemingly go with a wing or big, that’s a plus regarding them seemingly having a good possibility of selecting Okoro, Vassell, Avdija and/or Okongwu, and that’s nice to know for next season/looking onward.

Okoro is as versatile as it gets defensively in this draft and could over time firmly establish himself as Cleveland’s starting 3, and Vassell, who hit 41.7 percent from three-point range in two seasons at FSU, would project as a book end 3-and-D wing.

Devin Vassell is a polished pull-up shooter, too, and he and Isaac Okoro both could really aid Cleveland’s perimeter defense/get their share of deflections, and could mesh well in the near future offensively with the likes of Garland, Collin Sexton, Kevin Porter Jr. and others.

Avdija, meanwhile, has a much higher defensive ceiling than Osman, frankly, and at 6-foot-9, could end up being able to do nice work against 3’s and 4’s, and is a heady rotator.

Or if the Cavs ended up going with Onyeka Okongwu, that’d be promising for the defense as well. Okongwu, who is a polished post-up player and highly capable passing big on the other end, is a switchable big if that’s needed at times on defense, and in his lone collegiate season at USC, he had 2.7 blocks and 1.2 steals per contest.

Okongwu could be a heck of a rim protecting presence in coming years, that also is switchable, too, and assuming Andre Drummond does eventually pick up his player option, which is reportedly likely, Okongwu could make an impact defensively in a big way in his minutes-share. He could end up being Cleveland’s 5 man of the future as well, if Drummond is not eventually extended.

I just hope that the Cavs, though, do not end up selecting Dayton big Obi Toppin, a player they’ve been rumored to be strongly considering as a potential Kevin Love replacement long-term, but who has major defensive question marks.

Albeit to reiterate, Altman’s comments in that above Dammarell tweet in his recent virtual media availability are a true plus to me, regarding the 2020 NBA Draft, with how Altman pointed out the need, in a general sense, to “address defense.”

I can’t say what they’ll do for certain in what’s set to be the upcoming draft now on Nov. 18, but it would appear Cleveland is putting an emphasis on the defensive end of the floor and with their issues in recent years there, that’s a positive.

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Hopefully, the Cavs do indeed land a high level defender to help them steadily progress in their rebuild, again, in the thought they’ll keep their pick.