The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the deepest teams in the league. They are one of the only teams with four top-50 players, have multiple solid bench options, and even their end-of-bench vets are proven NBA contributors. Their one true need is a starting-caliber 3-and-D small forward, but they probably aren’t going to find that in the draft.
They certainly won’t find one ready to compete for a title right now, and especially not without a first-round pick. The Cavaliers owe their first-rounder in the 2023 NBA Draft to the Indiana Pacers (lottery protected, so it’s all but certain to convey this season). That doesn’t mean the Cavs shouldn’t look to upgrade in the draft.
The Cavaliers don’t have a first-round pick but the draft still matters
The next few weeks are critical in evaluating potential draft prospects. Conference Tournaments are underway or picking up in the coming days, and next week the NCAA Tournament will kick off. March Madness is often the last window to evaluate college prospects in a game setting.
The Cavaliers might not have a first-round pick, but they do have a second-rounder this year. They will swap with the Golden State Warriors, which right now would give the Cavs a pick in the middle of the second round. Every year a handful of players taken in the second round pop and become solid rotation players.
The Cavs should use that pick to shore up their bench, ideally with a wing who might develop into a contributor down the line. Bafflingly, the most recent mock draft by USA Today eschewed any sort of helpful archetype to pair the Cavs with a basketball dinosaur.
The Cavaliers would be foolish to draft this Kentucky dinosaur
Bryan Kalbosky of USA Today picks Kentucky Wildcats center Oscar Tshiebwe for the Cavaliers with the 49th pick in the draft. The reigning national player of the year is a double-double machine in the college ranks, commonly collecting 20 rebounds per game and averaging 13.1 as a senior after averaging 15.1 as a junior.
The problem is that Tshiebwe does very little else that looks to translate to NBA basketball. He doesn’t create his own shot, he’s a poor passer and is not an elite rim protector. Defending in space is already a problem for him at the college level; he will be eaten alive in the NBA.
The Cavs also need another center like a hole in the head. Two of their four best players are centers in Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley. In addition, they have Evan’s brother Isaiah Mobley on a two-way contract, veteran Robin Lopez who may be open for a return, and draft-and-stash center Khalifa Diop. They don’t need to invest anything in another center.
The Cavaliers can take a flier on a wing, add a movement shooter or invest in a young third point guard. Drafting a big man whose game is transported from the 1990s to a packed center rotation is a ridiculous move, and one fans of the Cavs have to hope the team doesn’t make.