The Cavs will have plenty of options to consider with their first-round draft selection.
While NBA fans around the world witness the best first-round of the playoffs that I can ever remember, Cleveland Cavaliers fans are already looking to the draft. With the ninth worst record this season, the Cavs will be picking ninth in the draft unless Nick Gilbert brings them some lottery magic once again.
The eight players most likely to be gone by the time the Cavs pick are: Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Dante Exum, Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh and Aaron Gordon. So, assuming the Cavs have the ninth pick and don’t trade it away, I will outline the players whom are both most likely to be on the board at nine and who fit well with the Cavs roster.
Cavs Draft Prospects:
Dario Saric, PF (6’10”, 223) – The Croatian forward just turned 20 years old and led Cibona to an Adriatic League Championship. He was named the MVP of the tournament and seemed very confident in his abilities. Saric is an interesting prospect. He withdrew from last year’s draft at the last minute and still sounds unsure of when he’ll actually play in the NBA. According to DraftExpress’ conversation with Saric’s agent, Misko Raznatovic, “He cannot wait to become a NBA player, and this is his ultimate goal. He will be in the league no later than 2016, and with good chances to start earlier.” Unless a team is willing to stash Saric for two years, this could be a tough pick to make in the lottery. There’s no doubt about his talent and potential though. Saric has impressive offensive versatility for a big man and has improved his outside shot over the past year. He has a good-looking stroke and shot very well from three throughout Cibona’s run to a championship. He uses his size well, which makes him a talented rebounder and defender. He also appears to have good court vision and great passing instincts, especially from the post. One of the most surprising facets of Saric’s game is his lateral quickness. He does well at staying in front of his man on defense and is a good shot-blocker. He also has a good handle for his size, which makes him an intriguing small forward prospect. I still see him as a power forward in the NBA, but playing some small forward isn’t out of the question. The Cavs will obviously need to have deep discussions with him to attempt to determine exactly when he plans on actually coming to the NBA, but he’s a great option with the ninth pick.
Jusuf Nurkic, C (6’11”, 280) – One of the most intriguing prospects in this draft, the 19-year-old Bosnian has caught everyone’s attention with his efficient play in the Adriatic League. In just 16 minutes per game, he averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. He also shot 63% from 2-point range, 33% from three and 80% from the foul line. He’s a physically dominating presence down low who is likely still developing. He has good scoring instincts and immense potential on the offensive end due to his size and ability to hit outside shots. He also uses his size to rebound and defend at a good rate with the potential to become elite at both. With a 7’2” wingspan, soft touch and excellent spin moves; Nurkic could both dominate down low and run the pick-and-roll exceptionally well. He needs to continue improving his spot-up jumpers, but he has all the potential to become an absolute dominate NBA center on both ends of the court in due time. I doubt he’ll come to the NBA next season, but he’d be a fantastic draft-and-stash pick for the Cavs.
Doug McDermott, PF (6’8”, 225) –Dougie McBuckets is a player I’m very wary about at the next level. While he and Saric could both possibly play some small forward, I still see them as mainly power forwards, which the Cavs have plenty of at the moment. McDermott is a born scorer. He has tremendous offensive versatility and range, as well as impressive efficiency from all over the court. One thing he’ll definitely be able to do in the NBA is shoot. The thing that worries me is he appears too slow to guard most small forwards and too small to stop most power forwards. He isn’t athletic or a great rebounder, but he does have a high basketball IQ and is constantly aware and competitive. There’s no doubt he’ll work hard to improve his current deficiencies and the Cavs could use his scoring and shooting, but I don’t see him as a very good fit in Cleveland right now.
James Young, SG/SF (6’7”, 215) – Young will turn 19-years-old right before the start of next season and has some of the biggest potential of all the wings in this draft. He has a 6”11” wingspan and should be able to play a lot of small forward at the next level as his frame continues to grow. Young attempted more spot-up jumpers than any college player this season. His size and quick release allow him to get his shot off over most defenders, but he needs to work on his shot selection and decision-making. He shot 35% from deep this season, but his efficiency should improve playing alongside NBA playmakers. He isn’t very explosive, but was able to get to the rim, finish inside and rebound due to his size (will be tougher for him to do in the NBA). Young is a poor defender and hasn’t developed the ability to consistently create his own shot yet. With two ball-dominant guards in Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, the Cavs need a wing that can primarily knock down spot-up jumpers. Young has the ability to do that right away, but will need to improve in many other areas to consistently see the court. The potential is there for the young player.
Rodney Hood, SF (6’8”, 200) – I am higher on Hood than most, but he is one of the best fits for what the Cavs immediately need to improve. Hood is similar to Young, but will need to bulk up some. He also is a better three-point shooter, hitting 42% of his threes for Duke this season. He has excellent shooting form, deep range and can spot-up or shoot off the dribble. He’s efficient, has great court-vision and a low turnover rate. Similar to Young, his defense needs drastic improvement. Unlike Young, however, he only has a 6’8” wingspan and will turn 22 after the start of next season. He doesn’t have quite the potential ability to improve as much on the defensive end, but there’s no doubt his effort can be improved. The Cavs desperately need a long wing that can play off the ball and knock down spot-up threes. Hood can immediately do exactly that. Everything else will be a work-in-progress, but Hood would be an immediate fit with the Cavs without making them much younger.
These are the most likely prospects for the Cavs in the upcoming NBA draft. If they want to use their ninth pick to draft-and-stash a talented euro big with immense potential, they’ll take Saric or Nurkic. If they end up trading Tristan Thompson or think McDermott can play small forward, they’ll likely go with him for immediate help next season. If they want to fill their greatest need and obtain immediate help at the wing next season, they’ll trade back in the draft and pick either Young or Hood.