Once again, the draft lottery gods chose the Cleveland Cavaliers to receive the first overall pick in the NBA draft. This will be the third time since 2003 the Cavaliers have had the first pick (assuming they don’t trade it). No other team has won the lottery more than once since 2003, so the Cavaliers have been fortunate for sure. Having the first pick does not necessarily get you a great player though (see Kwame Brown or Greg Oden), but your odds certainly increase. As far as the top 5 picks, this will be one of the weaker drafts in recent memory, but the Cavaliers still have the opportunity to get a long-term starter. They also have the 19th, 31st, and 33rd picks overall, and although the top of the draft seems weak, there is good depth and the Cavs will have the opportunity to get some good rotational guys with their other picks. In this post, I’ll lay out how I think the Cavs should use their picks. (For this post I’ll assume they are not trading any of their picks).
As far as the first pick, I see the Cavs having two legitimate options with Nerlens Noel and Otto Porter (Ben McLemore is also a great player but the Cavs already have Dion Waiters). Noel provides a defensive presence that the Cavaliers desperately need. They were 30th in opponent’s field goal percentage this season and 29th in blocked shots. Noel can be an intimidator inside and alter a lot of shots. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters are average defenders at best on the perimeter and Noel would be a great player to have behind them defending against drives. There are however concerns with Noel, first of all his health. He tore his ACL while at Kentucky, but I’m confident he can come back full strength and be the same player. The Cavs will just have to be careful to have their team doctors get a thorough evaluation of his knee. Much has been made about Noel’s weight as well, as he only weighs 206 lbs. This could be a real problem against post up players who may be able to just bully him under the hoop. He should be able to put on weight working with an NBA training staff, but he will never be a huge guy. I like him as a Marcus Camby type player though, and he was a skinny guy too, topping out at 235lbs. Camby was still an elite defensive player despite the lack of girth. Noel’s other weakness could be his offense. He is very raw but luckily the Cavs already have some scorers. Irving and Waiters dominate the ball most of the game, and Tristan Thompson who is entering only his third season should continue to improve on the offensive end. Hopefully over time Noel can develop a bit of a post game, but for the immediate future he is being drafted as a dynamic shot blocker.
The Cavs other option at one is Otto Porter. Porter was one of the best college players in the country at Georgetown and showed a great all around game. The Cavs need a small forward (Alonzo Gee got the majority of the SF minutes this year) and Porter does not need the ball to contribute. With Irving and Waiters already handling the ball Porter could fit well playing off the ball and picking his spots to be aggressive. Porter also comes without injury concerns and has prototypical size for an NBA small forward (he’s 6’8’’ 205lbs and has a 7’ 1.5’’ monster wingspan). I’m not sure he can become a star, but he would be a great starter for the Cavs. He is not a flashy player, but he plays the right way and this is a young team that could use a player like that. It should be mentioned that Porter played in a system at Georgetown that is low scoring and can hide some talented players. When Georgetown suffered some injuries toward the end of their conference schedule, Coach Thompson allowed Porter to “take over” and he did very well putting up a ton of points, most notably a 33-point explosion against rival Syracuse.
Either player would be a great choice for the Cavs at number one, but I give the edge to Noel. I believe their biggest need is on defense and Noel is a game changer on that end. They could also pick up some wings later in the draft with their other picks. They may not get a starter at small forward, but they can certainly improve their bench play at that position. It will be important for the Cavs to do well with the first pick and their other picks this year. This is a team that should be on the rise and could even threaten for a playoff spot if healthy next season. That means no more high picks, so they need to get building blocks while they can.