With Thursday’s NBA Draft quickly approaching, sources within the Cavs insisted Tuesday that their draft board was not yet set and the team hadn’t decided yet who to take with the No. 1 overall pick.
None of the options are a terrific fit and almost anyone the Cavs take will start the season coming off the bench. Maryland’s Alex Len and Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel remain the top big men available, but the Cavs have seemed cool on Noel throughout the draft process.
ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford continues to believe the Cavs will take him, but admitted in a conference call Tuesday it was a guess and he was simply “reading the tea leaves.”
Ford believes the choice has been narrowed to Len, Noel and UNLV’s Anthony Bennett. A few executives polled around the league believe the choice will come down to Len or Noel.
“[The Cavs] have to take the attitude of, ‘Let’s find out what these guys do well instead of obsessing over what they can’t do,’ ” Ford said. “Because if you do that, you disqualify every player in the draft, especially this year.”
There are concerns regarding the top three big men in this draft. Noel can’t score outside of the paint and is incredibly limited offensively. It would be difficult for the Cavs to play Noel alongside Tristan Thompson, who also has limited range on offense. That pairing puts a significant amount of pressure on the backcourt to carry the scoring load.
Len’s overall numbers were a bit underwhelming for a No. 1 pick, but the big concern is the stress fracture in his ankle. Len has drawn comparisons to a young Zydrunas Ilgauskas throughout this draft process, but the fear is the comparisons trickle down to the fragile feet as well.
Len averaged 11.9 points and 7.8 rebounds, but only attempted double figures in shots in 12 of Maryland’s 38 games. He averaged 15.8 points and 9.6 rebounds in those games.
The Cavs have been aggressive in shopping the top pick, but don’t appear close to a deal. Sources around the league complain about the Cavs’ asking price, but Ford defended the Cavs’ attack. ESPN.com reported the Cavs offered the Portland Trail Blazers their two first-round picks, first and 19th overall, for power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. The Blazers rejected it.
“Cleveland wants a young veteran for No. 1,” Ford said. “They’re not interest in anything but that. … A lot of teams are complaining Cleveland is overvaluing the pick because there is no consensus at No. 1, but you can understand Cleveland’s perspective here.
“If they’re going to give away the No. 1 pick, they have to walk away with a piece they think will help propel them to the playoffs, and that means a really good player. That’s why, while there has been a lot of trade talk, there hasn’t been a lot of action. We’ll see Thursday if someone caves, but I don’t see a team giving up the talent Cleveland is looking for for the No. 1 pick in the draft.”
Bennett remains the wild card among the big men. He is undersized for a power forward at 6-foot-7, but could be the most explosive scoring big man in this draft and has drawn comparisons to former UNLV star Larry Johnson.
The question is defensively, since few believe Bennett can defend small forwards. He’s also so small he could be overmatched by power forwards. He is a tweener similar to Derrick Williams, who has struggled to find a role his first two years with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
One league source said this week if Bennett was three inches taller, he would be the clear No. 1 pick in this draft. But his lack of height could cause him to slip.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.