Random thoughts on the NBA Draft, free agency and the summer for the Cavaliers …
• The demise of the center position has forced NBA teams to get creative in constructing lineups. Smaller, quicker athletic teams that can get up and down the floor are becoming chic. It’s easy to see after the Cavaliers’ latest draft that they’re falling right in line.
• There are four centers in the league right now I’d consider elite: Dwight Howard, Brook Lopez, Roy Hibbert and Marc Gasol. Andrew Bynum can get back into the conversation if he proves his knees are healthy — and that’s presently an enormous if. That’s four All-Star centers. What are the other 26 teams supposed to do?
• Know how many rings those four have? Zero. Only Howard has been to the NBA Finals (once). If you want to throw Bynum back in, he has two championships with the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s two titles in a combined 31 seasons for those five players.
• The Miami Heat are one of the league’s smallest teams and have won the last two titles. The San Antonio Spurs started 6-foot-7 Kawhi Leonard at power forward in this year’s Finals.
• That isn’t to compare the Cavs’ talent to that of the Heat and Spurs. Obviously, mega-talented players such as LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Dwyane Wade help small lineups. The point is there are multiple ways to build successful teams. Not everyone has size — in fact, few do. Everyone else has to play fast.
• All of this is a long way of explaining why the selection of Anthony Bennett isn’t hard to understand. Bennett and Tristan Thompson can find time together on the floor in this new age NBA. The biggest obstacle to that isn’t size so much as Bennett’s lack of proven defense.
• UNLV isn’t known for defending. Heck, they’re nickname is the Runnin’ Rebels. The Cavs believe if he gets into their system and lets Mike Brown teach him defense, he can be a terrific defender. What he lacks in height (6-7), he makes up for in length (7-1). He has tremendous strength and at 20 years old, he’s still just a kid.
• The pick-and-roll has become a staple of NBA offenses and the Cavs needed someone (besides the oft-injured Anderson Varejao) to run pick-and-roll with the Cavs’ guards. “You put him in a pick-and-roll with Dion or Kyrie, he’s going to be pretty difficult to guard,” General Manager Chris Grant said. “He can shoot the ball and is athletic and can handle the ball and get to the rim.”
• To the surprise of no one, Bennett’s addition means the end of Mo Speights’ time in Cleveland. Speights opted out of his contract Saturday, bypassing the $4.5 million on his deal to become a free agent. Speights’ camp was leaning that way anyhow, and the selection of Bennett clinched it.
• Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told me last summer Dion Waiters constantly has to watch his weight because he has the ability to pack on pounds quickly. The same appears to be true of Bennett.
• Grant believes Bennett is a power forward, but not everyone agrees. Some in the organization think he can develop into a small forward. Cavs coach Mike Brown said he would take a “wait and see” approach. He’s willing to try Bennett a little bit at small forward and see how it goes. The question, of course, is whether or not he can guard opposing small forwards.
• Not much has been said of Sergey Karasev, but the Cavs are genuinely surprised he fell to them at No. 19. Teams say all the time how excited they are when players fall to them, but Karasev legitimately was expected to go somewhere between 10 and 15. The Cavs thought before the draft they would have to trade up to have a chance at him. Then a flurry of trades in the middle of the first round sent Karasev tumbling. The Cavs stayed put, picked up Karasev and didn’t need to sacrifice their second-round picks to get him, allowing them to come away with second-round guard Carrick Felix as well.
• The Cavs considered Karasev the player with the best combination of dribble/pass/shoot abilities in the draft. He’s only 19 and he needs to get physically stronger. But he can play with either hand, has a great shot and is a terrific passer.
• Don’t be surprised if Karasev struggles initially. He’s playing all summer in Russia and won’t get much of a break before his first NBA camp. Add in the learning curve to the NBA and American culture, and it may take time for him to adjust. But the Cavs are thrilled to have him.
• Free agency begins Monday. The Cavs need a shooter and a big. I like J.J. Redick, but he’s likely out of their price range. I think Mike Dunleavy would be a great fit, but I’m not sure how the organization feels about him.
• If Dwight Howard returns to the Lakers, keep an eye on Pau Gasol. The Cavs are a great fit. Gasol will be a tax casualty if Howard returns on a max deal.
• Bottom line: The Cavs have transitioned their summer approach. They’re no longer trying to facilitate deals and take on bad money for draft picks. They’re now looking to spend to improve the club.
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.