Around this time of year, when yes means no and no means yes in NBA circles, Wednesday’s trade between the New Orleans Hornets and Washington Wizards might have cleared the clutter above the Cavaliers at the top of the NBA Draft. Then again, maybe not.
The Wizards acquired center Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza from the Hornets in exchange for Rashard Lewis. Ultimately, it was simply reshuffling a few bloated contracts for players not worth the cost. But the acquisition of Ariza, a small forward, could take Michael Kidd-Gilchrist off the top of the Wizards’ draft board.
It was previously believed that the Wizards would not let Kidd-Gilchrist fall past them at No. 3. The addition of Ariza might or might not change that, depending on whether you believe Wizards General Manager Ernie Grunfeld.
Asked Wednesday after the trade how it impacts the top of the Wizards’ draft board, he responded, “Not at all.”
Regardless, Kidd-Gilchrist was in Cleveland on Wednesday (along with Andre Drummond) for his official workout with the Cavaliers. He certainly was familiar with the area after spending about a month here after the college basketball season working out at various gyms across the area. He was brought to town initially by Rich Paul, who lives in the Cleveland area and represents Kidd-Gilchrist as part of Creative Artists Agency.
If the Wizards are happy with Ariza and use their No. 3 pick to fill their hole at shooting guard with Bradley Beal, it could leave the Cavaliers to choose from a collection of players that includes Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond and Kidd-Gilchrist. Prior to the start of the combine, it was believed Kidd-Gilchrist was the second player on the Cavs’ board behind Anthony Davis.
Having the second player on their board fall to them at No. 4 would be a boon, but whether he remains No. 2 by the time the final board is set remains to be seen.
Kidd-Gilchrist has ideal size at 6-foot-7, but he shot just under 50 percent during his freshman season at Kentucky and just 26 percent on 3-pointers. He has a hitch in his jumper that NBA executives aren’t sure is correctable. If anyone can correct it, perhaps it’s Cavs coach Byron Scott, who was one of the league’s best shooters during his time in the NBA.
Other than that, he’s exactly the type of player the Cavs crave. He is long, incredibly athletic, a fierce competitor and his character rates off the charts. He was the emotional spark to the Kentucky Wildcats’ march to the national championship.
“Winning basketball games is my most important thing,” he said. “I just hate losing.”
He hates it so much, in fact, he conceded he wasn’t sure how he would handle playing for the Charlotte Bobcats should he get drafted second overall. The Bobcats just set the record for the lowest winning percentage in a season and are still years away from legitimate playoff contention.
“I might cry some nights,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “But it is what it is at this point.”
Scouts’ opinions on Kidd-Gilchrist, who was a high school teammate of Kyrie Irving, range from budding superstar to rotation player. All of it hinges on his ability to iron out that clunky jumper. He doesn’t turn 19 until the end of September, making him one of the youngest players in this draft and leaving plenty of time for him to improve.
Kidd-Gilchrist insisted at the combine he can shoot the ball, he just didn’t get the opportunity to display it at Kentucky, but NBA scouts seem to disagree.
“Oh, I can shoot the basketball,” he said. “It’s there. I’m working hard on it each and every day, but it’s definitely there.”
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.