If the Cavaliers draft either Harrison Barnes or Bradley Beal on June 28, the deciding factor may have been provided Saturday at the Cleveland Clinic Courts.
Barnes and Beal were both in Cleveland this weekend for a private duel, and there is an excellent chance both will be available when the team selects fourth. Barnes has been on the Cavs’ radar since his freshman season at North Carolina, while Beal has been on their radar since December.
To be fair, this is a pretty small piece to a complex puzzle. To break it up by percentages, 95 percent of the Cavs’ decision on whom to draft will be based on what team executives saw on the court during the college basketball season. The final 5 percent comes from things like the NBA combine, measurements, team interviews and how players perform in individual workouts. This is merely an opportunity to get both guys on the court at the same time to see how they compare in size, length and other NBA measuring points.
But these workouts certainly have their place. A deciding factor in why the Cavaliers took Tristan Thompson last year was because of his private workouts, when he was the best power forward on the floor among all the guys brought to Cleveland.
The workout between Barnes and Beal wasn’t exactly a fair fight. Beal is a shooting guard, while Barnes is more of a small forward — although at least one NBA team (the Washington Wizards) believes Barnes could also play shooting guard. That’s a bit surprising, since one of the biggest knocks on Barnes is his inability to handle the basketball. The Wizards, however, love his 6-foot-8 frame and are intrigued by the thought of Barnes playing alongside John Wall.
The Cavs are equally excited about the possibility of pairing either Barnes or Beal with Kyrie Irving. Beal could give the Cavs their best shooting guard since the team selected Ron Harper eighth overall in 1986. Harper was traded after three seasons and the Cavs have spent the last two decades looking for a shooting guard as athletic and with a smooth stroke.
Plenty have tried — Bob Sura, Derek Anderson, Dajuan Wagner, Trajan Langdon — but the Cavs have been unable to find another shooting guard in the draft quite as talented as Harper. They also haven’t taken one this high since Austin Carr was selected first overall in 1971.
The biggest knock on Beal remains his height, but he measured 6-foot-4 at the combine (in shoes), making him comparable to other NBA guards like Dwyane Wade (6-4) and Ray Allen (6-5). Beal made some great shots over Barnes, according to two people with knowledge of Saturday’s workout. Both played well, but Beal’s ability to get his shot off over a bigger defender was impressive.
As for Barnes, the fact he primarily plays the same position as LeBron James exposes him to the inevitable pressure and comparisons should he come to Cleveland. But Barnes appears mature, polished and unfazed by such comparisons. He would also have the benefit of replacing Alonzo Gee at small forward. Gee replaced Omri Casspi, who replaced Anthony Parker, who replaced Jamario Moon, who replaced James. That torch has already been passed so many times, the flame is down to a flicker.
There are plenty of other candidates for the Cavs to consider aside from Beal and Barnes. Connecticut center Andre Drummond has the type of size and athleticism that makes NBA talent evaluators swoon, but his motivation and mental approach continue to be scrutinized. He is expected to be in Cleveland for a private workout on Monday.
Kansas forward Thomas Robinson is expected to go second overall to the Bobcats, and while it’s difficult to decipher smokescreens from truth this time of year, the Wizards have made it clear they won’t let Michael Kidd-Gilchrist fall beyond them at No. 3.
That will leave the board fairly open for the Cavs, including plenty of guys they like. Choosing among them, and finding the best fit, is what these next 11 days are all about.
On the move
Austin Rivers impressed at the combine and that has continued during private workouts. Initially considered a low lottery pick, Rivers has forced himself into the conversation as a top-10 pick.
Connecticut shooting guard Jeremy Lamb could be slipping. Lamb rolled an ankle during a recent workout for the Raptors and has canceled all workouts for now — including his workout for the Cavs. Lamb is hoping to reschedule with teams closer to next weekend and the week of the draft — although most teams will have their boards set 48 hours prior to the draft.
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.