While LeBron James was soaring, scoring and resurrecting the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals Thursday night, Cavaliers executives were huddled for dinner at a swanky Chicago steakhouse as James’ memorable performance played out on a television above them.
The Cavs’ end goal, of course, is a resurrection of their own. That will only be possible if they hit on these crucial draft picks in this month’s NBA Draft. With four of the top 34 picks, the Cavs are sure to be aggressive.
They haven’t ruled out moving around the draft board or perhaps even acquiring another pick in the first round. They also haven’t settled on the top of their board, despite widespread reports that have Harrison Barnes all but house shopping in Cleveland.
Barnes makes a lot of sense with the fourth overall pick. He has great size, great character and a great stroke. Despite Alonzo Gee’s breakthrough last season, small forward has been one of the black holes on this roster since James’ departure.
But Bradley Beal would look awfully good playing next to Kyrie Irving for the next decade. Beal is a bit small for a shooting guard, but at 6-foot-4, he is the same size as James’ running mate. And no one has complained about Dwyane Wade’s size in years.
There will be busts in this top 10. There always are. Teams that find the busts continually find themselves atop the lottery, while teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder raised eyebrows by selecting Russell Westbrook “too high,” only to watch him develop into one of the premiere guards in the NBA.
The Cavs took Tristan Thompson “too high” last season, and while Thompson is still incredibly raw and unpolished offensively, his attitude, work ethic and improvement already during his rookie season at least offer a glimmer of hope for the future.
The Cavs’ willingness to take a chance on a guy earlier than expected could strike again. It shouldn’t be all that surprising if the fourth pick winds up being someone no one is talking about right now. Perhaps Connecticut shooting guard Jeremy Lamb or Duke combo guard Austin Rivers, the polished, mature coach’s kid who immediately brings a confidence and swagger that is rare in a player so young.
Scouts and executives polled at the combine see flaws in all of the wing players at the top, ranging from size (Beal) to a lousy shot (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist).
The Cavs aren’t convinced this draft is as rich, deep and talented as it is being portrayed. They have maintained that belief for months, and apparently New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams agrees.
“I don’t see this deep draft everybody is talking about,” Williams said prior to the combine. “I think there are a few players at the top that are really good that can be good players, but I don’t see any Carmelos or LeBrons.”
The Cavs might ultimately settle on Barnes, a close friend of Kyrie Irving’s and a natural fit on this roster. But they aren’t there yet.
The draft process intensifies tomorrow when the elite players start filing into the Cleveland Clinic Courts for private workouts against other top players. The Cavs have held workouts the last couple of weeks, but they have mostly been lower-level guys who are projected to go either late in the first or in the second round. The top talent starts arriving this week.
With a little less than three weeks to go before the draft, the options are complicated, but the goal is clear.
• Fox Sports Ohio reported this week that the Cavs could have interest in unrestricted free agent Michael Redd, which would make sense. The Cavs wanted to sign him when he was unrestricted last summer, but ultimately passed because of concerns over his knees. Redd instead signed with the Phoenix Suns, averaged 8.2 points and shot 40 percent while appearing in 51 games. He is the type of stable veteran leader the Cavs are searching for to replace Anthony Parker and Antawn Jamison.
• Andre Drummond needs to work on his math. He said Thursday he has lost 22 pounds since the end of the season and that he now weighs 275 (he officially weighed in at 278). When I said, “So you played last season around 300?” he responded, “around 285.” Huh?
• Drummond, incidentally, joined Thomas Robinson in a campaign for consideration with the No. 1 pick. Drummond said he’d like a one-on-one workout with Anthony Davis prior to the draft, but didn’t hold out much hope it would happen. “I would love to get it done, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” Drummond said.
• Memphis shooting guard Will Barton was in Cleveland recently for a private workout, but he didn’t waste time at the combine promoting himself as the best available. “My stats speak for themselves. I feel like I’m the best wing in the draft,” he said. “I can guard the one, two and the three. I can play the one, two and the three. I can do a lot of things.” Barton averaged 18 points and eight rebounds for the Tigers.
• Syracuse guard Dion Waiters raised some eyebrows by bailing on the combine after hinting that he received a guarantee from a team in the lottery. Speculation over which team ranged from Toronto at No. 8 to Phoenix at No. 13. Regardless, it’s a bad move to pack up and go home because of an oral, non-binding guarantee. Those oral “promises” are routinely broken. Besides, Waiters was playing well and increasing his stock. Why not keep going and try to move higher than wherever you were “promised” to go?
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.