Thanks to a trade, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in prime position to land a major player in the upcoming 2018 NBA Draft — maybe even the biggest prize possible.
The flip of Kyrie Irving rightfully drew raised eyebrows from some Cleveland Cavaliers fans. The sense of disparity was palpable throughout Cavaliers kingdom with memories of the 2016 NBA Finals still fresh.
Others were thinking with their brains as opposed to their hearts, understanding Irving’s intentions to be the head honcho on another team. He was on his way out. Cleveland needed something in return.
The return loot looked lucrative with a former All-NBA player and a defensive stalwart joining the team from Boston in the deal.
The most valuable asset, however, was the Brooklyn Nets’ first round pick. Entering the season, some experts worried the pick wouldn’t be significantly valuable with Brooklyn now without a reason to tank. Turns out they didn’t need one.
Right now the Cavs are in line for the eighth pick, via Boston and Brooklyn. Here are their odds for each pick:
- 1st: 2.8%
- 2nd: 3.3%
- 3rd: 3.9%
- 8th: 72.5%
- 9th: 16.8%
- 10th: 0.8%
- 11th: >0.0%
There are nine really strong players in this draft, potentially 10 counting Mikal Bridges.
Most mock drafts have some order of, DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Michael Porter Jr. being drafted in the top five. The next four will likely be Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr., Collin Sexton and Trae Young, all of whom could fall to the Cavs.
Each player fills an immediate need. George Hill is nice, but the Cavs need a contemporary, scoring point guard. Put a check by both Sexton and Young’s names.
Cleveland could also use a rim protector with range. Both Bamba and Carter averaged more than two blocks per game in college along with 0.5 3-pointers per game. Finally, each player has serious potential to be an All-Star, something usually hoped for in an early pick.
In a way, Cleveland is sailing through uncharted territory. LeBron James may leave the team, but with the Cavs being title contenders, trading him was out of the question. That is somewhat uncommon; usually teams with potentially departing superstars can see the writing on the wall and prepare accordingly.
In the rare, recent cases a team wasn’t in position to deal their superstar for at least something (think Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant a couple years ago) they had supporting pieces to at least attract serviceable free agents of their own.
Along with Kevin Love, Cleveland’s best supporting piece isn’t on the team yet. So the Cavaliers have to look at this pick from the lenses of both “how will he support LeBron?” and “how can he lead without LeBron?” It’s an awkward situation to be in.
There is the rarely used option of signing and trading James, but that’s a discussion for another piece.
Since Cleveland selected James with the first pick in 2003, it’s had six top-10 picks. Half of those picks have been first overall selections — Irving, Andrew Wiggins in 2014 and Anthony Bennett in 2013. So a mixed bag of results.
We’ll see where Cleveland lands in the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery on May 15.