Saturday, December 10, 2011

Burning Question #15 - Did the Cavs take the right guy with the number one pick?

Between all the transactions featuring Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Ross Ohlendorf in the past week, I thought that maybe this blog could take a breath and continue on with our Burning Questions series. With the mentioned developments with Dwight and CP3, not to mention potentially the Lakers, Hornets and Rockets, we've had to reevaluate the positioning of our remaining 15 posts.

Ironically, our next burning question has to do with the master of digital communication, champion of small market rights and the only man who could make even LeBron James a sympathetic figure, Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert.

Why is this even a question?

Coming off of one of one of the worst 12 months in any franchise's history, the Cavaliers were due for a little bit of good luck at someone's expense. Enter GM Neil Olshey and the Los Angeles Clippers organization.

The Clippers were looking to unload the $30+ million dollars of Baron Davis' contract after years of Boom Dizzle showing up to training camp out of shape, unmotivated and keeping that same blasé attitude for the next 6 months of any particular season. Despite finally playing back in his hometown, Baron was simply disinterested in another losing Clippers season and allowed his vast talent and potential to again go by the wayside. Though signing Baron in the first place was a mistake, I can hardly blame the Clippers for not wanting to compound their error by allowing him to stay on the team and let his lack of work ethic affect the developing young players on the roster.

So GM Neil Olshey had the unenviable task of finding Baron a new home. After months of searching every corner of the league for a team willing to take on so much money from an unmotivated, albeit talented, freeloader, he finally matched up with the Cleveland Cavaliers. In exchange for Jamario Moon and Mo Williams, the Cavs took on Baron's massive deal, as well as an UNPROTECTED 1st round draft pick from the lottery-bound Clippers. Other than the shock and amazement league-wide that any team would take on Baron's money, this trade was met with little attention or credence.

Of course, the Clippers curse reared its ugly head yet again. As the lottery balls shot out into Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver's hands, the nation realized that the Cavaliers had gained the #1 draft way of the Clippers' pick.

After a month of debate, the Cavaliers selected point guard Kyrie Irving, a steady and talented young ball handler from Duke University. Irving's selection as the first overall pick was met with much more skepticism than say John Wall, Blake Griffin or LeBron James (in fact, the entire draft was met with skepticism; a shallow talent pool was thinned even further when the industry saw that a lockout and potential cancellation of the 2011-2012 season was inevitable). Kyrie has been projected by many experts and scouts to turn into a solid pro who could potentially make one or two All-Star games. However, on the flip side, stating that Kyrie has that limited of potential is not necessarily the type of upside you want for the first overall pick. The second and third picks, forward Derrick Williams of Arizona and Turkish born center Enes Kanter, both project as riskier prospects, but with higher upside. The Cleveland front office obviously preferred to pair their fourth overall pick (also to the Cavs), forward Tristan Thompson, with young guard, rather than another big man.

Making a mistake with the first overall pick could be a franchise-crippling decision. In 2008, the Portland Trailblazers took Greg Oden (who looks like he may be done AGAIN for yet another season) over Kevin Durant. 4 years prior, the Orlando Magic decided to take center Dwight Howard over college superstar and National Player of the Year Emeka Okafor to much debate. Will the Cavaliers have squandered their chance for 10 years of success like the Blazers did? Or will they reap the benefits like the Magic did?

How will this play out?

One of the biggest criticism involving Cleveland's selection of Irving was that they did so despite him only playing 11 games in his freshman season at Duke due to a foot injury. Conversely, 2nd overall pick Derrick Williams played his entire sophomre season at Arizona, dominating the league and NCAA tournament all the onto an All-American selection and Pac-10 player of the year award. Enes Kanter, much like Irving, suffered from a lack of exposure before the draft; due to ineligibility issues, Kanter never played a game for the University of Kentucky, and all scouts had to evaluate Kanter was his pre-draft workouts and a couple of high school all-star games.

Based on the limited amounts of footage I've seen, I really believe that both Williams and Kanter have a higher ceiling than Irving. Williams is a undersized power forward whose shooting ability and size allows him to have one of the most unique skill sets in the league. His mobility will be a problem going forward, but with the capability of shooting a 25 foot jumper and simultaneously muscling his 240 pound frame around in the post will give him an ability to be a multi-time all-star. Kanter similarly has a skill set unique for his size. He appears to be extremely athletic with a soft touch around the rim, but with a deceiving amount of power to drive and dunk over defenders. Those two assets right there are enough to select him with a high pick in the draft.

However, this season, I see Irving's progress being much more accelerated, not to mention apparent. Williams is in a log jam of a front court over in Minnesota, put together by the unintentional comedic virtuoso GM David Kahn. He'll have to compete all season for minutes with All-Star Kevin Love, Darko Milicic, Anthony Randolph, Brad Miller, Nikola Pekovic and Anthony Tolliver. That's not an exaggeration - the Wolves have 7 viable options in their front court and will probably still manage to lose 75% of their games. In an analogous situation, Kanter will be playing for a Utah team with a stacked front line, as Al Jefferson, Memhet Okur, Derrick Favors and Paul Millsap will all be scrapping for minutes.

Irving on the other hand, will simply have to contend with a presumably departing Baron Davis and Ramon Sessions for playing time. Moreover, as the number one pick, the Cavs and coach Byron Scott will be eager to justify their selection by giving Irving any and all chances to shine, especially over potential-amnesty victim Davis and career backup Sessions.

Overall, I think that Derrick Williams was the best guy to take with the number one selection, but I do not think that will be as apparent this season as it will be going forward into 2012-2013 and beyond.

How will this affect the Cavaliers' season?

Life as a rookie point guard in the NBA is difficult to say the least. John Wall, the 2010 first overall pick and former All-American at Kentucky, came dougie-ing into the league accompanied with a tremendous amount of buzz before he even dribbled and NBA-sanctioned basketball. But when it came to playing the actual game, Wall was, as even the most fervent Wiz Kidz fan would say, somewhat underwhelming his first season. Though ridden with distraction for much of it due his teamates legal infractions, Wall's body was put to the test with the physical rigors of NBA basketball and he was never able to be fully effective.

The smaller and less experienced Irving is about to be throw in the same treacherous waters, except with 66 games compacted into a space usually reserved for 60. As brutal as the 82-game marathon is on rookie point guards, 2011-2012 will be especially taxing on young Kyrie Irving, who already has a relatively choppy medical chart and will presumably be playing heavy minutes. While I think he'll have more opportunity to develop because he will be starting, I do believe that it will be a rough rookie campaign for Cleveland's newest acquisition. As much as it might bring me pleasure to see Dan Gilbert solemnly sitting behind the Cavs bench next season, it won't make me any happier to see Northern Ohio go through yet another tough season.


Best they can do: 24-42, 4th in the Central, 12th in the East

Lowest they can go: 12-54, 5th in the Central, 15th in the East

Probable outcome: 20-46, 5th in the Central, 13th in the East


Like this series? Check out the other Burning Questions leading up to the 2011-12 NBA season:

NBA Season Preview: Burning Questions for teams you don't care about
Burning Question #20: Can Sacramento keep their Kings?
Burning Question #19: Will the Rockets finally make a blockbuster trade?
Burning Question #18 - Will we be able to see Mark Jackson make “Hand Down, Man Down” pantomimes in the Warriors’ huddle this year?
Burning Question #17 - When Will Joe Dumars be Fired?
Burning Question #16 - Dwight, Deron, CP3: Who gets traded?

No comments:

Post a Comment