The 2013 NBA season is in the books, and I didn't write a single word about it. This likely disappoints no one but me, but, just in case you actually did miss my thoughts on the season, I'd like to make it up to you with a mega-post previewing the Cavs' upcoming off-season. I'm going to start with an overview of their options, then conclude with my thoughts on what they should do. It's a long one, but since I probably won't post anything until next fall, you should have ample time to get through it. Enjoy.
1. With the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select...
- Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucy: When the Cavs won the lottery, Noel was the no-brainer selection. Although his offense is pretty strictly limited to dunking the ball, Noel's defensive stats leap off the screen: 9.5 rbg, 4.4 bpg, 2.1 spg (making him the only player from 1997 to present to average at least 4 blocks and 2 steals). Unfortunately, these numbers were put up in a season truncated by a torn ACL in Noel's right knee, the same knee that had been operated on only 2 years earlier for fractures to his growth plates. These injury flags have coupled with the 206 pounds Noel weighed at the NBA Combine to cause very serious doubt to emerge about who the #1 pick actually will be. Will Noel's knee make him Greg Oden v.2.0? Will his frame prevent him from every becoming more than a better version of Keon Clark, a pogo-stick shot blocker and dunker who simply was outmuscled in nearly all matchups in the post? I don't think so, but the Cavs might, so it may not be so shocking to hear one of the next few names called first Thursday night.
- Alex Len, C, Maryland: Len's stock has been helped the most by Noel's (perceived) tumble, as Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Terry Pluto talked about Len as if he were the favorite to go number one in his Sunday morning column. Len possesses a far more polished offensive game than Noel, as well as a much sturdier 7'1", 255 lb. frame. For his supposedly superior offensive acumen, though, Len only average 1.4 points per game more than Noel (11.9 to 10.5), and Len's defensive stats are far inferior (7.8 rpg, 0.2 spg, 2.1 bpg). More troubling than the production, however, is the fact that Len has a stress fracture in his foot. As the Cavs surely know, history has not been kind to 7-footers with feet issues (as Bill Walton, Yao Ming, and Cleveland's own Zydrunas Ilgauskas can attest). Of the possible choices being floated out leading up to the draft, Len would probably be the pick that disappoints me most.
- Ben McLemore: A 6-5 super athlete who can shoot (42% 3PT, 69% TS%), McLemore looks the part of an NBA superstar. Digging deeper, though, questions emerge. For someone so athletically superior to nearly everyone he plays agains, why did McLemore only shoot 3.7 free throws per game (hitting an impressive 87%, but still)? And for someone who clearly should be the best player on his college team, why did he only take 24 shots total in three Big-12 tourney games (hitting 58%, but still)? I tend to hate analysis that cherry-picks certain games and calls guys out for non-measurable things like "lack of aggression" or "choking," but McLemore just rubs me as a guy who will fade when things get tight. The fact that the Cavs have used 2 high lottery picks on guards the past two seasons (Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, obviously) also has me scratching my head as to why McLemore should be the number one pick. I'm not sold on Waiters as the answer at 2-guard, but I'm not sure I'm that much more confident McLemore is the answer, either.
- Otto Porter: Considered the safest pick in the draft, Porter is a consistent, heady player who would probably step in as the Cavs starting SF immediately. So why isn't he a slam dunk to step into the role vacated by the emaciated, injured Noel as the top dog of the 2013 draft? Because there isn't much room for Porter to grow. Whatever production you get from him in year one is likely the same production you're going to get from him in year 6, and while there is definitely a benefit to that kind of certainty, the #1 pick is often about changing the course of your franchise. Finding a player who can produce like Porter will is relatively easy when compared to finding a player who can become what Noel, McLemore, and even Len have the capacity to become. I also can't help but get Wesley Johnson vibes everytime I think of Porter, and I hope for his sake and the sake of whoever drafts him, I am way off-base.
2. We have a trade to announce...
With so much uncertainty even at the very top of this year's draft, a trade seemed more likely than most years. The likelihood of such a deal seems to have dwindled considerably since the Cavs initially won the lottery, but here's a breakdown of some of the more viable options being floated around, sorted from most implausible to plausable:
- Package #1 for more picks. This would be one of the dumber decisions in history. When you aren't even certain there is a player you want at #1 overall, why in the world would you want to acquire more picks to throw at what could be a collection of garbage players? Chance of happening: 0%
- Trade #1 for Kevin Love or DeMarcus Aldridge. While either of these players would be a huge addition to the Cavs starting five (Love especially), I don't see Minnesota or Portland trading established NBA big men for a lottery ticket that Noel does indeed turn into the second coming of Dikembe Mutumbo. Chance of happening: 0.5%
- Trade for Pau Gasol. This seems to have lost momentum in the past few weeks, but this trade still makes sense to me. Gasol's salary clears off the Lakers' books, Gasol gets a year away from LA to get his mind right before he hits free agency, and the Cavs get an All-Star big man to team with Kyrie and to show Tristan and Zeller how to get things done down low. I wonder if Kobe's recent comments about the Lakers needing to add some youth will rekindle the fire for this deal. Probably not. Chance of happening: 15%
3. Picks #19, #31, & #33
Yuck. Draft Express currently has the Cavs taking Reggie Bullock (a 3 & D specialist from North Carolina), Erick Green (a senior combo guard from Virginia Tech), and Mike Muscala (a center from Bucknell) with these three picks, and, although I am certainly no draft or college b-ball expert, I do not see any of these guys being impactful NBA players. Rather than add more young players to a roster overflowing with youth, the prevalent theory seems to be that the Cavs are trying to move any and all of these picks. Here are some options that are being floated around:
- Trade #31 & #33 for Paul Pierce. This was originally thrown out by Bill Simmons on his podcast, but it apparently might be a real thing (although I doubt it). Getting Pierce for two lottery tickets would be a boon for the Cavs, even if he left after this season. Despite the bewildering narrative of last season that has emerged painting Pierce as washed-up, he still produced 7.8 WP, leading the Celtics and finishing 11th among SFs, and his toughness and experience would be invaluable to a team that is sorely lacking both. I think I have a better chance of getting selected at one of these picks than this trade has of happening, but if it does, happy days.
- Trade #19 & #31 for Shawn Marion. First off, it's crazy to me that Marion would cost the Cavs more than Pierce. While he was more productive from a Wins standpoint (10.7 to 7.8), I feel like Marion is one of those players over-valued by statistical analysis. His game fits very well surrounded by shooters, which is definitely not what would happen in Cleveland. I feel like a repeat of The Matrix's dark days in Toronto and Miami might be in store if this trade were to happen. That said, I would do it in a heartbeat, because even Toronto Shawn Marion is better than Reggie Bullock. (This trade will never happen, though, since the Mavs are desperately trying to unload their own picks.)
- Trade for future picks. I haven't actually heard this being proposed by anyone, but why not just pull a Bill Belichick and unload a 1st this year for a 1st in a year when the talent pool will likely be deeper (which is very likely, since this draft doesn't even seem to go one player deep)? The same could be done with the 2nd rounders, too.
- Draft & stash Euros. Every year, there seems to be some international player who all the draft experts say would be a top 10 pick if his contract wasn't such an issue. I have no idea if such a player exists this year, but if he does, this is the time to snatch him up. Perhaps the next Manu will fall into Cleveland's lap at #33 (but probably not).