Cavs Draft Thoughts
I was just as shocked as everyone else when the Cavs took Anthony Bennett*. The problem isn't that there was a more overwhelmingly-obvious choice (there wasn't) or that Bennett doesn't have the talent to live up to #1 pick hype (he does). The issue I have with the selection is where does Bennett play? Tristan Thompson developed into the Cavs' 2nd-best player last season (he led the team with 8.48 WP, 9th among all NBA power forwards), and I'm not sure how Bennett fits alongside him in the front court. Neither player is big enough to man center for any significant amount of time, and if the plan is to stick 6-8, 240 lbs. Bennett at the 3, Cleveland's defensive woes from last season will be exacerbated.
*Except Terry Pluto, who seemed adamant the choice would not be Nerlens Noel. While Pluto leaned heavily towards Alex Len as the top pick, Bennett was also a prospect he consistently mentioned as a very real possibility.
Another thing that concerns me regarding Bennett is I just don't see where a player of his profile fits in today's NBA. Think back to the epic Game 6 & Game 7 battles of the Finals. Would Bennett have been a part of either Gregg Popovich's or Eric Spoelstra's rotations? I don't think so. The number one NBA comp I've seen for Bennett is Larry Johnson. This of course may just be due to journalistic laziness (Bennett is about Johnson's size, they both went to UNLV, they both went #1 overall, etc.), but let's run with it.
Before back injuries and a petty, stupid feud with Alonzo Mourning derailed his career*, Grandmama was a force of nature. Over the first 5 seasons of his career, he put up per game averages of 19.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists. His True Shooting % was a solid 55.8% over that time, and the 41.1 Win Shares he produced is the 18th most over that span. He played in 2 All-Star games, and was widely considered one of the 20 best players in the league (give or take 5 players depending on the season). But would Johnson be valuable at all in today's league?
He thrived in an era built in the shadow of the Bad Boys Pistons title runs, where games were 80-76 slug fests. Instead of worrying about chasing the Stephen Curry's of the world off the 3-point line or attempting to somehow handle LeBron James in a pick-and-roll switch (or any situation, really), defenses back then were more concerned about clogging the paint and inflicting as much pain on the opponent as was legally allowed. Johnson was talented enough that he could probably find a niche in today's game as an energy spark supreme off the bench, but I find it very hard to see him ever getting crunch time minutes for any team of consequence. I have the same worries about Bennett, but I hope to the spectre LeBron's 2014 free agency that I am wrong.
*1990's NBA Feuds that ruined potentially great teams:
1. Chris Webber and Don Nelson in Golden State
2. Zo and Johnson in Charlotte
3. Jason Kidd, Jamal Mashburn, and Jim Jackson (featuring Toni Braxton) in Dallas.
4. Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson vs. the world in New Jersey (with a tragic assist from Drazen Petrovic's car wreck and the drafting of Yinka Dare [which, ironically enough, is one of the only assists of Dare's career, RIP]).
Second Round Fun
In the 2nd round, the Cavs drafted Alan Crabbe out of Cal at 31, then immediately traded him to Portland for two future 2nd round picks. Anytime you can parlay one of the highest-value positions in the draft (the 1st pick of the 2nd round, where you can get a 1st Round without having to dole out guaranteed money) into two picks that may or may not ever be worth that much, you have to do it. Sarcasm aside, I don't mind moving Crabbe. He's a good shooter who may have mitigated any pressure to bring back Wayne Ellington with an impressive summer, but--assuming Ellington comes back and Karasev does indeed come stateside--there would have been a logjam behind (or in front of; stay tuned!) Dion Waiters.
That logjam would have been really, um, jammed after the Cavs added Carick Felix at #33. I assumed Felix was foreign since I had never heard of him, but, nope, he played 4 years at Arizona State. DraftExpress's breakdown describes Felix as an athlete with good finishing skills, excellent rebounding for his position (8.1 rebounds per game last year), and tremendous effort and ability on the defensive end. This all sounds great for a team in desperate need of a 3-and-D small forward, but DraftExpress also lists his likely position as shooting guard while also pointing out that he struggles to create his own offense of the dribble (ouch). The Cavs must be looking for the next Danny Green, because that scouting report sounds very familiar (and let's hope they actually hold onto this Danny Green if Felix does pan out).
I'm no draft or college basketball expert, so I'm not going to pretend that I know anything about Felix other than what I just paraphrased from DraftExpress. But what disturbs me about his selection is that the Cavs appear to have passed up the better version of Felix in the form of San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin (who was snagged at #41 by Memphis). DX had Franklin ranked as the 23rd best prospect in this draft (with Felix sitting at #69), and they weren't alone in their love for Franklin. ESPN's Chad Ford had Franklin at 19 (I have no idea where Felix is since getting past #20 on Ford's Big Board costs money, even though the draft is over, which is brilliant); NBADraft.net was Franklin #32, Felix #55; Hoops Analyst had Franklin #16, Felix unranked; and Wages of Wins' model actually has Felix at #18, but Franklin still higher at #8 (with both higher than Anthony Bennett at #23, which doesn't surprise me, since Wins Produced loves rebounds, and both Felix and Franklin are monster rebounders for wings).
This pre-draft love for Franklin of course does not guarantee that he will be good or even better than Felix; it just means that a college b-ball know-nothing like myself can't help but wonder what Chris Grant & Co. see in Felix that they don't see in Franklin. I hope they (and Wages of Wins) are right, because getting 3.5 Wins Produced (Felix's projected 2000 minute production) out of the #33 pick would be a coup for a team looking to take a big step forward this season.
One Non-Cavs Thought
Philadelphia's Terrible, Awful, No-Good Rebuilding Plan
Following the Sixers big trade of Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and a top-5 protected 2014 1st-round pick from New Orleans, I have seen nothing but overwhelming praise heaped onto Philly, to which I say "FART NOISE."
Travel back with me to late last summer and the conclusion of the Dwight Howard trade. Philadelphia slipped into the proceedings by agreeing to deal their best player--Andre Iguodala, shipped to Denver--in exchange for Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson. Two young players--rookie Moe Harkless and 2nd-year big man Nikola Vucevic--also went from Philly to Orlando. At the time, the Sixers were applauded for taking a leap-of-faith in hopes of contention, trading the face of a solid team that had peaked for the kind of potential low-post force that can be ridden to a championship. I didn't love it at the time--Bynum's injury history and, more specifically, expiring contract made me question his high cost--but I completely understood the logic behind the move.
Flashing back forward (paradox!) to present-day, we know of course that Bynum never played a second for the Sixers, and will now likely leave via free agency. Richardson played only 33 games, and despite the ascent of Holiday to All-Star status, the season ended disappointingly for a team expecting to build on 2012's surprise playoff run. Doug Collins was booted off the sideline, and Sam Hinkie was plucked from Houston's front office to oversee a massive rebuild, kicking off with the Holiday-Noel trade. If a rebuild awaited only one season removed from that 2012 run, though, why go for a championship at all last season?
Let's say Philadelphia stays out of whatever Howard deal ends up happening without Iguodala going to Denver. Iggy plays out his contract in Philly, and Harkless and Vucevic are buried on Doug Collins's bench. Even though the 10.4 Wins Iguodala produced last season would have likely pushed the Sixers back into the playoffs, let's assume they finish with an identical 34-48 record, Collins is let go, Hinkie comes in, and they still decide a rebuild is necessary. Which of the two following scenarios looks most enticing to you?
SCENARIO A (REALITY)
PG Michael Carter-Williams 1.5 WP
SG Jason Richardson 3.6 WP
SF Evan Turner 2.0 WP
PF Thaddeus Young 8.1 WP
C Spencer Hawes 2.3 WP
C LaVoy Allen 1.0 WP
C Nerlens Noel 4.2 WP
PF Arnett Moultrie 2.9 WP
Total Wins: 25.6 plus New Orleans's 2014 1st Round pick
SCENARIO B (ALTERNATE REALITY)
PG Jrue Holiday 4.0 WP
SG Jason Richards 3.6 WP
SF Maurice Harless 5.0 WP
PF Thaddeus Young 8.1 WP
C Nikola Vucevic 8.1 WP
F Spencer Hawes 2.3 WP
F Evan Turner 2.0 WP
F Arnett Moultrie 2.9 WP
Total Wins: 36 + whoever they took at #12 without trading Holiday
Personally, I'll take the proven production of Vucevic over the potential production of Noel (even though I am a fan of Nerlens; the other crappy part of that trade is that it robbed us of saying "Nerlens in N'Awlins"), and Harkless looks like he very much has a future in the league as a starting 3. I realize Hinkie wasn't the one who made the Bynum trade, and that he is just trying to make the best of what was handed to him, but this just illustrates how the lack of a consistent voice with a strong vision for where a team is heading can hurt a franchise long-term (as all Cleveland Browns fans nod sadly in agreement).
As for New Orleans, it looks like Austin Rivers's time in the league is over before it began. Coming off one of the worst rookie seasons a top-10 pick has ever turned, minutes for the Rivers will be hard to come by with Holiday, Greivas Vasquez, and 2nd round selection Pierre Jackson on board. Boo to the Pelicans for taking Rivers at #10 last year, but kudos to them for realizing their error and quickly turning the page.