June 28, 2012; Newark, NJ, USA; Dion Waiters (Syracuse), right, is introduced as the number four overall pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers by NBA commissioner David Stern during the 2012 NBA Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE
I've held off on giving my full opinion on the Cleveland Cavaliers' draft until now. I had to sleep on it and think about it for a while before forming a real idea. Even still, it will take some more research and study before I am 100% sure how I feel, but I'll give it a shot.
First off, I was stunned. But there's an important distinction to be made with regards to what I was stunned about. My reaction on Twitter and in the comments was a bit of an exaggeration and any anger/shock was mostly directed at the fact that we didn't get Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal. I'm pretty sure nobody was expecting the Charlotte Bobcats to take MKG (more on this later) and once that happened, it became pretty clear what was going to happen. The Wizards quickly took Beal and that left the Cavaliers with a tough decision (apparently not very tough though). Late reports pointed to the Cavaliers taking Dion Waiters and that's exactly what they did. They shocked people because nobody really though he was in the mix with the fourth pick in the draft. He shut down workouts and didn't interview for anybody. He left the combine. Then we drafted him. Whoa.
So how do I feel about it? Pretty damn good, actually. Obviously I wanted MKG or Beal, but once they were gone...who would you have taken? Did anybody truly love Harrison Barnes at that spot? Or Andre Drummond? So that's where Dion Waiters comes in. The Cavaliers drafted Waiters. Everybody freaked out. Bill Simmons made jokes and then we moved on with the draft. People commented that the Cavs "panicked" when their trade with Charlotte fell through or when their top two targets were off the board. When everybody relaxed, it became clear that they didn't panic at all. Chris Grant and Byron Scott did their press conference later that night and were grinning from ear to ear. They were oozing with confidence. Byron Scott called getting Waiters at #4 "a steal". Our head coach thinks we got the 2nd best player in the draft. How can you hate that?
Grant and Scott harped on the fact that Waiters was a big time scorer and playmaker. Well we have Kyrie Irving, but we need playmakers, right? Enter Dion Waiters and you've got one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA. Obviously they were pleased about adding Tyler Zeller as well, but we'll get there in a second.
I briefly want to talk about the trade with Charlotte. Up until the draft, it was made to sound as if we were really close to trading up and getting the 2nd pick in the draft. Bradley Beal was presumably the target there, but the deal fell through and Beal went to Washington. The thinking behind the proposed deal was that the Bobcats wanted Thomas Robinson and could easily trade back to #4 and take Robinson there while picking up some more assets. It seemed like a no-brainer, right? Well, there was a pretty big flaw in our reasoning. Virtually everybody assumed that they wanted Robinson. In the end, Charlotte selected Kidd-Gilchrist with the 2nd pick which means that he was above Robinson on their board. If they had traded down with the Cavs, we would have taken Beal and the Wizards would have taken MKG. That would mean Charlotte misses out on their top guy. Obviously, they didn't want to do that and the price to settle for a lesser player (in their mind) was higher than we wanted to pay. Therefore, I really don't blame our front office for not getting a deal done. It simply wasn't as straightforward as the media made it out to be initially.
With all that considered, I have no problem with the Cavs taking Waiters with the fourth pick. Chris Grant said that it was the most research they've ever done on a player, despite not being able to work him out or interview him. Byron Scott said that for the past three weeks he's been telling Cleveland's scouts: "I want Dion Waiters." Well, you've got him.
Getting Tyler Zeller with the 17th pick in the draft was a steal, in my opinion. You've got an NBA-ready center who runs the floor and is the perfect complement to Tristan Thompson. He can knock down midrange jumpers and we didn't have to give up Anderson Varejao to get him. Sure, the Cavs gave up the 24th, 33rd, and 34th picks in the draft but who cares? Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder, and Bernard James were going to be difference makers on this team? Personally, I don't think so. Cleveland also never wanted to bring in four rookies. They were looking to consolidate those assets and get two or three good players. That's what they did. According to Grant, they had Zeller ranked close to the top-10 prospects in the draft and were stunned he was available at 17. Going into next season, the Cavs will have a solid big man rotation consisting of Zeller, Varejao, and Thompson. That's a hell of a lot better than what we were working with last year.
In the end, I'm pretty satisfied with the Cavs draft. The fact that Scott and Grant were so confident about it really helps me feel better. I'm disappointed we didn't get MKG or Beal, but here's hoping that Waiters blows them out of the water. He's unbelievably confident and adds a much needed swagger to this team. Getting Zeller and Waiters gives the Cavaliers some nice athleticism and the ability to run in transition. Kyrie had Anthony Parker and Samardo Samuels last year. You think he'll appreciate the upgrade in passing options? The Cavs have a versatile, athletic, exciting team going into next season. Summer League is going to be a blast. We may still be a lottery team next year, but we'll be much more watchable and won't have to see Parker and Antawn Jamison chuck up threes every night. Good things are on the way for the Cavaliers.