The dust has barely settled on the 2012 NBA Draft, but that isn't going to stop me from taking a (massively premature) look at next season's possible draft class, and what direction the Cavaliers might choose to go. So many variables are up in the air for the 2013 Draft that it is impossible to say whether anything I write here will have any bearing on what reality involves next June. But, lets do it anyway. Obviously, we don't know where the Cavaliers will be picking. Obviously, we don't know what players will actually be a part of the draft. Much of the Cavaliers draft strategy will be determined based on how the team feels in 10 months about Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, and Tristan Thompson. This post will try and make some educated guesses, but that is all that they ultimately are.
There will be articles written later on with input from all the Fear the Sword writers giving predictions on the season, and I will save the serious analysis for that. I think the Cavaliers will be an improved team from 2011-2012, though I am not sure it will show up in wins and losses. The reason for that is that a lot of the teams at the bottom of the conferences are quite a bit improved from last year. The Cavaliers should get more minutes from Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving last year, and should see better play from Tristan Thompson and Alonzo Gee, and might even see a net positive from Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller taking minutes from Antawn Jamison and Anthony Parker. But, teams like Brooklyn, Sacramento, Washington, Golden State, and New Orleans might have been able to improve more. I will guess that Cavaliers have a better final record than Charlotte, Orlando, Sacramento, Detroit, Toronto, and maybe Atlanta. It seems like a fair bet that the Cavaliers end up drafting somewhere between 5th and 11th. Some people would have you believe that this is bad because it puts you in no-man's land where you aren't getting a truly great player. I tend to disagree. We already have our transcendent superstar. It is now about finding competent basketball players to put around him. It doesn't have to be a home run.
As for the development of our young guys, that is hard. We haven't even seen Waiters or Zeller play a game yet, let alone a full NBA season. Is Waiters a great 6th man who will be able to come in and score off the bench? Is he a potential All-Star? Will we really have the best back court in the League in 3 or 4 years? I can pretty much guarantee that regardless of how well Zeller plays this year, the team would not hesitate to use their top pick in June on another Center if they really fell in love with one. Tristan Thompson is a different story. A full off-season (in which everyone agrees he is working hard to improve) and a full NBA season should really give the team a clear idea of what kind of player the Cavaliers can expect. Is it a starting NBA Power Forward? Is it some type of hybrid Center/PF who can bring energy and some exciting plays? The Cavaliers didn't look to closely at improving the PF spot in this years draft. Next year, they might be open to it.
So what does next year's draft look like? Early reports are, well, not good. Aside from a few big time prospects coming from high school, and a few guys who stayed in school for an extra year of college, it isn't a terribly deep draft. Still, with a top 12 pick it is hard to imagine the Cavaliers failing to get a productive player; it is easy to imagine the Cavaliers failing to get great value with the Lakers or Heat pick, or the Orlando pick that will likely be at the top of the second round. I am afraid that there won't be a Quincy Miller type player around after the 25th pick or so. I will give you my top 10 for the Cavaliers right now, and then analyze a few of the players that we might take a look at.
1. Shabazz Muhammad, SF - UCLA. This is a guy who reminds me a lot of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, though Muhammad's skill level is said to be higher than MKG's was coming out of high school. Very active, this guy came out and just dominated the McDonald's All-American game. He loves to get out in transition and finish. Incredibly athletic, and he plays hard all of the time. Not a top shooter at the moment, but it can be fixed. Perfect fit for the Cleveland Cavaliers. There is an NCAA investigation just getting underway into Muhammad, so he may never actually play a game for Coach Ben Howland.
2. Nerlens Noel, C - Kentucky. Anthony Davis 2.0, allegedly. Supposedly quite a bit more raw than Davis, though.
3. Cody Zeller, C - Indiana. This would be pretty awesome if we somehow ended up with Cody. All Zeller, all the time.
4. James McAdoo, PF - North Carolina. Really like McAdoo's game. Very skilled, very athletic, was pretty much buried behind Jon Henson and Tyler Zeller. He plays Tristan Thompson's position, but I actually think that while they would be a little undersized playing together, it could work. In the loss to Kansas that knocked North Carolina out of the tournament, McAdoo was probably the best player for the Tar Heels. He had 15 points in just 19 minutes and was very active defensively.
5. Alex Poythress, SF - Kentucky.
6. Rudy Gobert, C - France.
7. Adonis Thomas, SF - Memphis.
8. C.J. Leslie, SF - North Carolina State. Will make N.C. State more relevant than they have been in years, if that is your kind of thing.
9. Tony Mitchell, SF - North Texas. Has the potential to be an Andre Iguodala type player, in my opinion, but it seems very unlikely he will get to that level. Great size, athleticism, defense and rebounding, but mediocre offensive skills.
10. Isaiah Austin, C - Baylor. Another highly rated player for Baylor. Will be interesting to see if one of them actually lives up to the hype this time.
Essentially, the Cavaliers want the best Small Forward or Center available, unless another option is just too far superior in the organizations judgment. One thing to note is that it looks like the second straight weak point guard class. Good thing Cleveland doesn't have to worry about that. Projecting the draft this far out is strange business; remembering that in order to get the really good players, your team has to play bad basketball makes for a weird mix.