Now that The Cleveland Cavalier's season appears to be more or less over, it is time to do what Cleveland fans do best: think about next year's draft class. After thinking about five players who appear to be at or near the top of most mocks, I think I've come to a different conclusion from most other fans. It is my opinion that, even if we had the first overall pick, Alex Len should be our guy.
Alex Len, C, Maryland
For starters, the sophomore from Ukraine is 7-1, 255 Lbs, mobile and skilled. As a freshman, he struggled to get burn because he apparently had trouble adjusting to the speed of ACC play (as evidenced by his terrible 5 fouls/40 minutes). But he still put up some impressive defensive stats, despite the limited play; he actually led the ACC in blocks/40 as a freshman. This year, he has put his game in a new gear, averaging 13.6/8.2/2.2/56.4% (ppg/rpg/bpg/fg%) in approximately 25 minutes. He has cut down on his fouls considerably (although foul trouble is still an issue at times) and gets to the line more often the Nerlens Noel does, where he shoots a respectable 66%. He is an incredibly mobile defender for his size, who has the skill as a 19 year old to build a fairly ranged game that can compliment TT's interior-heavy game. Obviously, he still needs to work on gaining post position, but he has a ton of room to grown into his gigantic frame. Len's ability to protect the rim and hedge on PnRs can help replace some of what Andy does now as his skills erode. Len can be an all-star if he applies himself and gets good coaching, and he would fit very nicely in Cleveland.
Nerlens Noel, C, Kentucky
I'm a fan of Noel's defensive ability, and he has managed to become an effective low usage scorer and an excellent rim protector. He's a great athlete, is super mobile, and despite his raw offensive ability, has managed to contribute with a ton of garbage buckets. I'm a bit concerned that he will get bullied in the pros because he is only 6-10, but I'm far more concerned about his very raw offensive game. Although he has scored efficiently, he really hasn't been asked to do much, he's a bad free throw shooter, and he doesn't get to the line nearly as much as Len does. But most of all, I think he and TT are redundant pieces. We saw how TT struggles when he plays with a 5 who doesn't stretch the floor at all (Andy), and how he shines when the lane is clearer (Zeller). Noel will be a very good player in the pros, but his lack of skill will slow Thompson's offensive development.
Cody Zeller, C, Indiana
I hope Cody Zeller turns into an effective pro; he's a classy guy with a good head on his shoulders. But his tiny wingspan and serious lack of post strength is a problem. He is extremely skilled, he runs the floor really well, and can finish in traffic like a pro. He's never going to be a great defender or rebounder, but he is certainly passable. I like what Zeller does, and I think he should be a top 10 pick, but I could not see how the Cavs could look at him and see a star. Len and Noel both could be stars, but Zeller lacks the toughness or athleticism to become one. Players like Al Jefferson and Kevin Love make up what they lack in leaping for an incredible amount of toughness and grit, but that just is not who Zeller is. He projects to be something like Brook Lopez, but nobody picks that first overall.
Shabazz Muhammad, G/F, UCLA
I'm a real Shabazz hater. He scores well, and fairly efficiently. Despite his reputation as an MKG clone, he actually has shot well from three. What he does not do, is anything else. He rebounds poorly, at under 5 a game, he hasn't blocked a SINGLE SHOT all season. He has almost two times more turnovers (27), than he has assists and steals COMBINED (16). At only 6-6, his lack of size will add to an already small group of guards and wings. Even in a Howland system (notorious for stifling talent), Muhammad has been inexcusably bad. The question is: Are you excited for a guy who doesn't pass, block shots, get steals, or rebound?
Ben McLemore, G, Kansas
To be honest, I fell in love with McLemore the first time I saw him. He's awesome. He scores from anywhere on the court, is a great play maker. I could go on. The problem is, I believe that Dion Waiters will develop into a really good 2 guard. McLemore really cannot play the 3, except in extreme small ball situations. McLemore is just an awful fit here, and that stinks. I'm sure he will be an all-star, but somewhere else. If we drafted McLemore, I think we would create an awful culture of competition between him and Waiters, and I'm afraid that it would become a major locker room cancer.
To sum up, I think there are many talented players in this class. Noel, McLemore, and Len all have excellent skill sets, and I think all of them will be all-stars some day. But Alex Len is by far the best fit for what Cleveland wants to do. Perhaps if Noel shows more offensive growth later on, I'll buy him as the #1 pick, but until then, I'm satisfied being the only person on earth who would pick Len #1. So, what do y'all want?