Let me preface my entire post with an important disclaimer: while advanced stats tell us A LOT about a player’s strengths and weaknesses, there are some intangibles it simply cannot measure. What formula can numerate Tristan Thompson’s tireless work ethic or Kyrie Irving’s veteran guile? If we were drafting robots, all Chris Grant would need to bring to the draft room is an Excel spreadsheet.
That being said, I’m curious which prospect would the fill the Cavs biggest needs if we look strictly at the numbers. Much of the info I’m using comes from Laughingcavs.com, which, in my opinion, has the best free statistical data I’ve seen specific to the Cavaliers.
Analyzing the team’s last 1000 possessions, the team has been amazing on offense, even with Kyrie Irving on the sidelines. Their EFG% is 9th best in the league and their efficiency is surprisingly high at 117.3, good for 2nd in the NBA. Other notable strengths include top 10 placements in FT% (3rd), ORB% (6th), and TOV% (1st). The one weakness on this end of the floor is blocked%, with 9% of their shots being blocked, worst in the league. With small guards driving to the hoop, their shots are bound to be blocked at some point; however the frontcourt is getting blocked far too often. I believe having better three point shooters or lob catchers will decrease this number, as it will give Irving and Waiters a viable alternative to taking a highly contested shot over Dwight Howard or Larry Sanders.
This seems to match up with the offensive shot chart. As a team, the Cavs shoot incredibly well on long 2s (the highest percentage in the league) and can get a ton of looks close to the basket. Nothing seems to stand out as a major weakness as they are in the middle of the pack for most other categories.
Defensively, the picture is not as bright. They are 29th in EFG% (53.3%), 26th in ORB%, 18th in Blocked%, and 24th in defensive efficiency (110). The only real strength here is turnover % (5th). As we’ve seen many times throughout the season, they are getting demolished in the paint and almost everywhere else. The team needs an impact defensive player in the worst way and improving on this side of the court is the largest obstacle keeping them from playing in May.
So looking at the offensive and defensive statistics, it’s no surprise that the team’s biggest hole is the lack of a true post presence with a strong defensive skill set. With the 2013 Draft expecting to be chock full of centers in the top ten, there will be plenty of talented big men to choose from.
So Who Should We Choose?
The first name that pops into everyone’s head in Nerlens Noel, but does he fill our needs? Well, he led the NCAA in blocks per game and was 7th in the SEC in defensive rebounding percentage. Adding him would theoretically go a long way towards improving the team’s horrendous defensive numbers with regards to rebounding, blocking, and FG% in the paint.
Similarly, Alex Len provides many of the same benefits as Noel, though to a slightly lesser extent. He is 6th in the ACC in REB%, although he doesn’t rank amongst the leaders in defensive rebounding. Len is also 2nd in the conference with 2.1 blocks per game.
A potential dark horse candidate is Isaiah Austin. His defensive rebounding is very strong at 21.6%, a number that is better than Alex Len and nearly equal to Nerlens Noel. With 1.5 blocks per game, he is able to put up the 6th highest total in the Big 12. While his block numbers don’t rise to the same level as the previous two candidates, he can compensate on the offensive end with his three-point shooting ability, which is currently at 31.5%.
The last big man we have Cody Zeller. While his name appears all over the Big Ten leaderboard, his strengths don’t necessarily coincide with the Cavaliers’ weaknesses. Amongst the four prospects, he has the fewest blocks per game and the second lowest defensive rebounding percentage. He is easily the most skilled offensively of the four, but, based on the numbers, the Cavs need a player with a stronger defensive game.
One other person I wanted to include is Otto Porter. Though not a center, Porter does have some numbers that warrant a mention here. His DRB% of 19.5% is equal to Cody Zeller (who would have guessed?) and his 3PT% of 45.3% would give the team a much needed long-range shooter. Although his block numbers are mediocre, his strengths could fill several of the holes this team faces.
Sorting all five players by fit, my list would be:
Remember, this is solely based on my own amateur research and intentionally ignores any game film or scouting reports. Just looking at numbers on a paper, those would be my preferred selections. One person that surprised me, though, was Isaiah Austin. I thought for sure he would be #5 on the list, but his multi-faceted game could fit in nicely to the rotation.
Fortunately, there is a strong possibility that at least two of the top four on the list will still be available wherever the Cavs draft. With the team’s .500 play since the Jon Leuer trade, the chance of a top 3 pick is rapidly decreasing. Therefore, it’s up to Chris Grant to find another star amongst a handful of second tier players.
Let me know what you think, and, as always, don’t reach, Youngblood.