The Cleveland Cavaliers appear ready to take a step forward and start winning basketball games next season. They hired Mike Brown, a coach who has never failed to make the playoffs, and the general feeling among both the fan base and front office seems to be that the team can make some real strides next season. Still, though, the youth movement is far from over. Tyler Zeller is likely to see his minutes go down next season but Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters will continue to play lots of minutes, and make some mistakes, and do some really fun things. There could be two more additions to this young core in the June draft. We have seen how painful and difficult it is to win while giving first and second year players starters minutes. Keeping in mind that the Cavs both want to stay young and start winning, what are the Cavs options, particularly as it relates to the 19th pick?
Draft a player who can help immediately
Full disclosure: I am not sure this player exists, and I am even less sure that the Cavaliers can isolate the player. But the idea would be to find a well-developed player that has a specific NBA skill that the Cavs lack who can immediately fill the role. The Cavaliers need perimeter defending, shot blocking, three point shooting, and either a big who can score or who can facilitate for others. They need a backup point guard and a backup power forward. This is not an exhaustive list, of course. Are there any guys who might be available around 19 who could fulfill any of these roles? Jeff Withey and Gorgui Dieng are players who are consistently talked about as guys who can protect the rim and rebound immediately. Both were huge factors in their program's success this past season. Both are 23 years old.
Let's start with Withey. He was undoubtedly one of the best defenders in NCAA basketball this past season, has great length, blocks lots of shots, and is actually pretty athletic. But he is not very strong, and at his age you have to wonder if he can add strength. He probably can, but my guess is that it will take some time. Maybe you are willing to still give him minutes, even if he is a little overmatched physically, as long as he can protect the rim. He plays very smart and is a good help side defender. Despite this, I can't help but feel like Tyler Zeller was similarly prepared as a smart defender; it wasn't enough to keep him from being bullied. Still, his length gives him an advantage Tyler does not posess. But he brings almost no value offensively. He is reasonably coordinated and was pretty efficient, though he turned the ball over a bit more than you would like. Playing against stronger NBA players will make it difficult for him to get position. He certainly isn't a post-up threat. Ultimately, he may be a solid backup center who can defend and challenge shots. But I don't think that will be next season, necessarily.
Dieng enjoyed a great tournament run en route to Louisville's national championship. He was impressive, no doubt, and showed that perhaps he could still add a few offensive wrinkles to his game. He even showed some nice passing touch. Still, his value, like Withey's will primarily come on the defensive end. He has an NBA body right now, with fantastic length and strength. When he came to the United States in 2009, Dieng weighed 187 pounds. He is now up around 250, and he hasn't lost the athleticism that allows him to challenge shots and rotate. Despite his age, though, Dieng is still more of a guy you take based on upside. In my opinion, it will take him time to learn how to play defense in an NBA system, and outside of a few things he can do offensively, he still has a long ways to go. I could see his defense being similar to Tristan Thompson's rookie year, where his block numbers go steadily down while he learns that he has responsibilities defensively. I am more sold on Dieng playing NBA-proficient defense next year than I am Withey, primarily because of his strength. If he is available at 19 I think it would be a solid pick, though asking too much too early could be setting him up to fail.
Draft a player who can take his time developing
This philosophy involves punting in large part. Instead of relying on a middle first round draft pick to make a positive difference immediately, you take a guy who can hopefully be coming into his own in a few years with seasoning and growth. You won't see the fruits of the pick right away, but perhaps the upside is higher. This is ultimately the way I would go, should they decide to keep the pick. It could mean a few different types of players. Steven Adams is a 19 year old center from New Zealand who projects as a plus defender, and has the time to develop offensive skills. The Cavaliers could have him play all of next season in Canton under close supervision. By the time he is 21-22, he could be a great cheap option to join the rotation or even be used as part of a trade. A completely different type of player who could do the same thing is Archie Goodwin. He is 18, was seen a potential lottery pick heading into the year, and largely disappointed. He can't really shoot, but has great length, athleticism, and quickness for a 2-guard. His production, though, was quite bad. The Cavaliers could draft him, retain Wayne Ellington for a year and have Goodwin spend the year in Canton. If the Cavs don't want to use a roster spot on a guy who will spend a lot of time in Canton with the 19th pick, one of the international players not ready to come to the NBA yet makes sense as well. Giannis Adetokunbo is perhaps the guy with the most talent in this category
Trade the pick
This is, of course, the most difficult scenario to predict. Would the 19th pick just be one of several assets being moved? Would it be used to simply acquire a proven veteran? How good would that veteran be? I really don't know. Alonzo Gee and the 19th pick for Danny Granger? I don't know if either team does that. The point is, if Chris Grant doesn't see value around the Lakers pick, a trade for a real NBA player could be the best option.
My preference is that the Cavaliers don't put too much emphasis on ability to help immediately when they decide what to do with the Lakers pick. Young players take time, and it seems that free agency could be used as a way to patch up the Cavaliers' holes. Draft young guys who have the opportunity to be more complete NBA players.