At the end of last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers had three centers on their roster: Anderson Varejao, Spencer Hawes, and Tyler Zeller. Due to Varejao's age, health, and the flexibility of his contract, there's no guarantee that he'll be back. Hawes is an unrestricted free agent, and the market may well be the force that determines whether or not he returns. Zeller, who showed plenty of improvement over the course of the year, will probably be back unless he's included in a trade.
Needless to say, the center position is far from solidified. We still don't know who will be making personnel decisions for the Cavs going forward, but whoever it is will have to think about adding one. Last week, Justin took a look at some of the free agents who could be options.
Signing a veteran (or re-signing Hawes) would obviously be the most desirable option for a team that will be looking to contend next season. This is especially true given the apparent dearth of prospects who will available in the draft. But it's at least worth considering some of those prospects.
Joel Embiid - 7' - Kansas
He's got all kinds of upside, and he is going to be one of the most coveted players in this draft. Unfortunately, he'll only be an option for the Cavs is Nick Gilbert does some weird voodoo at the lottery again.
Noah Vonleh - 6'10 - Indiana
At just 18 years old (he doesn't turn 19 until August), Vonleh is one of the youngest and most intriguing players in this draft. He's listed at just 6'10, but his 7'4 wingspan and 242 pound body suggest that he will be able to play down low at the NBA level. He's apparently a very good rebounder, and has all the tools to become a rim protector (he averaged 1.4 blocks per game in college).
In addition to what he can do around the basket, Vonleh also has the potential to be a guy who can stretch the floor a little bit. He'll never be a Hawes-type in that regard, but he also isn't going to need to switch shooting hands or anything crazy like that. At Indiana, he took about one three-pointer per game and made it at a solid 48.5% clip.
Vonleh is currently projected as a mid-lottery pick, so I'm sure the Cavs will take a good look at him.
Jusuf Nurkic - 6'11 - Bosnia
Unlike Vonleh, Nurkic is a more traditional big man. At 280 pounds, he relies on his size rather than athleticism, and he plays with his back to the basket. He's only been playing organized basketball for about five years, so he will still be a bit of a project. One of the issues he's faced while playing in Europe is foul trouble: Nurkic averaged 3.2 fouls in just 16.6 minutes per game.
If the Cavs really want a center, Nurkic could be an option with their lottery pick if Vonleh is off the board or if Nurkic has a really strong showing for them in his workouts.
Clint Capela - 6'11 - Switzerland
Both Draft Express and Chad Ford list Capela as a power forward, and his 222 pound frame probably won't allow him to play center in the traditional sense. However, he's extremely athletic, finishes well at the basket, and can be a good rim protector. It's sort of interesting to imagine what it would be like having him next to Anthony Bennett.
Throughout the last year, Capela's projected stock has moved around a bit. He's a player worth keeping an eye on.
Mitch McGary - 6'10 - Michigan
He won't be a lottery pick, but if the Cavs decide to grab a big man early in the second round, they could certainly do worse than McGary. There was a time when he looked like a potential lottery pick, but a disappointing sophomore season (which culminated in a suspension for marijuana) really hurt his stock.
He was dealing with back issues last season, which could be looked at in one of two ways. We can either hope that he will get back to being a talent worthy of the lottery once he is healthy, or we can worry that he is going to be dealing with back issues throughout his career. It's not unlike the situation that Jared Sullinger faced a few years ago, when he nearly slipped out of the first round because of back issues.
At 21 years old, McGary is much more polished than every other big man in this draft. He's a traditional center with a solid post game, and he played his best basketball when he had a really talented point guard (Trey Burke) creating easy looks for him around the basket. Giving Kyrie Irving a polished post player seems like it might be a good idea.
Other names to watch
The other centers currently projected by Draft Express to be available in the second round include:
-Artem Klimenko, a skinny but long and athletic project from Russia.
-Isaiah Austin, who had a solid but unspectacular sophomore season at Baylor.
-Patric Young, an undersized center prospect who played four impressive seasons at Florida.
-Johnny O'Bryant, another undersized guy who played in the SEC.
-Nikola Jokic, a relatively unknown prospect from Serbia.