The Cavs have Thursday night off while they get ready to play in Brooklyn Friday night, but Quicken Loans Arena will be the home of meaningful basketball all the same. Notre Dame and Wichita State have just tipped off, and the juggernaut Kentucky Wildcats will be next. In years past, this blog would be a mix of glass half full posts about struggling young draft picks and earnest draft analysis around this time of year.
A lot has changed. While no one would call anything that has happened to the Cavs in the last 12 months smooth sailing, the franchise's fortunes have turned. The team is no longer in limbo. The tanking is over. No but seriously this time. This team gets to compete for championships now. It's a big part of why I refuse to let the Kevin Love drama bring me down this year. This is so much better than where we've been.
But while the Cavs are in title contention mode, they do have a first round pick in this year's draft. The Bulls have the right to swap picks with the Cavs, but it appears that Cleveland is going to finish with a better record. If the season ended today they'd select 25th overall. What would they be looking for? The biggest needs the Cavs will likely have heading into next season are the same ones they have right now. Kendrick Perkins has struggled in limited minutes to be a capable fourth big, and David Griffin has mentioned the team's need for an upgrade at backup point guard.
I don't watch much college basketball, but after reading stuff from Sam Vecenie of CBS Sports, Draft Express, and Chad Ford of ESPN, here are a couple interesting prospects.
Delon Wright, Utah - 6'5. 179 lbs. 22 years old. point guard. senior.
Wright is a junior college transfer that excelled in two years of play at Utah. For fans of Dion Waiters, this is an opportunity for the Cavs to pick up another Philadelphia guard. Wright has great size for the point guard position.
Here's a snippet from Draft Express on Wright:
Wright does a good amount of his scoring in the open court, averaging over 4.5 transition opportunities per game according to Synergy Sports Technology. Not only does he ignite the fast break at a prolific rate, he also converts his opportunities here with spectacular efficiency, posting a phenomenal 1.436 points per possession in these situations (#1 in college basketball [min: 100 possessions]), hitting nearly 80% of his field goal attempts from the floor.
Wright is also Utah's primary ball-handler in the half-court, seeing nearly five attempts per game in pick and roll situations. He uses his superior strength to draw fouls very frequently, being fouled on nearly a quarter of his possessions in these situations, which helps mitigate his relatively high turnover rate (20%) on the pick and roll.
Wright is less of a developmental pick in that he'd be given a chance to earn a way to contribute early on. With Wright's struggles shooting from three point range, though, it's not clear he's a great fit to play off ball with either Kyrie Irving or LeBron James. He also will turn 23 years old in a month, so his upside is limited.
Terry Rozier, Louisville - 6'2. 190 lbs. 21 years old. point guard. sophomore.
Rozier hails from Shaker Heights, so this pick would be a homecoming of sorts. He's got a 6'7 wingspan, and has been compared to Kyle Lowry. After a quiet freshman year under Rick Pitino, Rozier has blossomed into a star. He's a 33% three point shooter in college, which presents come problems, but he projects to have an NBA body and athleticism. He's a very good defender in college.
While Kyle Lowry feels like a stretch (Rozier's true shooting rate is south of 52), he could be a valuable guard off the bench for a team employing Irving and James. Defend like crazy, develop into an average three point shooter, carve out your niche in the league. Of course, it's easier said than done, but it seems like Rozier could develop into something of a fit. If Vecenie is right, Rozier could be available due to his lack of distribution skills.
Long standing members of the community will know that I can't do one of these posts without falling in love with an international player. I jumped on the Karasev and Nurkic trains early, and Dario Saric remains the one that got away. So who do we have here ...
Zhou Qi, China - 7'1. 215 lbs. 19 years old. power forward/center.
The Cavs gotta draft this kid. He apparently has a questionable motor and is skinnier than I am (that's bad!), but the Canton Charge need him. And the Cavs might need him in three years. His footwork is apparently great. He's blocking all of the shots. His numbers in China caught ESPN's stats guru Kevin Pelton's eye, and he talked about it in this Insider piece:
Introducing a revolutionary thought: What if Mudiay isn't the most interesting prospect in China this year? Zhou is a 7-1, 19-year-old seeing CBA action for the first time, and his numbers are off the charts. Zhou's 72.2 percent shooting is tops in the league, and his block rate (10.8 percent of opponents' 2-point attempts) is nearly double anyone else. His stats translate to 14.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.3 blocks per 36 minutes in the NBA. That kind of production would make Zhou a surefire lottery pick, and probably more. Is there any chance he can actually be this good?
The Cavs have Timofey Mozgov signed through next season. After that, he will be a 30 year old free agent. In other words, it's possible the Cavs will need a long term option protecting the rim. Maybe it's Zhou Qi. Another bonus to the Cavs going this route would be in the case that Qi stays in China for another season. The Cavs will likely be in the luxury tax, and saving on Qi and pushing back his rookie contract start date could help the team save some real money. If the Cavs go the stash route, they could do much worse.
Who didn't I read up on? Who do you guys like?