For once, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in the NBA Draft lottery and didn’t get the number one pick. The unprotected pick conveyed by the Brooklyn Nets as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade with Boston didn’t move up in last night’s ping-pong ball results, and the Cavaliers will now be drafting eighth overall in the 2018 NBA Draft. This is normally disappointing, as it’s the difference between a potentially franchise-altering player and a much more risky prospect. Sometimes you end up with a quality player, like Rudy Gay or Channing Frye. Other times, you draft Marquese Chriss or Nik Stauskas.
However, in the 2018 NBA Draft, picking eighth isn’t such a bad thing. The Cavs may not have a shot at potential franchise changers like Luka Doncic and DeAndre Ayton, and that’s disappointing. But this draft class is deep at the top. As Chris Manning and I discussed on Locked on Cavaliers after the lottery, this class is probably between 8-10 prospects deep with players who could be considered top-five level prospects in your typical draft.
At pick number eight, the Cavaliers have a ton of options if they keep the pick. If the draft breaks correctly, they could luck into potential number-one scoring options. Many mock drafts have the Cavs taking Oklahoma point guard Trae Young, who lit college basketball on fire for the first half of the season and has unlimited range on his jumper. Others have the Cavs landing Michael Porter Jr., who was considered on par with Ayton as a prospect prior to his back injury. Both have the potential to be high-profile scorers in the NBA, and could give the Cavs a shot at crafting a replacement for LeBron James, whether that’s in 2018-2019 or beyond. Both players have warts that could have them drop, but if they do, they’re potential steals for Cleveland.
If the Cavs miss on both players, they can shift their focus to a potentially elite-level role player. There are several of those in this class, and all fit models the Cavs could use. Wendell Carter of Duke is multi-skilled offensively and could fit well in the Cavs’ open five-out system thanks to his passing. Mohamed Bamba of Texas could be the rim protector the Cavs have needed during LeBron’s entire tenure. Mikal Bridges of Villanova should be a plug-and-play three-and-D wing, which is always helpful on a LeBron team. Even a player like Miles Bridges of Michigan State, who is probably a step below those players as a prospect, could be very useful for the Cavs because of he can defend fours and play on the perimeter on offense, allowing him to be used in the way Derrick Williams, Jeff Green, and others have been tasked with in trying to take the load off LeBron. He could be more useful for Cleveland than he could on other teams.
All of these players have the ability to help LeBron, but more importantly, they’re valuable players in today’s NBA schemes. Regardless of whether LeBron leaves or not, the Cavaliers can get a good player to help them. Reload, or rebuild.
Most importantly, this value probably helps the Cavs in trade talks, which could help the Cavs, no matter what LeBron decides. The sventh pick was traded in a package with Jimmy Butler last year, and that should give comfort on the value of the pick, even if the Cavs don’t have the other assets to land that level of player. A top-10 pick is still a valuable piece, and it’s very valuable this year, where the Cavs can potentially convince a team trying to unload salary or rebuild that the pick is valuable enough to part with a firm rotation piece. Who that is remains to be seen, but after the way these playoffs have unfolded, several teams are likely to have decisions to make with their rosters, particularly Portland, Washington and Toronto.
The lottery didn’t work out the way we are accustomed to, but that doesn’t mean the Cavs don’t have use for the No. 8 pick. They have flexibility with this pick, and that’s a rare statement for anything involving this team over the past four years.