The Cleveland Cavaliers are set to pick at No. 5 and No. 26 in the 2019 NBA Draft after a disappointing outcome in the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery. The Cavs will be missing out on Zion Williamson, the one true potential franchise-changer in the draft. But they still will have a top-five pick and two shots to get potential rotation players for their rebuild.
We also are headed into the NBA Draft Combine, and should get a good look at some of the potential prospects the team could be looking at with both picks in June. There has been a lot of movement since the last time we updated our Cavs-specific big board prior to the NCAA Tournament, and it’s probably worth re-evaluating who the Cavs should be valuing with their two picks, as well.
A reminder of the rules we’re operating by for this big board, updated from the last time we ranked prospects:
- The Cavs would obviously take Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, or Ja Morant if available. But, picking fifth, it’s incredibly unlikely they will be. They aren’t listed below.
- Feel for the game and decision-making are rated more highly than raw athleticism. Size, strength and length matter to a degree, but among similar prospects, I’m taking the guy who has demonstrated the ability to execute NBA concepts. Give me Grant Williams over Rui Hachimura. Give me Matisse Thybulle over Kevin Porter Jr. Give me De’Andre Hunter over Nassir Little.
- We’re also valuing players based on their fit with the team, not just in a vacuum. If you take nothing else from my draft philosophy, remember my favorite phrase: “The best player available in a vacuum that is certain to clash with the play style or roster of your team isn’t actually the best player available.” Remember that when you see where Darius Garland is ranked.
- Centers are basically useless to the Cavs. They have about half their cap tied into Kevin Love, Larry Nance and Tristan Thompson. Ante Zizic is under contract next year. There’s no place for centers on this board unless they’re so uniquely talented that at a certain point it’s not worth passing on them. (There’s two centers on this board.)
- This class is very big on fours that have perimeter skills, a piece the Cavs absolutely could use. “Who can we get to replace David Nwaba when he gets paid” is an overarching theme for the Cavs’ second pick.
- This list is in order of players I would value for the Cavs regardless of the pick they’d use for them. There is zero shot the Cavs will consider P.J. Washington, for example, because he’d be an insane reach at five and won’t be on the board at 26. But he’s still on here.
With that in mind, here are the top-30 prospects for the Cavs as we head into the Draft Combine.
1. Jarrett Culver, SF, Texas Tech
At worst, he’s a competent role player who raises the floor of the team. At best, he’s a Rip Hamilton or Joe Johnson type that can be a 1B or secondary option that carries the Cavs on their next playoff run. The Cavs can get him to improve their defense in the first few years of his contract and give him the time to grow as a shooter and ball-handler.
2. De’Andre Hunter, SF, Virginia
The poor man’s Culver. Hunter offers floor spacing, accessory playmaking, and has a high ceiling as an on-ball defender who can switch.
3. Brandon Clarke, PF, Gonzaga
A big, sure, but Clarke offers the rare ability to be a five on offense and a four on defense, and could help maximize Kevin Love. Quietly posted one of the most productive college seasons ever this year.
4. Coby White, PG, UNC
The fit with Sexton is clunky for all of the top guards, but White’s is the best because of his comfort as a table-setter who can play in an off-ball role, and he will probably be a competent to good defensive point guard. I’d rather draft him than Morant for the Cavs.
5. Bol Bol, C, Oregon
If the Cavs are going to swing for a home run, this is who to do it on. If healthy and placed into an optimized role for his skill set (playing as a mutant wing on offense and as a drop coverage big on defense), Bol could end up being a worthy reach.
6. Cameron Reddish, SG, Duke
As long as you calibrate your expectations correctly, Reddish could be a solid rotation piece. He should be a quality defender and off-ball spacer if he’s not pushed into a scoring role he probably isn’t talented enough for.
7. Grant Williams, PF, Tennessee
“What if Jae Crowder was good in Cleveland?” is probably Williams’s fit. If you liked Nwaba, Grant Williams figures to play a similar role with more offensive value.
8. P.J. Washington, PF, Kentucky
Definitely underrated among the forward crop. Washington should be able to play the three a fair amount thanks to his shooting and passing, and he could be a really nice bench wing/small-ball four.
9. Darius Garland, PG, Vanderbilt
A 6’2” guard with okay-to-good playmaking instincts, a thin, small frame, and minimal experience channeling his scoring talent into productive team offense. We already have one of those.
10. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SG, Virginia Tech
The best realistic scenario for the No. 26 pick. NAW is a solid, unspectacular combo guard who feels destined to be a productive seventh man on a playoff team.
11. Sekou Doumbouya, PF, Limoges
If Doumbouya’s improvement post-injury is real, he may actually be in play for the Cavs. Yet another athletic four that can play some three and fill defensive holes.
12. Nassir Little, F, UNC
A bad decision-maker on defense and limited offensive player, Little has a ton of talent and no real functional outlets for it. He’d be a worthy pick at No. 26 but it’s going to be a long time before he’s a functional player, if ever.
13. Jaxson Hayes, C, Texas
Probably the best pick-and-roll center in the class on both ends of the floor, but he’s a center.
14. Kevin Porter Jr., SG, USC
Pros: Good step-back jumper, athleticism, and a high ceiling if his ball-handling improves. Cons: Pretty much everything else.
15. Romeo Langford, SG, Indiana
Pretty much every projected skill for Langford in the NBA is underdeveloped and based heavily on high school performance. There’s potential for him to hit, but I wouldn’t want to be the one betting on extracting it.
16. Matisse Thybulle, SG, Washington
Few better compliments for Sexton than installing 2-3 Zone Skynet as their primary point of attack defender and hoping their staff can get his jumper in a better place. He’ll probably be gone by 26 but he’d be a phenomenal fit at the two.
17. Cameron Johnson, SF, UNC
Tall guys who can shoot off movement don’t grow on trees, nor do they exist outside of Johnson in this class. I’m skeptical he can be a functional NBA defender but still he fits a valuable player type.
18. Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State
Another theoretical player, THT has immense defensive potential and enough playmaking ability to be enticing to lottery teams. The Cavs would definitely have time to develop his scoring.
19. Terence Davis, SG, Ole Miss
A realistic option at No. 26, Davis has been tearing apart the scouting circuit so far because of his playmaking/athleticism/competitive fire combination wrapped up in one of the draft’s Thickest, Jackedest Frames. A senior with a pretty high ceiling as a complimentary piece.
20. Ignas Brazdeikis, SF, Michigan
Probably just a complimentary bench scorer, but he knows John Beilein’s system and Beilein already maximized his limited frame and athleticism in college.
21. Yovel Zoosman, SF, Maccabi Tel Aviv
Draft-and-stash in the first round isn’t entirely palatable, but Zoosman reminds of Cedi Osman in frame and defensive play, so he’s enticing just because of that.
22. Chuma Okeke, SF, Auburn
If you can commit to the rehab, Okeke is probably one of the best defensive wings the Cavs can realistically draft at 26.
23. Keldon Johnson, SF, Kentucky
A complete ball of clay that isn’t particularly good at anything but looks the part. I’m not convinced he’s not just James Young, but I also was not convinced James Young was entirely bad at Kentucky.
24. Josh Reaves, SG, Penn State
Thybulle without the laser defense system.
25. Deividas Sirvydis, SG, Lietuvos Rytas
26. K.Z. Okpala, PF, Stanford
A strong dude who can dribble, but isn’t quick enough to functionally play the NBA three.
27. Ty Jerome, SG, Virginia
He’s basically the exact foil of Jordan Clarkson, which probably means he won’t be particularly good in the NBA either.
28. Dylan Windler, SF, Belmont
A tall elite shooter, but you can probably do better at 26.
29. Fletcher Magee, SG, Wofford
A small elite shooter, and you can definitely do better at 26.
30. DaQuan Jeffries, SF, Tulsa
A great pick if you’re really committed to getting a Cavalier in the dunk contest in 2020.