Much of the focus for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ draft needs focuses on the fifth overall pick. That’s the Cavs’ best chance to add talent, especially in a weak draft. But they also have the No. 26 overall pick, and the Cavs could stumble into a decent rotation player if things break correctly. The team probably isn’t going to add star talent this year, but they also are missing a lot of basic pieces that go into creating a winning roster. And while the class isn’t deep with NBA-ready rotation players, there are players who could be improvements over the current roster situation.
We’ve already addressed two big Cavs needs, shooting and defense, but an underrated need is to add playmaking wings. The Cavs have three point guards who are all different scoring archetypes, with Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Knight all providing on-ball scoring power. But the team is going to need help moving the ball towards or off of these three, and adding a wing who can dribble and move the ball well in the half-court would be a nice addition as well. It would make the lives of the Cavs’ off—ball scorers easier, and getting a passing compliment for Sexton is very important in the long term.
There are a few good options for the Cavs to pick from in terms of secondary ball-handlers. Most of the dribbling wings are rather raw, but there are players in the Cavs’ range who could handle some on-ball responsibility. Let’s look at a few of these options, including a couple of reach options who could actually be justifiable for the team.
Talen Horton-Tucker, SF, Iowa State
Horton-Tucker has significant concerns as a shooter and in terms of team defense, but his raw ball-handling ability, combined with his finishing, gives him a very high ceiling as a secondary creator. He has a good amount of shake and advanced moves in his arsenal, and he uses his immense strength and 7’1” wingspan to create swaths of space in the paint to create good shots. He also has good court vision, and his ability to drive and kick could make him into a quality secondary scoring option if his shooting develops.
Horton-Tucker might not fall to the Cavs, but he’s a good long-term bet for the team if he falls to No. 26. He’s one of the youngest players in the draft class, and already shows a level of advanced play that seems projectible that he could grow into. He projects as exactly the type of secondary playmaker the Cavs need, and if he does learn to shoot from the midrange, he has a shot to become something much more.
Terence Davis, SG, Ole Miss
Davis isn’t elite at any of the the three needs he could fill for the Cavs, but he looks pretty good at all of them. Davis progressed to being a 37.1% shooter on 175 attempts last year, and he’s a great team defense prospect that may be able to switch across multiple backcourt positions. In terms of playmaking, Davis is a strong transition weapon, with good technique and vision as a transition passer.
Davis, like Horton-Tucker, uses his strength well to leverage his way to the rim on drives, although he’s not a natural finisher like THT. But he makes up for that with better diversity of dribble moves, and more confidence attacking the rim. He’s also more likely to have value this coming year in the NBA thanks to his better defensive technique and energy. Davis is one of my favorite fits for the Cavaliers at pick No. 26.
Jordan Poole, PG, Michigan
Three Michigan players are candidates to join John Beilein and add potential solutions to the Cavs’ biggest needs. Poole is probably less of a seamless fit as Ignas Brazdeikis would be as a shooter and Charles Matthews would be as a defender, but he is a combo guard who could add some interesting shot creation off the bench for Cleveland. He’s somewhat erratic as a playmaker, but his highs are pretty high.
Poole has good touch on lobs towards the rim, and if he can get downhill off the type of secondary pick-and-roll shown above. He’ll need to cut down on turnovers and improve his shot selection, but Poole could be a useful two-way combo guard next to Collin Sexton, building off of Sexton’s primary actions to set the table for the rest of the offense. His size creates the opportunity that he can play the two, and his passing ability out of the pick-and-roll makes him an interesting potential compliment.
Jaylen Nowell, SG, Washington
Nowell doesn’t have a lot of first round buzz, but he’s probably just as good as many of the options being presented around the Cavs’ pick range. The PAC-12 player of the year was somewhat miscast as a primary ball-handler for Washington, but he has some impressive handling ability, able to hit some interesting moves to create space and get to the rim as a secondary handler. You don’t want him being your primary ball-handler, as he doesn’t have the shiftiness or pull-up shooting threat to do so, but get him in secondary situations where he can leverage his handle better against a scrambling defense, and he becomes a lot more effective.
Nowell is also the best off-ball shooter of this group, and that should make him a decent fit for what the Cavs need. He shot 44% from three, and while he’s not super athletic, he should be able to leverage his handling and shooting into being an effective spot-up weapon for Cleveland.
Jalen Lecque, SG, Brewster Academy
If the Cavs really want to play the slow game and bet on upside, Lecque, an NC State commit who spent this season in prep school, could be an interesting option. An incredible athlete with good finishing touch as well, he has the raw talent to be a nice secondary scoring option for the Cavs. Lecque is mostly a transition weapon at this point, but he has enough raw talent as a ball-handler to potentially break through at the next level, especially if his court vision and timing improves.
The issue plaguing Lecque is his shooting. Lecque shot 11.5% from three in AAU last season, and while AAU numbers are dreadfully unpredictable in terms of projecting even college shooting numbers, he’s never really shown any potential to shoot a high percentage even in a short stretch. That’s going to have to change on the wing in the NBA, so that will be a major development point. But still, Lecque has decent vision and understands angles and spacing well for a player at his level, so there may be something there. If the Cavs are interested in pursuing a long-term development project (And they worked out Anfernee Simons last year, so maybe they are!), Lecque might be an option for them that would at least be pretty interesting.