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Assessing the Cavaliers’ biggest needs, and how they could fill them in the draft

Here are some needs the Cavs should consider picking players to fill.

Auburn v North Carolina Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The Cavs were bad last season — there’s no way around it. As such, they have needs. A lot of needs, in fact, and there’s probably not a skill set or position group they should rule out drafting.

Still, some should take preference over others. Here are three skills the Cavs should prioritize in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Perimeter defense

By any metric, the Cavaliers were a disaster on defense in 2018-19. They had the worst overall defensive rating, the worst half court defense and gave up the second-worst overall three-point percentage. And when you look at the Cavs roster, you have to squint to find good defenders. Tristan Thompson is when he’s healthy. Larry Nance Jr. is, if a bit foul prone. David Nwaba is and, assuming he’s back next year, is easily the Cavs’ best option on the wing. Cedi Osman might be, although the numbers indicate he was one of the worst defensive small forwards in the league last years. Matthew Dellavedova was, but injuries from the past few season might limit him at this point in his career.

The Cavs should probably prioritize drafting players who can defend with both of their picks (and any they might acquire) in this year’s draft above all else. But perimeter defense, in particular, will matter. Nwaba a) might not be back, as he’s a restricted free agent and b) might not be in the team’s five-year plan. As the team builds, this team needs a stopper and needs guys who have some idea of how to defend other wings. Ideally, that player can defend threes and fours to keep Osman from having to defend the likes of Lauri Markkanen and others bigger, stronger four when he should be defending wings. If that player can shoot — something Nwaba doesn’t do well— that would be a nice bonus.

It would be nice, too, if the Cavs can get a defender that can defend point guards and allow them to hide Collin Sexton from time-to-time. Sexton’s biggest weakness as a defender right now is defending pick-and-rolls, but that can be mitigated if he’s moved off ball more to defend shooters and jump passing lanes.

Players to fill this need, according to Trevor Magnotti:

No. 5 pick: Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech

No. 26 pick: Chuma Okeke Auburn


Percentage wise, the Cavs finished in the upper-half of the league in overall three-point shooting and corner three-point shooting, per Cleaning The Glass. That in itself is good. What’s not good: the Cavs were in the bottom third in the league in three-point frequency and took the third-most mid-range shots in the league despite not shooting them all that well (39%, 17th in the league). To play a more modern game, Cleveland needs more shooting. A healthy Kevin Love will help, but it can’t solve the franchise’s shooting woes en masse. Mid-range shots can be a part of a successful formula — Sexton has an interesting pull-up game, for one — but it can’t be everything.

Another reason why shooting matters: It will unlock the best version of John Beilein’s offense. In a scheme that is expected to rely on ball movement and perimeter passing, guys who can knockdown shots are going to be key. If the offense works and creates the types of looks it’s supposed to, it could mean the Cavs can actually make opposing defenses rotate and make the offense better. If that happens, the Cavs’ woeful offense should get better. Without shooters, it might not work as well as Cleveland hopes.

Players to fill this need, according to Trevor Magnotti:

No. 5: De’Andre Hunter, Virginia

No. 26: Cam Johnson, North Carolina

Secondary playmaking

There are two big knocks on Collin Sexton coming out of his rookie year. The first is his defense, where Sexton was one of the worst defenders in the entire league last year. The other is that he doesn’t have the vision to pass open teammates. Right now, he projects as more of a scoring guard rather than as a distributor.

Beilein’s offense should help, as it’s about creating easier looks so players don’t have to do everything themselves. Sexton also wasn’t playing in a system or with teammates that made life any easier for him last season.

But Sexton looks like someone who can be the one taking advantage of a badly rotating defense or fire up open three-pointers when a window opens up in Beilein’s system. If that ends up being true, it would help to have someone to pair with Sexton who can handle setting up the offense at least some of the time, or at least keep it flowing. If Osman’s playmaking ends up improving in year three, that would help too.

The Cavs could also go two ways there. On one end, they could go for a Coby White-type and bet on their own version of the Damian Lillard-C.J. McCollum partnership. The other option is to take a Ty Jerome type who can create, but also work off-ball well and is more of a natural wing instead of another guard who needs the ball in their hands to be effective.

A guy that could combine both skills, and might be available at No. 5, is Jarrett Culver.

Players to fill this need, according to Trevor Magnotti:

No. 5: Coby White, North Carolina

No. 26: Ty Jerome, Virginia