Shooting is the magic tool in the NBA. It creates a baseline level of competence more than any other skill, and every type of player could use it to be more effective. LeBron James developing a capable outside jumper was high on the wish list for Cleveland Cavaliers fans during his first run with the team. Heck, we can’t even talk about Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP and the favorite for this year’s award, without mentioning his lack of a potent jumper. Shooting is always necessary. All but the best shooters in the league could stand to be better at it, and every team in the league could use more of it.
So naturally, starting our discussion of the Cavs’ biggest needs in the 2020 NBA Draft with shooting is appropriate. Cleveland was a bottom-third shooting team during the regular season, ranking 20th in the league in three-point attempts per game and 19th in percentage. They also ranked 22nd in the league in pull-up shooting effective field goal percentage (43.2%), and 21st in pull-up attempts per game, per NBA.com player tracking data. This team needs to shoot more, and they need to be better at it. Targeting shooting in the NBA Draft is an obvious way to make that happen in the long-term.
The problem is that, at the top of the draft, there isn’t much concrete shooting capability. This draft’s top end skill is playmaking, which is abundant in the top-ten (and will be discussed in a later post). If you’re looking for high-level shooters, however, there aren’t many options where the Cavs are picking. Realistically, there are only a couple of players that would be reasonable to consider in the top six that project high-level shooting with confidence — Anthony Edwards of Georgia, and Devin Vassell of Florida State.
That means the Cavaliers will likely need to look to the undrafted free agent or second-round pool if they want to add shooting to their roster through the draft. They did this with Dean Wade and Matt Mooney last summer, and using a two-way on a new off-ball shooting wing could be a strong decision.
First round options
Devin Vassell, small forward, Florida State
The obvious pick if you’re looking for shooting in the top ten of this year’s draft. Vassell is both a high-level shooting prospect and an elite defensive prospect, and that comes at the biggest position of need for the team, small forward. He’s an obviously logical fit if the Cavs fall to the fifth or sixth pick, even if he doesn’t have much upside beyond being a high-level role player. Vassell’s shooting value comes from his off-movement shooting ability, as he showed the ability to hit shots off screens, off dribble-handoffs, and on the move against closeouts. Vassell also has shown comfort shooting off simple dribble moves, which will likely be the extent of his value at the NBA level, but is a tough skill to add for off-ball shooters.
Vassell isn’t a perfect shooting prospect, as more volume would better solidify his shooting value. But on 168 college attempts, 41.7% from three is hard to argue with, especially with how good his shot looks on film. Add in his defense, and Vassell makes a lot of sense as a failsafe option for the Cavs.
Anthony Edwards, shooting guard, Georgia
The numbers are bad. That is primarily due to his extremely poor shot selection, which is enough to exclude Edwards from the discussion of good Cavs draft fits. But Edwards has good mechanics and technique, and there’s good reason to believe that he’s going to be a very useful NBA shooter.
Edwards has the best shot diversity of anyone in the draft, and his ability to hit high degree of difficulty shots in transition and off the dribble is likely to translate into high level scoring upside. But it’s not just the off-the-dribble stuff — Edwards is probably the most underrated catch-and-shoot weapon in this class, and part of what makes him so enticing is the idea that he can eventually become a variation of Devin Booker, a high level NBA on-ball scorer who also offers elite catch-and-shoot ability.
To put it lightly, improvement in pull-up shooting for the Cavs really needs to come internally, from a roster building perspective. They need improvement in this area, but taking another ball-dominant guard to address the issue misses the point. However, Edwards does have some off-ball utility, and if the team does indeed want to draft another pull-up shooter, Edwards is the guy.
Tyrese Haliburton, combo guard, Iowa State
Haliburton doesn’t really make sense for the Cavs for a lot of roster construction reasons, but he is also a nice three-point shooting option available for the Cavs. Haliburton hit 42.6% from three on 237 college attempts, and he’s definitely comfortable as a stationary off-ball shooter. However, he creates a good number of roster fit questions.
Obi Toppin, power forward, Dayton
Easily the most polished shooter of the big men. Toppin took 103 attempts from three in college, hitting 41.7%, and while that’s too low a volume to really gauge how well he’s going to translate as a shooter, it’s certainly not a bad marker. Toppin’s biggest hurdle to competence at the NBA level will be tightening his release and improving his reaction time and confidence.
Undrafted/second round options
The always fluid late-draft positioning is going to mean second-round level prospects might fall out of the draft and be on the table for the Cavs to pick up as free agents. Since positive college shooters are always among that crop, and you can occasionally find a Duncan Robinson, or at least a Dean Wade, out of that grab bag. Here are five options who the Cavs might have the opportunity to pick up off the scrap heap after the draft.
Immanuel Quickley, shooting guard, Kentucky
A 42.8% shooter on 145 attempts last season, Quickley is a very talented off-movement shooter that can play effectively as a spot-up wing. That he steadily improved throughout his college career as a shooter is promising. He’s a little small to play full-time two, but in this context, he’s worth a flier on the off-chance that he can be an off-ball weapon as your fourth guard behind Sexton, Garland, and Porter.
Corey Kispert, small forward, Gonzaga
While Kispert is getting buzz that he’ll actually be drafted, he’s probably not a smart draft pick because he’s not an NBA athlete. But if he can improve his shooting profile to become more diverse, he’s worth a flier on a two-way deal.
Jordan Nwora, small forward, Louisville
Like Kispert, Nwora projects as a one-dimensional shooter, but he is a much better athlete, and if he can figure out how to harness that to become a better finisher and defender, there’s real upside from him in the way that there isn’t from the other players listed here.
Killian Tillie, power forward, Gonzaga
If Tillie is really available towards the end of the draft (Rated number 61 at ESPN), it’s a no-brainer to try to move to get him. He’s a first-round talent with an incredibly well-established shooting history (44.4% on 239 college attempts), and the only thing holding him back is an injury history. He’s basically an improved version of Wade.
John Petty Jr., small forward, Alabama
Probably the best volume shooter in this class. Other players may have more diverse profiles in terms of what types of shots they can hit, but Petty’s 44% mark on 6.7 attempts per game this year was a great showing of comfort shooting the rock. He may be one-dimensional like several other players on the list, but he’s a player with significant shooting upside if he goes undrafted and can continue to flourish at a high volume.