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2023 NBA Draft Preview: Can the Cleveland Cavaliers find creative solutions?

The Cavs currently only have one pick, but are reportedly looking to add a higher one.

Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers, with no first round pick, enter the 2023 NBA Draft with clear needs. It’s a need most every team has — lack of quality wings in a league defined by wing play — but one that sticks out glaringly for the Cavs after their playoff loss to the New York Knicks. And with limited free agent spending power, the draft needs to be part of Cleveland’s solution.

What’s at stake for Cleveland in the 2023 NBA Draft?

The Cavs, whether it’s via their only selection in the draft, adding a pick and/or signing some undrafted free agents, are in the market for wings. They badly need an injection of talent into their wing group. It’s both a need for right now and one that needs to be developed long-term.

There are other roster needs — a clear backup center, a long-term option at backup point guard, etc. — but wings who can shoot and play defense are the biggest need by a country mile.

The issue can’t be solved only by picking an interesting player in the draft. It’s going to take smart free agent moves and the development of players over time. But it starts at the draft and Cleveland finding someone on the wing before Thursday’s draft is over.

Why do the Cavs not have a first round pick?

The Cavs traded their first-round pick in the Caris LeVert trade. It was top-10 protected and, with Cleveland making the playoffs, the pick became the Indiana Pacers’. It is No. 26 overall.

Not having a first-round pick is something the Cavs will have to get used to. Due to the Donovan Mitchell trade, the Cavs do not have their own first round pick in 2025, 2027 and 2029. There are also swap possibilities in 2026 and 2028.

The Cavs’ second-round pick (No. 55 overall) also belongs to the Pacers.

What pick do they have?

The Cavs have the 49th overall pick via the Golden State Warriors. The rights to the pick actually came to Cleveland via Utah through the Dante Exum-Jordan Clarkson trade way back in 2019.

Could they add picks?

Yes! And it’s been reported Cleveland has eyes on moving up into the 20s or the 30s. Cleveland has been specifically linked to the Blazers pick at No. 23 and forward Nassir Little.

Have they ever traded for a higher pick?

Koby Altman’s one trade to get an extra first round pick was back in 2019. He sent four second-round picks and a reported $5 million in cash to get the rights to Kevin Porter Jr. from the Detroit Pistons.

The Porter Jr. pick ultimately didn’t work — he’s now a Houston Rocket and left Cleveland after multiple issues — but it showed that, if there’s a prospect the Cavs like, they’ll spend for it. Future seconds and/or cash is one way the Cavs could move up. They could also offer Cedi Osman and the non-guaranteed last year of his deal up in a deal if a team is looking for salary relief.

Osman plus No. 49 and cash would be a path to trading for the Blazers’ pick and Little, for what it’s worth.

Who are some names to know?

For the sake of this exercise, let’s assume the Cavs don’t move up and add a higher pick. If they do, that likely changes the names in play. So here are some possibilities at No. 49 overall:

  • Keyontae Johnosn, forward, Kanasas State.
  • Hunter Tyson, forward, Clemson.
  • Julian Strawther, forward, Gonzaga
  • Jalen Wilson, forward, Kansas

All of these players are slightly older prospects who maybe don’t offer as much upside a a 19 or 20 year old would. But they fit the Cavs’ needs in different ways. And while nothing is a lock, it would be surprising to see them go after a center with their only pick considering the major needs on the wing.