The 2019 NBA Draft treated the Cleveland Cavaliers exceptionally well.
With the fifth overall selection, the Cavaliers selected guard Darius Garland from Vanderbilt University. There was speculation entering the draft the front office had significant interest in Garland. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski mentioned during the draft the Cavaliers could trade down. They stayed put and took the best available player.
Before the draft, the Cavaliers had two first-round selections: the fifth and 26th picks. Cleveland used the 26th pick to select Belmont University guard/forward Dylan Windler. These were the only two selections Cleveland was set to have entering the 2019 draft. The organization had additional assets to acquire more picks, however.
Per an ESPN report, the Cavaliers paid the Detroit Pistons a now-record $5 million for the rights to draft Kevin Porter Jr. with the 30th selection. Porter Jr. was a guard for the University of Southern California. His early draft projection had him as a late-lottery pick. In addition to the $5 million, the Cavaliers sent the Pistons four second-round picks.
The Pistons initially acquired this pick from the Milwaukee Bucks. After the trade, the Cavaliers broke the record set by the Golden State Warriors in 2017, when the organization paid the Chicago Bulls $3.5 million to select center Jordan Bell with the 38th pick. This statistic was first reported by Arthur Weinstein of Sporting News.
After the NBA draft, Cleveland now has three young assets ready to help the Cavaliers achieve head coach John Beilein’s plan for a “renaissance.”
General Manager Koby Altman told FOX Sports the Cavaliers staff needed more young talent for the new, diverse coaching staff to develop.
“The motivation is to give coach Beilein young talent from the start to develop those guys, and we want to utilize coach Beilein right now and give him youthful guys that he can develop right now,” Altman said. “That’s the motivation to bring in three first-round picks — right now.”
Garland, Windler and Porter Jr. provide the coaching staff three excellent players to build the organization back into Eastern Conference playoff contenders.
How Garland will contribute with Cleveland’s guards?
Despite high draft projections, Garland only played five career games at Vanderbilt last season. Garland suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee in November and underwent successful season-ending surgery. Altman said the limited action never diminished the Cavaliers interest in Garland.
In his five games at Vanderbilt, Garland averaged 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He shot nearly 48 percent from 3-point range. Considering Beilein’s history of developing and tailoring his offense to 3-point shooters, Garland should fit in nicely. The pairing of him alongside second-year guard Collin Sexton continues to draw comparisons between the Portland Trail Blazers duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
While this prospective duo is years away from contributing at the same level as Portland’s frontcourt duo, the early comparisons are a healthy sign moving forward.
When asked about Garland’s fit with Sexton, Altman said the organization spoke to Sexton about drafting Garland. The reaction was positive, according to USA Today Sports.
“We spoke to Collin before the draft and said this could be a potential, this could happen and he was great. He was great. He’d been studying Portland all playoffs and studying the two guards out there and so he brought that up, that could be us. These kids are so familiar with each other now whether coming up through AAU, high school or college, so he’s familiar with Darius. Darius relished the opportunity as well. When we knew those two were on board it made it a lot easier,” Altman said.
Garland and Sexton should start together at the beginning of the 2019-2020 season.
Who is Dylan Windler?
I asked myself this question when the pick was announced. When I read more about Windler, the selection makes perfect sense.
With the Belmont Bruins, Windler helped lead the school to its first NCAA Tournament victory. As shown by his statistics, Windler drastically improved his game every season. During his senior year, he averaged 21.3 points, 10.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
While these statistics are exceptional, the reason the Cavaliers selected Windler was because of his perimeter shooting ability. At the University of Michigan, Beilein excelled at developing players who could stretch the floor, scoring from both the paint and perimeter. Windler shot nearly 43 percent from 3-point range with Belmont during his senior season. He’s the perfect fit for Beilein’s offense, much like Garland.
Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the Cavaliers targeted players who would fit Beilein’s offense. Naturally, that should be the case.
“You can see the influence of two factors in the Cavs first-round draft picks. The first is the front office placing an emphasis on analytics and outside shooting. A strong case can be made that Darius Garland and Dylan Windler are perhaps the two best 3-point shooters in this draft,” Pluto wrote.
While Cedi Osman should be the projected starter at small forward for Cleveland, it appears Windler should be able to challenge him.
What can Kevin Porter Jr. bring to the table?
As mentioned earlier, the Cavaliers traded assets, including cash and future draft selections, to select the USC guard. Entering college, Porter was ranked as a five-star prospect by several media outlets. ESPN valued him with am 89 grade and the 40th overall prospect ranking.
During his one season at USC, Porter played in 21 games, but started in only four of them. He averaged 9.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
On January 14, USC coach Andy Enfield suspended Porter Jr. indefinitely, citing “personal conduct issues.” This was first reported by ESPN. Porter Jr. would return for the team’s final three games of the 2018-2019 season. The school failed to qualify for postseason action.
According to Chris Fedor of cleveland.com, Porter Jr. brings the exact skill set both Windler and Garland posses to the Cavaliers: he can shoot the 3-point shot effectively. He ranked sixth in the Pac-12 conference from the perimeter at 41.2 percent.
Several outlets reported Porter Jr. was the steal of the draft, as his early projections had him being a lottery pick. There were some maturity issues, as indicated by his college suspension as USC. Some front offices likely steered clear because of this. The Cavaliers made the right choice, however.
“With Porter, there’s belief that more emotional maturity will allow him to reach his immense potential that he displayed during summer hoops showcases,” Fedor reported.
The Cavaliers absolutely nailed each pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Garland, Windler and Porter Jr. all proved elite perimeter shooters, which fit Beilein’s offense perfectly.
While it’s far too early to predict, the comparisons of Garland and Sexton to Portland’s Lillard and McCollum give the Cavaliers even more optimism for their future.
Windler can learn behind veteran all-star Kevin Love because of the similarities between their games. Both Love and Windler can spread the floor and create problems for teams trying to defend the perimeter and paint simultaneously. The same can be said for Porter Jr., who can offer Cleveland another elite scorer. With the new, but experienced coaching staff in place, the Cavaliers front office provided the three best fits to help the organization build toward a better future.
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