The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery culminated in surprises for some organizations and disappointments for others. With expectations of drafting within the top three, the Cleveland Cavaliers received the fifth overall selection.
Only the New York Knicks had a worse record and received a higher draft selection than Cleveland. While the odds to win the Zion Williamson sweepstakes weren’t necessarily expected, the other elite prospects, RJ Barrett and Ja Morant, would have offered the Cavaliers organization a great “consolation prize,” although that phrase makes it seem these players are lower than Williamson.
Anyways, the New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Lakers received higher picks than Cleveland. While the season proved tumultuous for two organizations (Los Angeles and New Orleans), it was mostly behind-the-scenes issues. These teams had much better records than Cleveland, but will be drafting higher in the 2019 draft.
On a side note before we proceed, please raise your hand if you predicted the Lakers would have a better pick than the Cavaliers this year. The Lakers get LeBron James and draft worse higher than the team he left, just like most of us predicted. There’s just a pinch of sarcasm.
While the draft could extend a variety of directions, it’s interesting to see how the Cavaliers proceed. There are two routes this draft could go.
Keep the fifth pick
No, the Cavaliers aren’t trading their draft pick for already established players or assets. This option simply analyzes the Cavalier’s choices if no trades with picks before. For example, it’s likely the Lakers will gauge interest in the fourth pick to add another star-caliber player next to LeBron James.
In addition, the Knicks continue to be the epicenter of rumors regarding Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Jimmy Butler, just to name a few stars. If the Knicks can land either one or two of these players, it’s unlikely they’ll keep the third pick. Since these are just rumors, we won’t know how that situation plays out until free agency. For now, the pre-draft analysis for Cleveland will simply go in projected order, without any trades or acquisitions going into consideration.
The Cavaliers won’t have the chance to draft Williamson, Barrett or Morant in the current order. There’s been sentiment around the league this is a “three player draft,” although Cleveland general manager Koby Altman thinks otherwise.
“I don’t think that’s fair to [the other prospects]. There are some really accomplished players in this draft and we’re going to go deep like we always do and find somebody for the Cavaliers that embodies what we’re about: Attitude, work ethic and someone that really wants to play for the Cavaliers,” Altman said in a statement after the draft lottery.
With their current situation, the Cavaliers should select from three different players: De’Andre Hunter (Virginia), Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech) or Cam Reddish (Duke). Both Hunter and Culver faced off in the NCAA Championship Game, with Hunter coming out on top. All three players could fit the glaring need for another all-star caliber forward for the Cavaliers.
Current forward Cedi Osman continued to improve his game throughout last season, but should likely contribute better as a two-guard, with Collin Sexton as the point guard. In my opinion, Hunter is the best available prospect, if the Lakers or a potential Los Angeles trade partner doesn’t select him with the fourth pick. The Cavaliers can’t go wrong with any of these three players. There’s almost a guarantee that two of these three players will be available when the Cavaliers draft.
While there’s no verifiable source to back it up, a few rumors around the NBA suggested the Cavaliers had interest in trading up to draft RJ Barrett. Right now, Barrett is projected third overall to the Knicks. Given both of their current rosters, New York and Cleveland, the Cavaliers don’t have any assets that could interest the Knicks in trading down two spots.
If the Knicks do land their superstars this offseason, a trade could be more likely. In this case, if the Knicks signed Durant and a complimentary superstar, they would feel the pressure to go all in immediately and could trade the pick to Cleveland to help them land Barrett. This is purely my own speculation.
NBA analyst Sam Amico suggested; “They [Knicks and Cavaliers] could work out a deal ahead of the draft where the Knicks draft Barrett at No.3. The Cavs would then have to hope the Los Angeles Lakers pass on Reddish with the fourth pick, so the Cavs could draft Reddish themselves. Then the Cavs and Knicks could swap Barrett and Reddish in a straight-up trade.”
In addition, Amico explained the Cavaliers could sit and do nothing, hoping Barrett would fall to fifth. This scenario is certain not to happen.
The Cavaliers should continue to research potential ways to gauge the Knick’s interest in swapping picks, since Barrett has the potential to contribute a lot more than anyone available at five. There is tons of talent in this draft, and nothing against the other prospects, but Barrett could be a real game-changer for Cleveland.
Shortly before the draft lottery, the Cavaliers announced John Beilein as their new head coach. Earlier this week, previous candidate JB Bickerstaff joined Beilein’s staff, giving the Cavaliers a real boost.
Beilein has coached at the collegiate level his entire career. He’s developed several players at the University of Michigan into first-round picks, including Trey Burke, Caris Levert and Tim Hardaway Jr., among others. With whatever option the Cavaliers choose to do with this upcoming draft, they’ll have a coach in place with experience coaching young talent.
In addition to the fifth pick, the Cavaliers own the 26th selection as well. If they play their cards right, the organization could add two higher-end players to an already young, up-and-coming roster.
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