Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Cavs and Embiid

With presumptive No. 1 overall pick Joel Embiid suffering a foot injury during pre-draft workouts, everything is suddenly in flux for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The back and the feet are the two worst places for a young big men to have medical issues and Embiid now has red flags at both.

Here's the problem for the Cavs. Embiid was the one guy in the Top 4-5 who fit with the rest of their young core. If they draft anyone else, it becomes an exercise in who don't I love anymore, which is not a game you want to be playing if you are trying to contend for a playoff spot immediately. 

- Andrew Wiggins: Even if you take Wiggins to play SF instead of SG, you can't keep Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters as your back-court of the future. The problem is simple - there won't be enough basketballs to go around. Irving and Waiters are undersized, ball-dominant scorers who need the ball in their hands to make things happen. If you take a wing at No. 1, you don't want him to be a 3-and-D player, but that's precisely what's going to happen to anyone who shares the perimeter with those two.

On the offensive side of the ball, Wiggins is a bit of a project with a pretty unrefined skill-set. He got a lot of criticism at Kansas for not being more aggressive in the half-court, but that's what happens when you have a wing player who isn't a great passer or ball-handler. Playing on a Cleveland team with Irving and Waiters, he's just going to have a hard time developing a more well-rounded offensive game and he could easily become a guy who only gets 10-12 shots a game. That's fine, but it's not what you want out of your No. 1 overall pick. 

- Jabari Parker: He's basically the same type of player as Anthony Bennett. They are both 6'8 240+ combo forwards with questionable defensive projections who can shoot and put the ball on the floor at a high level for a player with their size. In theory, either guy could play at the 3, but you rarely see guys their size who can move their feet well enough to play perimeter defense and a lot of their upside comes from their ability to hit the glass, which is negated when you are playing 25+ feet from the basket.
I think that would hold true for Bennett and Parker as well. Both those guys need to play as small-ball 4's and we haven't even gotten into the problem that creates with Tristan Thompson, whose established himself as a solid NBA PF in his own right. In essence, if you take Jabari, you have drafted three PF's in the Top 5 in 3 years and you still don't have a long-term answer at SF or C.

- Dante Exum: I'm a huge Exum fan, but he's an even worse fit in the back-court than Wiggins. He's much closer to being a primary ball-handler at the next level than Wiggins and he's going to take the ball from Kyrie and Waiters. None of those guys can really play as a SF, so a trade becomes an even more urgent priority.

With the exception of Kyrie, none of the other Top 4 picks - Waiters, Bennett or Thompson - have proven that much at the next level. However, Waiters and Thompson have shown flashes and you just took Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick. He had a miserable rookie season, but he was injured than he showed up out of shape and was playing out of position on a team that was trying to win now, so it's way way too early to write him off as a legitimate NBA player.

Worst of all, if you trade any of those guys you are selling as low as possible and then hoping a rookie can step in right away and be a primary option on a playoff team. In my mind, Irving, Waiters and Bennett can all be starters on a good team - if they are playing with a defensive-minded center who can score out of the low post. That's the other issue with not taking Embiid - you still have a giant hole at C and a bunch of defensive question marks in front of it.

It's hard for me to see a scenario where you have three No. 1 overall picks in three years, plus two more No. 4 overall picks, and you don't take a C at least once. If Embiid can stay healthy, he's the perfect complement to the players they already have and he allows them to all grow together. If they take anyone else, they have to start giving up on talented young players while they are still on their rookie contracts. There's no easy answers in Cleveland, but if they don't take Embiid, they will still a need a player who can do the things he can do and no other way to get him.


  1. Good breakdown of all the craptastic options for a team who has already made a lot of mistakes.

    One objection though -- your last sentence "they will still need a player who can do the things he can do and no other way to get him." What do you mean "no other way"? There's always next year's #1 pick!