With the surprise pick of Anthony Bennett at No. 1, and the selections of Sergey Karasev at 19 and Carrick Felix at 33, it was quite a memorable night for Cavaliers fans. Andrew and I got together this morning and discussed last night’s events in the only way the two of us know how, in long form. So, without further ado, here is our NBA Draft fallout conversation.
Kirk: So, Andrew, what a night! We saw a hat trick with Chris Grant and surprising first-round choices, and saw the Cavaliers not pull off a first-round trade that so many expected. They even kept a second-round pick. Your opening thoughts on the night?
Andrew: I loved everything about that draft night. I cannot remember a more fun draft to watch unfold live and on Twitter. It was confusing, baffling, mesmerizing, full of anticipation. It had a little bit of everything.
From the Cavs’ point of view, I liked what they did at No. 1, actually. I was totally surprised by the Bennett pick. I never really talked about him because he was the one guy I never thought they would take. So, of course, that’s the guy they took. And Chris Grant once again not panicking with the No. 19 pick and being patient and getting his guy without having to trade up to get him was awesome. And my love affair with Sergey Karasev is well documented. I was even happy they kept a 2nd-round pick as well. All in all, I thought it was a good night for the Cavaliers. How about you?
Kirk: I was very surprised. I compare my reaction to Lieutenant Dan in “Forrest Gump” cackling as the thunderstorm ravages their ship. It wasn’t in an angry fashion, more of just a hat tip to Chris Grant for getting us all again. I gave Bennett only five of my 100 “Cavalier Draft Votes” and had him on my wishlist behind Porter, McLemore, Noel, Len, AND Oladipo. Still, as you start thinking about the warts on all these players, whether it be injuries, low ceilings, low floors, or positional concerns, perhaps Bennett’s lack of a true position and being a tad short and overweight is the least concerning of all of them. This guy can flatout SCORE!
Andrew: Yeah, I’m not going to sit here and pretend like Bennett was my guy, either. It’s not who I would have taken. But that doesn’t mean I have to HATE this pick. I’ve told Craig on the podcast multiple times that I have felt the one thing the Cavaliers lack more than anything else is an impact scorer in the frontcourt. Well, now they (hopefully) have that. Bennett does solve a major need, and there’s a chance he could end up being the best player in this draft. That’s why I can’t kill the Cavs for taking him. It’s a solid pick. Chad Ford keeps saying Bennett might be a 20-and-10 guy and he’s the only guy in this draft who could be that. Well, sign me up for a 20-and-10 guy with the No. 1 pick in this draft.
But let’s talk about this No. 1 pick and the Cavaliers going “outside the box” for it once more. Is Bennett as big of a surprise as everyone is making it out be? Is there reason for concern that the Cavaliers tried to out-think themselves and everyone else by going against the grain?
Kirk: I do believe it is as stunning of a No. 1 pick as there is in recent memory, but we knew this draft was so fluid without a true star. You start with Noel and Len, and I did like both of them, but you just never know how their bills of health checked out. FIVE teams passed on the “consensus number one”, and the sixth traded him away. Len didn’t have the advanced metrics or even commonly used stats on his side. I wanted Porter, and I think he’ll be a very good player, but the Cavs are trying for a homer here rather than a safe pick like Porter or Oladipo. I’m guessing that McLemore, as reported, just didn’t wow them at the workouts. My biggest concern with the pick is really how it affects Tristan Thompson. So, in the grand scheme of things, if that’s my biggest issue, I shouldn’t be complaining much. Bennett has range out to the 3-point arc, can bang inside with his wide frame, can pick and pop a little bit, and he draws fouls. He can even take it to the rack off the perimeter with either hand. How many power forwards can do that?! That was the stunning thing for me watching the film on him. I was wrong on being staunchly against him early in the process. I still do have concerns, however, about how Mike Brown gets this guy to play defense.
Andrew: I think the fact that six teams passed on Noel (even though New Orleans picked him, I count them as passing on him because they just wanted to trade him) is all the justification Chris Grant needs for not taking Noel. And if you’re not taking Noel, the “Consensus Top Player in this Draft”, then everyone else is fair game. That’s why, even though I was surprised, I wasn’t jaw-on-the-floor shocked. And I think there’s every bit as much reason to take Bennett No. 1 as there is anyone else not named Noel in this draft.
The defense thing will be interesting to see how it plays out. I expect to see Bennett play some small forwsard with Tristan on the court at the four, but Bennett is really going to struggle defending forwards like LeBron. But again, that’s where Mike Brown’s system helps. We know how great Anderson Varejao is at rotating into help defense, but if Coach Brown can get Tristan to learn to react quicker to help rotations as well, then the Cavaliers can mask Bennett’s defensive issues. People forget how essential Ben Wallace was with his help defense to get Coach Brown’s system to really click last time. They need Tristan to read and react that quickly on defense to cover up the defensive issues of guys like Bennett and Kyrie. Really, the key to all of this will be seeing how Brown uses his matchups and the rotations. Chris Grant has made this roster much more versatile with both Bennett and Karasev being able to play multiple positions, which should facilitate an easier transition between small and big lineups.
Kirk: No doubt about it, Rock. How Mike Brown sorts out all of these pieces into a rotation will be interesting. Can Bennett and Tristan coexist long-term? The odds are probably against it, but if Bennett drops a little weight, maybe he can play 6-8 minutes a game at the 3. He can CERTAINLY do it on the offensive end. Then, with Tristan’s defense improving a bit and given his already strong rebounding numbers and effort, you steal 6-8 minutes a game with Tristan at the five in today’s NBA with few legit 7-foot centers that are impact players. Split the minutes at the four down the middle, and boom, 30-32 minutes for each guy. The Cavaliers covered up the Mo Williams, Wally Szczerbiak, and Antawn Jamison types on defense with strong defenders in LeBron, Delonte West, Andy, and Ben Wallace over that span. One or two guys in the Mike Brown system being elite can cover up a lot.
Let’s go ahead and shift gears to Karasev, though, I know you love him. I didn’t watch film on him until earlier this week, but when I did, he just stands out. A 19-year-old with Olympic experience and three years of pro ball under his belt? The guy has a quirky shot, but is lights out from three when he’s set. He’s got that funky Ginobili Euro-step type thing going on too. He’s a willing passer and gives them a bit of that “point forward” thing I was looking for with Otto to mesh with a Kyrie/Dion backcourt. His defense was atrocious, but it looked like it was due to not knowing principles on closeouts and such rather than ability. Your thoughts?
Andrew: The first time I watched Karasev play basketball, I was blown away by what I saw. He is just so silky smooth in the way he plays and he looks like he was absolutely born to play basketball. He seemingly always play under control, doesn’t try to do too much, is decently athletic, has phenomenal court vision, and is an above average passer because of it, and he can knock down shots with ease when open. Now, can he play defense and can he create his own shot in the NBA? We’ll have to see. There’s a reason he went 19 and not in the top five. So, I don’t want to give the impression I think we’re looking at an All-Star. Rather, I just think this is a really, really, really good and solid basketball player who can be a firm part of the team when they start to contend. You need glue guys and guys who can make plays off the bench, and that’s what I think Karasev can be. I also think he can push Alonzo for the starting spot this season, depending on how quickly he picks up defense. But in terms of just being a natural born basketball player, this kid has that, and you see it as soon as you watch him play. I feel very confident in where his floor and ceiling are.
Is Karasev the guy you wanted at 19, or were looking at someone else? Bullock was admittedly an intrguing prospect, but I just think Karasev can do more things on the court than anyone else available at 19.
Kirk: As we got closer to 19, I was okay with getting Karasev or Bullock. Bullock is going to be an excellent 3-and-D guy who can rebound really well. However, Karasev has a higher ceiling and has age on his side. Bullock could make more of an impact this year, but I think he is a confirmed role player. Karasev could maybe be more. Chris Grant said he’s going to play more 2 than 3 at first, though he can play both. That’s interesting to hear. What about the second-round pick, Carrick Felix? Jamaal Franklin was still on the board, and both guys are wing players who can defend.
Andrew: I knew a lot less about these guys, but as the second round approached I really like Allen Crabbe, Franklin, Tony Mitchell, and Felix. I was disappointed that they traded Crabbe. I thought he was the best of the bunch. And to be honest, I preferred Franklin over Felix as well, but I did have Felix on my short list. I think Franklin looks a little more like an NBA skillset than Felix, but I do think Felix will make the team. I think his defense is good enough that Mike Brown will throw him some minutes later in the season. You can’t expect too much out of the second round, but finding guys with a niche that lets them stick in the association is a nice goal. I think Felix can give them that much at least. Was there anyone in the late first round you would rather the Cavs have packaged 31 and 33 to go up and get?
Kirk: I thought Jeff Withey as a backup center prospect with shot blocking ability was an option. I probably would’ve went Franklin too, considering the Cavaliers brought him in with the Otto-McLemore-Oladipo contingency to work out, but maybe they didn’t like what they saw. Crabbe could be a nice bench shooter. I do like the continuing of gathering assets with a two-for-one in second rounders. You can only have so many young guys on one roster, but this was a pick/pet project for Mike Brown. You have Felix and Gee for that last defensive stop needed on the perimeter to close out games. Final thoughts, Rock?
Andrew: I think the goal of this draft was for it to be the final Lottery Draft of this rebuild. I’m not convinced it will play that way, although the Celtics moves certainly seems to open the door for another team in the East to take their spot in the playoffs. But you can only draft from the players that are eligible, and with that in mind, I think Chris Grant once again did a pretty good job trusting his instincts and the staff’s metrics, and I think he got the players that he really liked. I can see all three of these players being part of this franchise for years to come, and I think the potential ceilings on Bennett and Karasev are pretty high. It’s just going to take some time for everything to develop and gel. All in all, I think the Cavaliers will be a much improved team next year.
Kirk: I’ve yet to see anything that doesn’t make me trust Chris Grant and his front office’s thought process. They got two forwards who can score as well as nearly anybody in this draft. The real question will be with a core as of now including Kyrie, Dion, Bennett, and Karasev, can Mike Brown get these guys playing defense to push this team into the playoffs and onward in their journey back to the top?
Photo: Jeff Bottari/Getty Images)