Mock drafts are fun. NFL Mock Drafts might be more entertaining and more in-depth, but considering the Cleveland Cavaliers must now begin focusing on the NBA Draft again, NBA mock drafts can be fun, too. Prior to Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery, NBA mock drafts were somewhat pointless. While it gave fans an idea of where a player might be selected, with the draft order not finalized, mocks were simply just to, well, get people to click on the link and talk about college basketball prospects. Now that we know the official order of the 2019 NBA Draft, Cavs fans and NBA fans alike can take a closer look at mock drafts and try to figure out the direction both their team and other teams will go.
With the Cavaliers dropping down to the fifth pick, they will all but certainly be out of the running for Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Ja Morant, but they can still find a player that can help the rebuilding process. What will be interesting to keep an eye on is who the Los Angeles Lakers — or whoever will end up having the fourth-overall pick — take at No. 4, simply because that could potentially change the route the wine and gold take.
In the NBA, it’s much more important to take the best player available rather than finding the best fit. While a combination of both would be ideal, with only five starters, the best player available just means so much more, unlike any other league.
With the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery over and the draft 36 days from tipping off, let’s take a look at who some NBA Draft analysts around the league have the Cavs selecting. The wine and gold not only have the fifth pick but don’t forget, they also hold the rights to the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as well, which is No. 26. Let’s take a look at some of the projections:
No. 5: F De’Andre Hunter, VIrginia
The Cavaliers had the worst defense in the NBA this season. They need as much help as they can get on that side of the floor. Hunter is a perfect player to draft to make up for those mistakes. He’s a monster defender who can legitimately guard four positions. He’s a lockdown on-ball guy, and knows exactly where to be and how to use his length (with a 7-2 wingspan) in help situations.
But the offensive upside is equally as interesting, given his continued strides as a shooter. He hit a high percentage from 3, but his shot is a bit slow developing and can be contested easier than you would like. With the ball, he’s a bit stiff, and may end up becoming more of a secondary starter than a primary playmaker. I’d think he’s probably more of a De’Marre Carroll type than a Kawhi Leonard, at the end of the day. But in this draft, that’s well worth it for the Cavs at No. 5 to get a plug-and-play type piece who can help them immediately and provide value on both ends of the floor — while also possessing some upside beyond what is already there due to his length and developing offensive profile.
No. 26: F/C Nic Claxton, Georgia
Mostly, this is me betting on a player having a huge pre-draft process and playing himself out of testing the waters. Right now, I’d say consensus is more that Claxton is an interesting early second round flier — with executives acknowledging that he has potential to rise as they get a chance to see him up close in workouts. I’m guessing that, at the end of the day, Claxton’s combination of skills is too fascinating from a modern NBA perspective to pass up at the end of the first round. He’s 6-10, but moves like a player much smaller than that in the way that he can guard away from the basket. As an interior rim protector, his 2.5 blocks per game led the SEC. He’s a good rebounder on both ends of the floor. Offensively, he has more skills with ball in hand than you’d think, as first-year Georgia coach Tom Crean occasionally let him bring the ball up the court and initiate sets. Really, the big question here is the jump shot. The South Carolina native has showcased some ability to step away and take shots, but he’s only made them at a 30.2 percent clip over 86 shots in his two years at Georgia. If he goes into workouts and shoots the lights out for a couple of teams, my bet is that he ends up going in Round One. Here, I’ve got him going to Cleveland, who can afford to take a developmental chance on a high-upside player, given that they’re at an early stage in their rebuild.
F De’Andre Hunter, Virginia
Hunter had one of the best national championship performances in recent memory, dropping 27 points and nine rebounds while converting 4 of 5 3-pointers, including some clutch shots late. He had already established himself as one of the best defenders in the college game. He brings positional versatility with long arms, elite lateral quickness and outstanding instincts. While he has some clear limitations offensively as a shot creator and likely isn’t the 3-point shooter his college numbers suggest, his game is made for the modern NBA, and there’s a comfort level in his high floor.
While not loaded with upside, Hunter fits a positional need.
C Goga Bitadze, Buducnost
The Cavs could be looking to shore up their center position long term. Bitadze has been extremely productive at the highest levels of competition outside the NBA, considering his age.
His excellent skill level offensively — including his budding ability to stretch the floor — is attractive, given his combination of size and reach.
SG Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech
Scouts agree Jarrett Culver is a lottery pick, but many are split as to whether he projects as a star scorer or role-playing 2-guard.
For the Cleveland Cavaliers, it’s worth finding out at No. 5 overall, given his 6’6″ size, 18.5 points per game and run to the national title game.
Culver lacks explosiveness, and his three-point shooting inexplicably fell to 30.4 percent as a sophomore from 38.2 percent as a freshman. But he made significant improvements as a shot-creator and finisher inside the arc. And he added playmaking ability, having averaged 3.7 assists and flashed enough ball-screen passing feel.
Even if the Cavaliers are undecided about Culver’s ceiling, his floor appears high. He should be able to give Cleveland a well-rounded offensive player and solid defensive link next to Collin Sexton.
SG/SF Talen Horton-Tucker, Iowa State
With 6-foot-4, 233-pound size, Horton-Tucker has drawn interest with his confident scoring, high skill level and motor. A lack of athleticism shows up inside the arc, and he isn’t consistent as a shooter behind it. But at No. 25, Portland can buy into the flashes of ball-handling, shot making, acrobatic finishing and defensive pressure for the draft’s youngest NCAA prospect (turning 19 next Thanksgiving).
SF Cam Reddish, Duke
This was not ideal for the Cavaliers, who would have been happy with any of the options in the top three, and are now essentially positioned to deal with whatever’s left. After drafting Collin Sexton in last year’s lottery, it’s unclear how much interest Cleveland will have in drafting a guard at this spot, with at least of Darius Garland and Coby White set to be available to them. The Cavs would have been justified taking Ja Morant in spite of the positional issues, but it’s a more difficult decision here. Despite a disappointing year at Duke, Reddish’s tools and the upside in his skill set have him somewhat entrenched as an early selection in a down draft. The Cavs will need to make an upside play, and on paper, this might be their logical bet.
F/C Nic Claxton, Georgia
Cleveland stands to add to its frontline long-term, and Claxton’s size, skill level and potentially versatile game hold a degree of intrigue. He’s not a finished product, but if he stays in the draft, it’s easy to see him ending up in this range just based on his upside. He has surprising ball skills and defensive mobility, and will make for an interesting project if he comes out now.
F De’Andre Hunter, Virginia
Hunter is another long and strong wing who brings tremendous point-of-attack defensive ability with a track record of being a quality shooter from three-point range. He hit 43.8 percent of his three-point attempts this season while also proving his worth as a defender on a biggest stages in college basketball by leading Virginia to its first ever national championship. Teams will wonder if Hunter has enough potential as a shot creator, and if he can quicken the release of his jump shot. If you’re looking for a 3-and-D prospect with a high floor, Hunter is a safe bet in this draft.
F Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga
Hachimura turned into one of the most productive players in college basketball in his junior season at Gonzaga, averaging 20 points and six rebounds per game. He’s a strong and athletic forward with soft touch from mid-range, but questions about his defensive awareness and feel for the game likely pushes him outside the lottery.
What say you, Cavaliers fans? There are a number of different directions the wine and gold could go depending on who’s available at both No. 5 and No. 26 in the first round. Is there a specific player or position you want Cleveland to pick or even avoid at all costs? I know, it sucks that they missed out on the No. 1 pick, let along a top-three pick, but now it’s time to focus on what the Cavs will do to improve their team in the upcoming draft.