With the 2019 NBA Draft just 15 days away and the Combine over with, all that is left between now and the draft itself are individual team workouts. As the next two weeks wind down, the picture will become much clearer as to who teams will potentially take or at least have their eyes on. While the later picks in the first round will likely remain unclear, it’s like that many Cleveland Cavaliers fans will likely know which direction the wine and gold will go at No. 5.
As far as pre-draft workouts go, the Cavs will likely schedule a workout with both Texas Tech wing Jarrett Culver and Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter soon. Duke’s Cam Reddish will not go through any workouts after undergoing minor surgery to repair a core muscle injury, something that plagued him throughout much of the season and will force him to be shut down around six weeks. If that’s the case, he will likely miss much of the NBA Summer League.
With so many unknowns concerning the Cavs’ second pick in the first round (No. 26), I’ve decided to only focus on their fifth pick instead. Let’s take a look on some mock drafts:
Hunter had one of the best national championship performances in recent memory, dropping 27 points and nine rebounds while converting four of five 3-pointers, including some clutch shots late. He already had 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.
The Cavs are in search of character and culture to add to their roster as they continue to slowly rebuild through the draft following the LeBron James era. While not loaded with upside, Hunter fits a positional need.
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.
After drafting Collin Sexton in last year’s lottery, Cleveland doesn’t figure to target one of the point guards here. With John Beilein now coaching the team, expect the Cavs to gradually pare down the roster and cultivate younger talent. Despite a disappointing year at Duke, Reddish does offer some upside with his physical tools and shooting potential, and figures to end up somewhere in the lottery. There’s no obvious home-run pick at this spot, so the Cavs are theoretically in great position to trade down and add assets, given they sit in front of two guard-needy teams in the Suns and Bulls. Be it Reddish, De’Andre Hunter or someone else, they might be able to get a player they covet several spots later.
Culver was a sub-300 prospect in the Class of 2017. Totally unheralded. Completely off the radar. Which is why his story is so remarkable. In a span of just two years, the 6-7 guard went from an anonymous recruit to the Big 12 Player of the Year to a projected top-5 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. He averaged 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 32.5 minutes per contest this season while helping Texas Tech advance to the championship game of the NCAA Tournament. I’ve seen him compared to Steve Smith and Rip Hamilton — but the best comp I’ve heard is that Culver should become what Evan Turner was supposed to be. Either way, there are no known red flags. Culver has a great reputation, high basketball IQ and incredible work ethic. Combine all that with his natural gifts, and it’s reasonable to assume he’ll have a nice and long NBA career.
Culver is a terrific all-around player who does a lot of things really well. He can defend at a high level, he can knock down open jumpers, he can handle the ball competently. The concern for Culver is that he’s good at a variety of things but perhaps not great at one single thing. But he’s just 20-years-old and still maturing physically, and last season he was cast in a role he’ll likely never serve again as a No. 1 option. In the right system with the right surroundings, he can be an excellent 3-and-D role player.
Tough spot for the Cavaliers, who need a superstar. Do they try to pair Darius Garland in the backcourt with Collin Sexton and hope it works? Reddish would be the risky, swing-for-the-fences pick. The theory of Reddish makes NBA executives drool: He’s basically Paul George, an elite NBA body who plays the most in-demand position of wing, who can handle it and shoot it. The reality of Reddish has at times been very different: Is he basically Andrew Wiggins, a tantalizing talent who lacks the motor and the killer instinct to become a star? Here’s how one scout put it to me: “Is he going to be a ‘sometime’ player or a ‘full-time’ player?” His ceiling is clear: “He’s the picture of the small forward in today’s NBA,” another scout told me. There’s a belief out there that Reddish could be a better NBA player than he was a college player. The fit was never great for Reddish at Duke, as the clear No. 3 option who almost exclusively played off the ball. Remember: Reddish played point guard up until this season, and plenty of people believed not too long ago that he would be the top talent in this draft.
Position won’t matter to the Cleveland Cavaliers, whose decision should focus on talent over need. Workouts will help Cam Reddish convince Cleveland to overlook his shooting percentages for long-term potential.
It’s also possible Reddish would benefit from having more touches and no pressure in Cleveland after he struggled as a third or fourth option for the NCAA tournament’s No. 1 overall seed.
With Paul George-like positional tools and plenty of shot-making skill from NBA range, Reddish will have a good chance to ease concerns over the next month. At worst, the Cavaliers should see a potential three-and-D wing to play between Collin Sexton and Kevin Love.
There are compelling arguments for this being one of Culver, De’Andre Hunter or Cam Reddish. Culver’s getting the edge here given he’s a better prospect than Reddish and a younger one than Hunter with more upside.
Culver has the potential to thrive as a secondary playmaker on offense. He improved significantly as a passer during his second season while piloting the bulk of Texas Tech’s actions. He should also be a plus defender, although his off-ball attentiveness could use some work.
Versatile wing who can fill myriad roles and has a lane to become a primary shot creator if his handle keeps improving.SHADES OF: Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb
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, although it’s very likely that Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and R.J. Barrett will all be off the board. 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 alone 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.