The 2019 NBA Draft is upon us. Somehow, even though the draft is just hours away, the picture still remains unclear on the direction the Cleveland Cavaliers will go with the No. 5 pick. Essentially, it’s all up to what the teams in front of them do. With New Orleans owning pick No. 1 and No. 4 after sending Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers, what they do with the fourth pick is key. If they keep it, it’s likely that their pick will be Texas Tech’s Jarrett Culver. If they trade it to another team, that pick could either be Culver or Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland. While there was plenty of smoke around the New York Knicks taking Garland over Duke’s RJ Barrett at No. 3, it’s very likely that they will take the Blue Devil.
While the Cavs also own pick No. 26, which they acquired from the Houston Rockets during the season, we will only take a look at the projections that draft analysts and reporters believe the wine and gold will go at No. 5. It’s just too tough to judge what will happen late in the first round given all the variables, along with all of the trades that will likely happen as well.
Without wasting any more time, let’s take a look at what direction a handful of analysts have the Cavaliers going at No. 5:
While Cleveland just drafted Collin Sexton last year, the Cavs are too early in their rebuild to worry too much about position and fit. They are in talent-acquisition mode.
Garland likely has the highest upside of any player left on the board, and he is a good enough shooter to share the backcourt with another ball handler — something many of coach John Beilein’s best teams have had.
So I’ve gone with Hunter here, even though the team is certainly looking at a few different options in Culver, Garland, and Reddish. Teams around the league are trying to determine just how real the Cavs’ interest in Garland is. Are they seriously considering taking him a year after having selected Collin Sexton? Or did they go out to Los Angeles to see him work out in order to feign interest for the purposes of trade? Or, and this happens more than you’d think around the league around this time of year, did the team just have a free slot in its schedule to be able to go out and check out Garland for its own internal database to get more intel on him? Regardless, there is a high degree of skepticism that the Cavs actually end up with Garland on draft night. They’re thought to still be high on Sexton after his strong close to the season.
It’s also worth noting with rumors that Atlanta is looking to consolidate some of its draft capital on Thursday night that I think the Cavaliers and Hawks match up particularly well in potential trade scenarios. The Cavaliers are in a place where they need to accumulate quantity in regard to their overall asset list and first round picks. The Hawks don’t want to end up with six rookies on their team this year. Could something be worked out where the Hawks move No. 8 and No. 17 to the Cavaliers for No. 5? If the Cavs are really considering all of those players at No. 5, it’s likely one of them would be available at No. 8, given that both the Bulls and Suns are the market for a lead guard with Coby White still on the board. If the Cavs were to end up at No. 17, they’re thought, according to sources, to have been interested in Kevin Porter Jr. throughout the season and could target him.
As a player, I think Hunter fits well with Cleveland or with other potential suitors. He’s the best two-way wing in the draft, playing extremely well on both ends of the floor for the national champion Virginia Cavaliers this past year, leading them to a title game victory. He’s an elite defender with legitimate switchable size and a 7-2 wingspan. Offensively, he’s a straight line driver, but one who can knock down shots, attack closeouts, and keep the ball moving in an intelligent way on offense. Even at his current level now, as long as the shooting translates, Hunter will be a productive player at the NBA level on offense. There’s upside for more, though, if he can tighten the handle when he gets into space. In general, I think teams are somewhat underrating Hunter’s upside, as he’s really improved each of the last five seasons.
Jarrett Culver is the best player available at this spot in the mock draft and a fit alongside Collin Sexton.
He’d give the Cleveland Cavaliers a two-way shooting guard with size, length and secondary playmaking.
Culver’s transformation from spot-up shooter to lead scorer and creator has led to widespread NBA interest. It also helped propel Texas Tech to the national title game.
While there are some questions about his explosiveness, three-ball and upside, Culver is viewed by teams as one of the draft’s safest, most well-rounded prospects.
The two teams that have come up most frequently as having real interest in Hunter are Cleveland and Atlanta. Over the past week, it’s begun to look unlikely Hunter makes it to the Hawks’ first pick at No. 8, which is essentially his floor. Hunter is valued for his defensive acumen and relatively easy projectability amid an uncertain lottery class, if not grand upside. Cleveland is thought to have real interest in Hunter, although this spot might be a bit high for him in a vacuum.
The Cavs are also thought to have some degree of interest in both Darius Garland and Coby White—although they selected Collin Sexton No. 8 in last year’s draft, they could conceivably play him alongside another guard who is more playmaking-oriented. In this type of draft, there’s a good case for just taking the best prospect available at this spot. That said, the Cavs don’t expressly need any of the guys on the board here, and speculatively, it could make sense for them to move down.
According to sources, there’s a split between Hunter and Culver internally. Some lean towards Culver’s upside while others are banking on Hunter’s floor. There are also some in the organization who favor Cam Reddish because of his pure talent, believing he has a chance to be a star. Garland carries appeal in Cleveland as well, especially with head coach John Beilein’s belief in a two-PG system, and Garland’s unique off-the-bounce shooting ability. A large Cavs contingent went to watch Garland conduct a private workout in Los Angeles on Saturday. The Cavs like him. He has always been in the conversation.
Figuring out No. 5 isn’t easy and given the numerous options, trading back shouldn’t be ruled out either. The clock is ticking and the Cavs will hold their meetings all day Wednesday, trying to figure out a true direction.
They are still exploring whether Hunter’s offensive limitations were related to Virginia’s slow, methodical system that kept him from showing off different aspects of his game. They have to figure out how Culver’s rebuilt jumper will hold up and determine whether it can lead to more consistency from the outside. Were Reddish’s inconsistencies tied to a core muscle injury and a limited role playing next to Williamson and Barrett?
I’m sticking with Hunter. Barely. He brings the defensive tenacity, work ethic, toughness, attitude and IQ that will appeal to this braintrust. The Cavs scouted him double-digit times in person and even though he did not come to Cleveland for a workout like expected, choosing to shut things down completely after an initial session with Atlanta shortly after the combine, Hunter’s appeal is as strong as ever.
If I was creating this mock draft for Thursday, there might be a different name here.
This pick is extremely important for a franchise that will have to build through the draft. GM Koby Altman has more than $100 million of expiring contracts, and while there’s a chance he could go with one of the point guards on the board, it’s far more likely he takes either De’Andre Hunter or Jarrett Culver, whomever remains available. Hunter is the best shooter, but Culver is a multi-dimensional forward who was the best player on a team that got within a bucket of winning the national title. He may not be a star, but he’d be a nice piece for a rebuilding Cavs franchise.
Cleveland has a ton of options at No. 5. It can pair last year’s lottery pick Collin Sexton with another point guard in Darius Garland who would offer superior shooting and ball handling ability. It can take a 3-and-D wing with a high floor in De’Andre Hunter. It can also swing for the fences with Cam Reddish, a player who would fill a positional need while also offering higher theoretical upside than any other wing on the board.
Reddish struggled to live up to to his recruiting hype as a freshman at Duke, ending the season with the lowest effective field goal percentage of any projected first round pick. His lack of athletic explosiveness and under-developed feel for the game was particularly evident when he put the ball on the floor and drove to the rim. Even still, Reddish has a promising shooting stroke and the potential to provide versatility on defense, with a 7’1 wingspan helping him post a nearly three percent steal rate. It’s a gamble to take Reddish this high, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team tempted by his natural talent level.
It’s hard to imagine Garland dropping any farther than this — and it doesn’t really matter that Cleveland drafted Collin Sexton last year. The Cavs need interesting prospects regardless of position. And most scouts believe Garland is a top-five prospect in this draft even though he only played five games at Vanderbilt.
There’s reporting out there suggesting Cleveland is interested in point guard Darius Garland at this spot. It’s early enough in the Cavaliers’ rebuild that snagging Garland as the best player available and amassing talent could make sense even after having spent a high first-rounder last year on Collin Sexton.
One can’t help but wonder, though, if the Garland messaging is designed to convince one of Phoenix or Chicago – two teams who need a point guard – to move up in the draft order.
It would seem odd to take Garland and undermine last season’s young starting point guard. Plus, a backcourt of Garland and Sexton would likely not be a successful fit, so Hunter is the projection here. The 3-and-D forward could go a long way toward helping Cleveland improve on the defensive end, as he’s one of the best defenders in the class. He also possesses some sneaky offensive upside if he can smooth out his creation skills.
Hunter is the best available player and should be an offensive contributor alongside last year’s top draft pick, Collin Sexton. Hunter shot 52 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range in a competitive ACC conference and led his team to a national title. Hunter’s pre-draft workouts haven’t been perfect, but under pressure in big-time scenarios, he’s proven he can make things happen and win games.
Unflashy 3-and-D forward who will translate in the NBA as a multipositional defender and reliable spot-up shooter.
Previous mock drafts:
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 draft Thursday night.