The 2019 NBA Draft is just a couple days away. The Cleveland Cavaliers begin their offseason with the opportunity of selecting twice in the first round of the draft, pick No. 5 and No. 26. The Cavs are coming off a season of little to no success with just a few bright spots sprouting through the gloom of the 19-63 season. The 2019 NBA Draft is the biggest event of the offseason for the Cavs, so the team will need to take advantage of their two picks on Thursday.
Cleveland is at the beginning of their rebuild. Coming off a championship era of LeBron James, the team is in a different position then it has been in since James came into the league. The Cavs cannot rely on the hope of getting James back anymore. So, the opportunity to grab an elite player in free agency is no longer a plan of action that the team can rely on. The Cavs must build through the draft and hit big on their draft picks if they want to build a championship contender.
This change of positioning the Cavs are in should cause their draft strategy to change. Cleveland will need to go the route of the higher ceiling type players rather than the higher floor type players. These players have the elite athleticism and size or the budding combinations of skills that are rare in a player of his size or athleticism. They have the rare abilities that can elevate them above the rest of the crop of prospects. These players are often not finished products coming into the league, so they may need time to develop. And, in my opinion, the Cavs must go with the gambles, rather staying safe with the known commodities.
The team can look toward a couple of examples of how higher ceiling players can change a franchise around, even though it may take longer for them to develop and contribute to the team. Giannis Antetokounmpo may be the best example of this strategy. After making the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference in the 2012-13 season, the Milwaukee Bucks did not try to find an immediate impact player who could help their team right away in their pursuit of another playoff spot. But, they chose at pick No. 15 a 6-foot-9, 215-pound Greek player, who would not be a major contributor for another couple seasons. They decided to go with the highest ceiling player in the entire draft. The team hit big and now has one of the best players in the NBA.
Another example of this strategy is what the Toronto Raptors did in 2016. The Raptors were coming off a tough loss in the Eastern Conference Finals to the eventual champions Cleveland Cavaliers. The Raptors had pick No. 27. They could have tried to target a player who could fill a role for the playoff Raptors the following year. But, they decided to choose 6-foot-9, 230-pound Pascal Siakam, who was a relatively new player to basketball and had played just two years at New Mexico State. It would take two whole seasons before the Raptors would see their pick pay off. And, this past season, Siakam blew onto the scene and helped lead the Raptors to their first-ever championship.
High ceiling players are a gamble, because they usually have a low floor, making them a boom or bust type player. But, the Cavs are in a position to make these types of chances. They cannot play it safe try to get guys who will be nice role player types or, at best, starter-level players. A team full of those players will not often win the NBA championship. As the past handful of seasons have shown us, teams need stars to lead their team to championship levels. And, the Cavs best way of acquiring a star is through the draft and development of the players from there.
So, who are some of the guys in the 2019 NBA Draft who could fit this mold for the Cavs and give them a high ceiling level of projection? At No. 5, the names that come to mind are Jarrett Culver, Cam Reddish, Sekou Doumbouya and Jaxson Hayes. Culver is 6-foot-7 but has the playmaking ability to be a unique player at his size. But, can he develop his scoring enough? Reddish has all of the physical attributes along with the shooting mechanics to project into a top-flight player. But, where was his production in college, especially considering his best two teammates are the presumptive first and third players off the board in this draft? Doumbouya is another player with all the physical traits and the makings of a two-way player. But, can he showcase these talents in a huge jump to the NBA level? Hayes is one of the most unique big men to come in awhile because of his athleticism at that size. But, he is just so raw in terms of his skills on offense.
At No. 26, the Cavs could go a few routes to nab a high ceiling type player. Bol Bol, Romeo Langford, Kevin Porter, and Darius Bazley are four players who Cavs may be in striking distance to nab around their pick at No. 26 to fill their high ceiling strategy. Bol probably has the highest ceiling of anybody not named Zion Williamson. He has the size and skill set that is incredibly rare. But, he has questions around health, weight, and effort. Langford is an athletic player with good size and a strong ability to play with the ball in his hands. But, he struggles with consistency in college. Porter is a talented scorer and ball handler. But, he struggled with production in college. Bazley has the size and athleticism to be a versatile player on both ends of the floor. But, he is a relative unknown after sitting out last season and not playing at any level of basketball.
These players have high ceilings, but also questions to answer that could cause them to never reach there ultimate ceiling. Nevertheless, these are the players the Cavs need to go after if they want to find their next franchise-changing player. It is time to go big or go home for the Cavs. If the Cavs want to get players who can change the course of their franchise, I think going with a high ceiling type of player will be the best course of action for the franchise.