Happy Tuesday WFNY!
The NBA season has finally come to a close, and once again, the Champion is surprisingly not the Golden State Warriors. I’m curious how history will remember the Warriors’ run. Going to five straight Finals and winning three of them is insane. Very few teams have experienced this level of success.
Yet they also struggled to beat the Cavs in 2015 despite the Cavs missing two of their top three players. They blew a 3-1 lead in 2016. They lost to the Toronto Raptors in 2019 after experiencing injury issues of their own for once. It’s been an incredible run for the Warriors and it’s something Warriors fans will never forget. But I’m glad it’s over. For now. We’ll see what Kevin Durant does and when Klay Thompson returns the Warriors can still be a contender with Steph Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green. But it really feels like this season was the end of the Warriors dynasty as we know it.
For the Cleveland Cavaliers, the end of the Finals means they are back in business. The NBA Draft is this Thursday, where the Cavaliers have the number five pick. Cleveland also has the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick, which falls at number 26. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, they are pretty much on the outside looking in when it comes to obvious stand-out picks.
The top three in this draft is pretty much carved in stone. You can lock in Zion Williamson to the New Orleans Pelicans, Ja Morant to the Memphis Grizzlies, and RJ Barrett to the New York Knicks. With the Pelicans now picking at four thanks to the Anthony Davis trade, almost every projection has them taking Jarrett Culver with the pick. After those four players, this draft becomes a lot muddier. There could be a trade with some other team moving up to four, but that would most likely be to take Culver, so it likely wouldn’t change the Cavaliers’ outlook. But obviously, you never know with drafts. Anything can happen.
For the Cavs’ pick, most mocks have them taking Virginia’s De’Andre Hunter. It makes sense. It’s probably a somewhat safe pick. With all the volatility of projecting guard skill sets from college to NBA, a player like Hunter has a much easier to project set of skills. He looks like a multi-positional wing who can defend a bit and shoot decent from outside. It’s not a sexy pick, but it feels like someone who can be a very serviceable player for a long time. In many ways, it reminds me a lot of the Tristan Thompson pick.
The other option you see some outlets have the Cavs going with is Darius Garland, from Vanderbilt. Garland has a lot more upside than Hunter, but he’s also a riskier pick as his floor is a lot lower than Hunter’s. Garland also seems like a player who would fit in really nicely with John Beilein’s offense. The other top-eight prospects you see are Coby White (North Carolina guard) and Cam Reddish (Duke forward). I would be surprised if the Cavs went with either of those players unless they trade down.
The outside-the-box player I like the most is Rui Hachimura from Gonzaga. I like Hachimura a lot because I don’t think he’s even close to being done developing as a player. He showed a ton of raw talent at Gonzaga. He’s got great size and athleticism and possesses a natural feel for the post. He may not be your prototypical 2019 NBA player, but I really like his potential to develop more of those skills. He would be a big reach at 5, but I wouldn’t hate the Cavs trading down if they wound up with Hachimura.
As for that number 26 pick, I don’t have an opinion. Outside the top 15 picks or so in the NBA draft, you are dealing with very limited upside and most picks are pretty big guesses. You just take the player you like the most there and hope for the best.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Koby Altman try to be aggressive in trade talks Thursday. The Cavs are in an odd spot at five. Assuming Culver goes four, there’s not a no-brainer pick for the Cavs at five. With high-potential guards like Garland and White on the board, the Cavs could move down with a team that is desperate to get the guard that they want. Or if the Hawks like Hunter more than the Cavs do, perhaps Atlanta would push to move up.
My official prediction is that the Cavaliers take Garland. Hunter wouldn’t surprise me at all, but I just wonder if Koby doesn’t want to swing for the fences here rather than take the safer pick. No matter what happens, it’s just fun to actually have something happening with the Cavaliers again.
After the draft, free agency starts at 6 pm on June 30 (a pleasant change from the old midnight July 1 standard). I don’t expect the Cavaliers to be aggressive in the free agent signing market, but I do expect them to be active in the trade market. It’s pretty likely that JR Smith will be traded, but I think the Cavaliers will look at all kinds of trade options, including deals that would move Kevin Love and Jordan Clarkson1. Then Summer League runs from July 5 through July 15. After that we just have the final free agency pieces falling into place while teams wait for media day and training camp to begin.
It’s been a long period of downtime for the Cavaliers. This is going to be an interesting next month for the franchise. With owner Dan Gilbert still recovering from his stroke, it’s not entirely clear from the outside looking in who is in charge right now. Presumably, Koby Altman is calling the shots. It’s a lot of pressure on the young GM to be calling the shots without oversight from ownership, but Altman has been dealing with high-pressure stakes from day one of his term when Kyrie Irving demanded his trade. After this several months lull, it’s exciting to have stuff going on with the Cavs again. If Altman and his team succeed, we can hopefully avoid future lulls like this. I don’t know about everyone else, but I sure missed the playoffs.