Forty-five wins is a dangerous number in the NBA. And the Cavs sat right on it at the end of the regular season.
When a team lands in the mid-40s for a win total, chances are it didn't get a high enough seed to make a deep run in the playoffs. Chances are it didn't get a decent draft pick either.
The Cavs are following form. A second-round exit from the playoffs (though in a competitive seven-game series against the eventual NBA champion Celtics), and the 19th pick in Thursday's draft.
At the 19th pick, the Cavs might get a talented player, but you can't assume they'll be able to land a heart-of-the-rotation guy who is going to play a major role in a 2009 championship run.
The Cavs need more impact veterans to increase their chances of unseating the Celtics as the NBA champs in 12 months. Barring a home-run trade during the draft proceedings, which area newspapers have been saying is highly unlikely, that's not the type of players the Cavs are going to walk away with Thursday. Danny Ferry is likely going to be left to explore those types of trades once the calendar flips to July and the free-agent signing period begins.
Like it or not, the pick or picks the Cavs make in this year's draft will have to be made with an eye toward 2010 and beyond. At a time when the Cavs' big thinkers have to do whatever they can to give this team the best possible shot to win a title between now and July 2010 -- the dreaded date when LeBron is eligible to opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent -- the type of player that will most likely be available at the 19th pick is one who will need some seasoning.
Certainly, Ferry could look to trade up. In the past month, the overworked rumor mill has already attached the Cavs to the Knicks at No. 6, the Bobcats at No. 9 and the Pacers at No. 11. With Charlotte acquiring the Nuggets' pick at 20 on Wednesday, there is always a possibility that the Bobcats might look to trade their ninth pick. Or they might look to package both those picks and move up even higher.
Long story short, don't expect Ferry to jump through hoops to try and trade up, especially if you're talking about moving up a mere 8 or 10 spots, from the lower-middle portion of the first round to the upper-middle. The price will be too high, and the benefit reaped might be the difference between Kosta Koufos and Marreese Speights, two players who are probably going to need some sanding and polishing to become productive in the NBA.
So assuming the Cavs stay at 19, what can we expect?
As zero-hour drew near on Wednesday evening, the mock draft at nbadraft.net had Koufos, Speights, Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush off the board by the 19th pick. All four have been listed in the Cavs' slot in previous mock-ups on the site. The Cavs' current pick on the site is Rush's Kansas teammate, Darrell Arthur, a power forward with hops, a developing post game and a need for more muscle.
No mock draft can be treated as gospel, but it's probably best to assume Koufos and Hibbert will be gone. That would make a lot of Cavs fans happy. Koufos and Hibbert will both battle to shake off the "too slow, too soft and not athletic enough" tags in the NBA, and Cavs fans who want less plodding and more fast-breaking on the team are turning up their noses at guys who might struggle to run with LeBron -- or guys who might get pushed around on the block as they try to create a post game.
There is probably a 50-50 chance Speights is available. He's probably the player who would best fit the type of team Ferry and Mike Brown are trying to construct and maintain. He's long, athletic and has the potential to make an impact at both ends of the court. His focus and work ethic are the potential red flags waving over what is otherwise as strong of an NBA prospect as a team would be likely to find at 19.
If Koufos, Hibbert, Speights and Rush are all gone by the time the Cavs go on the clock, the consolation prizes are Arthur, Robin Lopez and Chris Douglas-Roberts. If Arthur isn't there, chances are the Cavs are going to be walking away with some lovely parting gifts, but no actual prize.
Lopez, the twin brother of likely top 10 pick Brook Lopez, is a banger with questionable offensive skills. Douglas-Roberts has a nicely-developing offensive game, but if he were a model, his name would be "Twiggy." He barely cracks 200 pounds on most scouting reports, and there is apparently some concern among scouts that his bodybuilding potential will be limited.
If you read between the lines, that means the best Douglas-Roberts might ever hope to become in the NBA is another Wesley Person. A stick-thin shooter with virtually no penetrating ability, no ability to finish at the hoop and a rumor on defense.
So if I had my way, what would I do?
I'll be honest, my first choice might make some of you choke on your corn flakes, but I'd take Hibbert if he's there. If you're looking for an heir apparent for Z, a guy who might be able to step in and start in Z's place as early as the 2009-10 season, Hibbert is your man.
Hibbert's skill set matches Z's as closely as any big man in the draft. He has a good shooting touch around the basket, can step back and shoot midrange jumpers, and is a solid rebounder to boot. He has questions to answer in the mobility department, and his competitive fire has been criticized by fans and pundits alike, but you can certainly do a lot worse than a Big East-seasoned 7'-2" center who can shoot and rebound.
After than, my next perfect-world option would be to take Koufos and attempt to groom him in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki, a seven-footer who can play facing the basket, shoot and drive. Though admittedly, Koufos will probably not develop the consistency in shooting the NBA three-ball that Nowitzki has.
After Hibbert and Koufos, my ideal picks for the Cavs would be Speights, then Arthur. I'd also keep an eye on Nevada's JaVale McGee and Texas A&M's DeAndre Jordan if Speights and Arthur are off the board. Both are raw big men who will need considerable seasoning at the NBA level. But hopefully the cupboard doesn't run that bare for the Cavs by the time they pick.
I would stay away from guards and swingmen. Rush and Douglas-Roberts would be tantalizing options for a team like the Cavs, still searching for that long-sought running mate for LeBron. But neither would fit the bill.
There is a lot to like about the games of Rush and Douglas-Roberts, and even Kansas NCAA Tournament hero Mario Chalmers, who might be available at 19. But the Cavs need veterans at the wing and point positions, not low-first round rookies. There is always the chance the Cavs could find LeBron's Pippen at 19, but not likely. If Rush, Douglas-Roberts and Chalmers develop into core-type players on an NBA roster, it likely won't occur between now and the summer of 2010.
Ferry needs to draft for a player or players who can provide depth now, and might prove to be guys who you can build around later. With that in mind, the message to Ferry and Brown is clear: Think big on Thursday. Think smaller next month.