Sunday, June 21, 2009

Winging the draft

If there is any silver lining to be pulled from the Cavaliers losing in the conference finals, it's that the offseason will move fast.

This Thursday marks the NBA Draft, the first chance the Cavs will have to reload for next season. Most basketball reporters and pundits are predicting that the Cavs are going to approach the summer as one of the few buyers in a league of sellers, and if that is the case, the draft marks the beginning of a blank canvas of an offseason for Danny Ferry and his staff. The Cavs can take this offseason in a number of different directions.

Since Dan Gilbert's pocketbook is apparently not an issue when it comes to stocking the roster for the 2009-10 season, what Ferry can accomplish is limited by only his tradeable assets, creativity, and ability to phone and text his colleagues in other NBA front offices.

Ferry will make some significant things happen this summer as the Cavs approach LeBron James' anticipated foray into free agency next summer. What form Ferry's moves will take remains to be seen, but as the draft approaches, we can scan the landscape and set some basic ground rules.

First, the Cavs' biggest need is immediate help in the frontcourt, and Ferry almost certainly isn't going to find that in the draft. Ferry needs veteran big men who can step in and start -- or at least play major, productive minutes -- right away. The Cavs have been talking to the Phoenix Suns about Shaquille O'Neal, which should give you an idea of what Ferry is looking for in terms of frontcourt help. He wants playoff-tested veterans who can provide size and skill to the center and power forward positions right away.

There are a couple of elite-potential big men available in this year's draft, but unless the Cavs can somehow trade up to the tippy-top of the draft order for a shot at Blake Griffin or Hasheem Thabeet, going big is probably not a great idea for the Cavs on draft night.

Second, the Cavs have a less-pressing need for a dynamic wing player who can score and defend. This draft has some decent depth at the shooting guard and small forward positions. If the Cavs sit tight with the 30th pick, there is a chance that a solid wing player could fall to them. If Ferry is more proactive and acquires a pick in the teens, there is a much better chance that he'll find a swingman who can step in and produce as a rookie.

And if pre-draft scuttlebutt is to be believed, a number of teams could be looking to move down in, or entirely out of, the first round as a money-saving move. That means Ferry could find ample opportunity to move up in the draft order without breaking his own bank.

Assuming that Ferry is going to commit the vast majority of his tradeable assets and free agency resources to improving the frontcourt with veterans, draft night might present Ferry with his best chance to get a skilled wing player who can at least bring more to the table than Wally Szczerbiak or Sasha Pavlovic, neither of whom should count on a return to the Cavs next season.

Here are a few possibilities for a first-round Cavs pick if Ferry stays put at No. 30, and a few possibilities if he moves up.

If the Cavs move up

DeMar DeRozan, freshman, USC

Pos: SG, Ht: 6'-7", Wt: 220

Ferry might have to trade up to around No. 10 to have a shot at DeRozan, a Southern California freshman who is regarded by scouts as a supreme athlete. He has range on his jumper and pogo-stick legs that have gifted him with a 40-inch vertical jump. However, he is only 19, so his game is still kind of raw and his defensive fundamentals need work, meaning his ability to step in and produce for the Cavs as a rookie is legitimately within question. But as he matures, his star potential alongside someone like LeBron would be hard to ignore.

Gerald Henderson, junior, Duke

SG, 6'-4", 215

Mike Krzyzewski's program isn't known for cranking out a lot of NBA stars. But one thing Duke has done for the NBA is produce a number of steady role players who go on to have long and productive, if not spectacular, professional careers.

Henderson could very well become another in that mold. He's a player who is great at nothing but good to very good at just about everything. He can hit spot-up jumpers outside, pull-up jumpers inside, and can finish at the rim and draw fouls. Coming from Duke, he's been well-schooled in defensive principles and can play good man defense on the perimeter -- a major need for the Cavs.

Henderson is a little undersized for an NBA shooting guard, and is significantly undersized for an NBA small forward. But as a rookie, if he could battle the Mickael Pietruses and Eddie Houses of the world to a draw, he could become a productive role player for the Cavs.

Chase Budinger, junior, Arizona

SG, 6'-7", 205

If Ferry is looking for a player who could potentially step in and start at some point next season, Budinger is a good place to begin the search. At 21 and with three years at a top-level college program under his belt, he has developed into an excellent all-around offensive player. He is among the best pure shooters in the draft among swingmen, with range beyond the NBA three-point line and an advanced ability to curl off screens and knock down jumpers. He has the size, hops and athleticism to get to the rim and score. He's also a decent passer with an unselfish mentality.

However, Budinger's defensive game is not as advanced as his offensive game, which means Mike Brown's help-and-recover defensive system would have to do a lot to mask Budinger's man defense weaknesses.

Terrence Williams, senior, Louisville

SG/SF, 6'-6", 215

Another player with starter potential as an NBA rookie, Williams isn't the offensive force that Budinger is, but he employs his height and length far better at the defensive end. He's also a good rebounder for a wing player.

The main problem with Williams is his shooting, and reliance on the outside shot. Although he is an excellent athlete, he lacks a dynamic offensive game and an inability to penetrate could force him to rely solely on his outside shooting. In that department, his three-point shooting has stayed below 40 percent throughout his college career.

If the Cavs stay put

Sam Young, senior, Pittsburgh

SF, 6'-6", 220

It might be a bit of a stretch to think that Young could still be available at No. 30, but teams have been scared off by less than a 24-year-old senior.

In a best-case scenario, Young's advanced age would make the other 29 teams hedge enough to pass on him, leaving the door open for the Cavs to take the defense-minded swingman at 30.

Young isn't the most fluid player on the board, and offensive game might be limited to jump shooting at the professional level. But he's big and tall with a long wingspan and high defensive potential. Young might never be an NBA starter, but he could develop into the type of player that could shut down the other team's best wing scorer for stretches. After watching the Magic light the Cavs up from the perimeter throughout the conference finals, that kind of player could be worth his weight in gold.

Wayne Ellington, junior, North Carolina

SG, 6'-5", 200

Ellington would seem to project as a shooting specialist on the NBA level. His jump shooting ability is superlative, and over his college career, he's developed multiple ways to get his shot off. He can spot up, pull up in traffic and shooting it coming off screens. If he can develop a niche as a catch-and-shoot gunner in the NBA, he'd be a great fit playing alongside LeBron.

However, his size, quickness and overall athletic ability will probably grade out as below average at the NBA level, meaning that he's not going to become much of a threat taking the ball inside, and he will likely remain a suspect defender. That probably won't sit well with Mike Brown.

Dionte Christmas, senior, Temple

SG, 6'-5", 210

Christmas is a player with a well-developed offensive skill set who might be lacking a bit in athleticism. He can probably shoot it at the NBA level, but his ability to create his shot at the next level is questionable. Christmas is a good passer, solid defender and regarded as an intelligent player, so he can probably fit well into a defined role in a team concept.

DaJuan Summers, junior, Georgetown

SF, 6'-8", 245

Size and athleticism make Summers an attractive pick at 30. With an ability to both shoot it from the outside and post up, along with an NBA-size body, he could develop into a legitimate inside-outside threat at the pro level.

Summers' biggest problem is a lack of fundamental discipline. He hasn't yet showed an ability to play fundamentally-solid defense on a consistent basis, and any technical errors in his offensive game stand a much better chance of being exploited at the NBA level. But he still has size and height, and you can't teach that.

1 comment:

jlt said...

The Cavs purchased 2 2nd round picks last yr. One was Sasha Kahn, U of Kansas. He played in Russia this past yr as a center/forward. Anything on him?