Best and worst case for the Cavaliers in the NBA Draft

Trades notwithstanding, there are three big names at #8

Alex Hooper
June 14, 2018 - 3:52 pm
Mar 16, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Missouri Tigers forward Michael Porter Jr. (13) shoots against the Florida State Seminoles during the first half in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at Bridgestone Arena.

© Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports


The Cleveland Cavaliers are not going to wind up with DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III or Mo Bamba unless they trade up in the 2018 NBA Draft. Given the position they are in with LeBron James, trading the few assets they have to move up for a rookie is not one that is likely to impress the King.

Trading the No. 8 pick in any package for only a veteran is one that cannot happen until after draft night, as the recklessness of former Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien has put current owner Dan Gilbert in a position to work carefully around his own.

Koby Altman and the Cavs front office has been operating under the assumption that James would leave this summer as far back as their decision to focus on a draft pick in their trade of Kyrie Irving. It was also a factor in the decision to bring Cedi Osman over from Europe.

Unless a trade is agreed upon based on the players available at eight at the time, Altman will likely continue on the path towards a rebuild and select the player that will best lead a franchise forward through more lottery picks.

That being said, some of the prospects available could help James if he stays or be a center-piece if he goes regardless. A few of the prospects in the tier below the big-five make less sense in a rebuild. Naturally, one would think that Altman would avoid those players in this particular scenario.

So who will be left for Cleveland at eight? Let’s take a look at the best and worst case scenarios.

Best case: Michael Porter Jr., 19, Missouri

Even the best case scenario for the Cavaliers comes with a caveat. Health.

Porter missed the majority of his only season at Missouri after back surgery, and even cancelled his second pro-day workout because of hip spasms. Given that his initial back injury at Mizzou was originally said to be a hip issue, the red flags grow brighter.

Porter is a top-two talent in this draft from a projection standpoint, an explosive 6-11 small forward in the mold of Paul George, with the jump shot to boot. The only reason he would be available at eight would be due to health concerns.

If the health issues are cleared by anyone in the Top-7, Porter will be off the board no later than five, probably hopping Bamba, possibly even anyone but Ayton. If he lasts to eight, clearly the health is an issue and Altman would be taking a giant risk.

That risk is probably less troublesome should James leave, but the upside if he stays healthy is someone who can give the Cavs a legitimate step towards upsetting the Warriors.

The MRIs on Thursday did come back clean for Porter, which would only indicate he would be gone when the Cavs have a chance to sweep him up.

High ceiling, low floor, nobody-knows-what-the-case-is case: Trae Young, 19, Oklahoma

James has said before that he likes Young, but as someone who claims that he knows talent, his college crushes in prior years have not been stars. I’m looking at you, Shabazz Napier.

Young is a giant question mark. The comparisons to Stephen Curry are ridiculous, but spot on if he is able to hit his ceiling. Yes, the kid can shoot from anywhere on the floor, and he has good court vision, but assuming that he is a similar ball-handler to Curry without any evidence is a giant risk.

If the assumption is that James will leave, perhaps swinging for the fences is the correct move. If Young’s scoring translates, a giant question in its own right due to his size and struggles to finish in traffic, he can be a dynamic playmaker in the modern NBA. Young’s defense will be a liability, and if the scoring ability escapes him, he will be a net negative. Think Jimmer Fredette.

Personally, this author would avoid Young at all costs.

High floor, low ceiling, worst-best case scenario: Wendell Carter Jr., 19, Duke

Wendell Carter Jr. should hang around in the NBA for a long time, but he may never be a star. If James stays and the pick is not moved, he may be the best option outside of the big-five plus Porter. If James leaves, Carter and Larry Nance Jr. will still be a tremendous front court to build around for years to come.

Carter works as a modern-day stretch-5 with a consistent jump shot, the ability to protect the rim and rebound effectively. At the same time, the center lacks perhaps the main aspect of a modern five’s defensive game, the ability to switch onto guards and defend the perimeter.

The Duke product probably makes more sense without James on the team, as he will have time to develop into a perimeter defender if capable. With James in the picture, Carter is currently unplayable in late-minute playoff games due to his inability to switch.

The best case aspect of Carter is that he will likely be the best player available when the Cavs pick, but the worst case is that he will not help them win a championship. If Carter is somehow gone before Cleveland, it likely means Porter is hurt, or teams are scared of Trae Young.