The Cavaliers shouldn't play it safe with the No. 5 pick

Cleveland should select the player with the most upside

James Rapien
June 18, 2019 - 3:45 pm
(Garland photo © Mike Clark/For The Tennessean / Reddish photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

(Garland photo © Mike Clark/For The Tennessean / Reddish photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)


CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cavaliers have the No. 5 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Everyone expects Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett to be selected with the first three picks.

Most experts have Cleveland taking Jarrett Culver from Texas Tech or Virginia’s De'Andre Hunter. Both players were both dominant in the NCAA Tournament and could end up being solid players at the next level, but the Cavaliers should look elsewhere with the No. 5 pick.

General manager Koby Altman needs to select the player with the highest ceiling. The Cavaliers hired John Beilein to help guide young players like Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman and incoming draft picks. Shouldn’t they give Beilein top talent?

This isn’t a knock on Culver and Hunter, who both project to be good players. Every NBA team besides the Magic Johnson led Lakers can find a ‘3-and-D’ guy, which is what Hunter is expected to be at the next level.

Altman and the Cavaliers should think bigger. Which player available at No. 5 has the highest ceiling? If it’s Darius Garland out of Vanderbilt, then they should take him.

This team is in need of talent. If Garland projects to be a future All-Star like some have speculated, the Cavaliers should draft him, even if they aren’t sure how he will fit in a backcourt with Sexton.

Garland has a chance to be the best point guard in this draft. Most believe it’ll be Morant, but the Vanderbilt guard has the shooting ability, quickness and athleticism that translates to the next level.

He averaged 16.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per game in five games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Some are concerned about Garland's size, who was 6’2” in shoes and 175 pounds at the 2018 Nike Hoop Summit. Will he be durable at the next level or will he struggle with injuries due to his size?

He’s drawn comparisons to Kyrie Irving, who only played 11 games at Duke before the Cavaliers drafted him No. 1 overall in 2011.

Even with his lack of size, Garland projects to be a great NBA player. He can consistently shoot the three, has the ability to go one-on-one and is a willing passer. A backcourt with Garland and Sexton would be one of the fastest in the NBA. Some have compared the 19-year-old to Portland star Damian Lillard, who has become one of the best guards in the league.

Another player the Cavaliers should consider is Cameron Reddish from Duke. He would fit right in with Kevin Love, Sexton and Osman. The 6’7” guard had his issues playing alongside Williamson and Barrett, but he wasn’t used to being the third wheel.

Reddish would get a chance to evolve into the Cavaliers’ go-to scorer. He averaged 13.5 points and 3.7 rebounds at Duke. He scored at least 20 points in eight games and performed well against Kentucky and North Carolina.

He didn’t play in the Sweet 16 against Virginia Tech due to a knee injury. Some have questioned him, but head coach Mike Krzyzewski backed Reddish after their win over Virginia Tech.

Reddish was the third ranked player in ESPN’s 100 list coming out of high school. He has all the tools to be a great NBA player. Some believe he has the potential to be the next Tracy McGrady.

NBA stars fall in the draft every year. Reddish has an extremely high ceiling, which is exactly why Cleveland should consider him with the No. 5 pick. 

The Cavaliers believe Beilein can build a winning culture and get the most out of the young talent on the roster, but that doesn't mean they can give him a team full of role players.

Cleveland needs a star. Every contending team in the NBA has one. If the Cavaliers hope to get back to where they were in the LeBron era, then they can’t be afraid to draft the best available talent.

Reddish and Garland have flaws, but so do Culver and Hunter.

Will Culver ever become a good shooter? Does he have star potential? Hunter projects to be a ‘3-and-D’ type of player at the next level. He could end up becoming an elite defender. Both would be considered ‘safe’ picks.

Instead of playing it safe, the Cavaliers should swing for the fences with Reddish or Garland. It will take time, but both youngsters have a chance to be great NBA players. The Cavaliers need to find the next All-Star, not another role player.

Reddish and Garland will likely develop into decent players, which is a worst-case scenario. Their potential is higher than other players Cleveland could select with the No. 5 pick. Instead of hedging their bet, the Cavs should draft an elite talent.

Altman needs to swing for the fences on Thursday night.