June 26, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Draft was good, but could have been better

I’m not saying the Cavaliers had a bad draft. I can’t say that, because they added the closest thing to a sure thing by taking Duke point guard Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 pick.

I’m not saying I’m terribly upset with the selection of Tristan Thompson with the fourth pick, though the Texas power forward’s presence certainly creates a logjam at that position.

What I’m saying, basically, is that I expected more.

I expected the Cavs, coming off a woeful 19-63 season, to add at least three players, perhaps four, maybe even five, to a roster seriously devoid of talent, especially at shooting guard and small forward.

I thought Cleveland general manager Chris Grant might be able to package a player and part or all of the team’s about-to-expire $14.5 million trade exception to acquire another first-round pick.

I thought, even in a very weak draft, that the Cavs could certainly add a swingman-type player at No. 32 who would be better than the likes of Joey Graham, Christian Eyenga, Mannie Harris and Alonzo Gee.

I thought the Cavs might even be able to add a player at No. 54, perhaps someone like Ohio State’s David Lighty, who could make their team.

I thought wrong.

With Duke’s Kyle Singler (No. 33 to Detroit), UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt (No. 35 to Sacramento) and Florida’s Chandler Parsons (No. 38 to Houston) all on the board at 32, the Cavs took yet another power forward, this one a stretch-four type, in Richmond’s Justin Harper. Not only that, Cleveland then traded Harper to Orlando for second-round picks in 2013 and 2014.

Pick No. 54 was always iffy at best, but instead of going with someone like Lighty, who will definitely be invited to training camp by someone, perhaps even Cleveland, the Cavs went with a total unknown in 6-foot-9, 260-pound Serbian power forward Milan Macvan.

Grant called Macvan “one of the toughest, nastiest players” he’s ever seen, but Macvan will have to be mean and nasty in Israel next season because the Cavs don’t even plan on bringing him to camp.

It all was a little unfulfilling, a little bit of a letdown, but that’s the nature of NBA drafts.

We spend weeks mentioning every rumor, talking about upside, trying to figure out how to pronounce the five-syllable last names of international players and compiling mock drafts that go out the window three picks in.

Then, the next day, we attempt to dissect them before anyone has practiced, let alone played an NBA game.

All we know for sure is that we really don’t know whether a team, in this case the Cavs, had a good draft or bad one.

I think I know Irving is going to be a very good, and perhaps even great, NBA player. That alone would make this draft a success.

I know some people — probably more than two days ago — now wish the Cavs had taken Arizona forward Derrick Williams at No. 1 and Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight at No. 4, but I also know you have to take a player who has a chance to be great, in this case Irving, when the opportunity is there.

Thompson, I’m a little less certain about, but he’s certainly got some skills. Ask me to choose between an unproven, big-man project (Jonas Valanciunas) and someone who has proven his worth at the major college level, even if he only played one season, and I’ll go with the proven player every time, especially when there’s no guarantee the big man will even play in the NBA next season.

If Thompson develops his offensive game and improves his woeful .487 shooting at the line, he could end up being a starter in the NBA. At the very least, his presence should send a non-verbal message to one J.J. Hickson that it’s not a lock he’s going to get a long-term, big-time contract from Cleveland at the end of the 2011-12 season.

That’s what I think I know, but I definitely know I was expecting more.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.

Rick Noland About Rick Noland

Rick Noland is the Cavs beat writer for The Gazette and the author of "Over Time," a compilation of stories he's written in more than 30 years as a journalist. He can be reached at 330-721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.