June 27, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Cavs draft commentary: Cleveland can’t contend without star

I’m not sure what Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant, one of the most secretive and silent front office employees in professional sports, is going to do tonight with the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

Copy that when it comes to the 19th, 31st and 33rd selections.

Beat writer Rick Noland predicts the Cavaliers will select Maryland center Alex Len with the first pick in tonight’s NBA Draft. This, of course, is assuming they don’t trade the selection. (AP PHOTO)

What knowledgeable Cavs fans should hope Grant does is pull off a major trade that brings a fairly young, All-Star caliber player to Cleveland.

That, folks, will result in way more sustained excitement than watching Alex Len or Nerlens Noel attempt to make a shot that isn’t a dunk.

In what is one of the worst drafts in NBA history at the very top, adding an All-Star type player is the only way this franchise is going to make significant improvement in a short period of time.

Sure, the Cavs, who have gone a putrid 64-166 (.305) in the post-LeBron James era, will improve internally as youngsters like Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller continue to get better.

They’ll improve some more, record-wise, if Anderson Varejao and Irving ever stay healthy for an entire season (though that is an “if” the size of Varejao’s oft-injured 6-foot-11 body).

Add a very raw, young big guy like Len or Noel with the No. 1 pick tonight, a shooter like Sergey Karasev, Reggie Bullock or Allen Crabbe at 19 and perhaps get lucky with one of the second-round picks and they’ll improve a bit more, though not nearly as much as many draft-crazed fans think.

Factor in a little bit of defense under new — and former — Cavs coach Mike Brown and they’ll definitely improve in that area, because they played absolutely none under Byron Scott, who talked a much, much better game than he coached.

Put all that together and maybe, just maybe, the Cavs are a playoff team. But they’re the kind of playoff team that gets swept by Miami or Indiana in the first round.

And, despite possibly having two players chosen No. 1 overall in the entire stinkin’ NBA Draft, two more chosen No. 4 overall, another chosen 17 and another at 19, all in a span of three years, no less, they’ll never be much more than that — they’ll never be a legitimate championship contender — unless they add star talent.

Since we’re talking star talent, this is where we have to insert that the biggest star of all, James, will likely be a free agent next summer. That is as far as we’re going on that topic, though, because this column is about the best way for the Cavs to get significantly better, right now.

The best way to do that, by far, is to strike a deal for someone like Minnesota’s Kevin Love, Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge or another top-flight player who might somehow be pried away from his current club.

To Grant’s credit, he’s apparently trying to do just that, as the Cavs reportedly offered the Timberwolves the No. 1 pick, Thompson and Waiters for Love, only to be shot down.

A day earlier, there were reports the Cavs offered the Trail Blazers the first and 19th picks for Aldridge, only to be shot down even more quickly.

Short of the untradeable Irving, I’m not sure what Grant could give the T-Wolves to convince them to part with Love, because he is basically that franchise’s Irving.

I would, however, part with power forward Thompson in order to sweeten the offer to Portland for fellow power forward Aldridge.

Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins has also been mentioned, but I’d be real careful there. Cousins has worlds of talent and I’m a firm believer you need a number of star players to compete for a title, but once a knucklehead, usually always a knucklehead.

A zillion other deals were rumored Wednesday — 2012 No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson going from Houston to the Cavs for the 19th pick; Cleveland acquiring the 13th pick from Dallas and taking Karasev; C.J. Miles to Brooklyn in a multi-team trade that would bring the Cavs two more first-round picks — but all pale in comparison to the possibility of using the No. 1 choice to add a young All-Star.

That’s why if I’m Grant, I do everything in my power to do just that. I look here, there and everywhere (and I continue to look this summer when it comes to free agency and potential trades).

Drafts, despite what so many potential-loving Northeast Ohio sports fans think, are extremely overrated and overhyped, especially when it comes to raw, unproven big men in this day and age.

Of course, Grant can’t dance without a partner, so no matter how hard he works to get a deal done, he may end up choosing between Maryland’s 7-1, 255-pound Len and Kentucky’s 6-11¾, 206-pound Noel.

There is, however, another option. Actually, there are four, the way I see it. They are, in my order of preference, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo, UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, Kansas’ Ben McLemore and Georgetown’s Otto Porter.

None are guaranteed to be future All-Stars, which is why fans should still hope Grant can trade for one, but I’d take any of the four before Len or Noel.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

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.