After a disappointing end to their season, the Cleveland Cavaliers will take the first step in retooling their team for the 2018-19 season tonight through the NBA Draft.
Cleveland’s only remaining valuable asset from the botched Kyrie Irving trade is the Brooklyn Nets draft pick. Though the Nets did a little better than expected, the pick fell to the 8th slot in tonight’s draft.
Assuming the Cavaliers hold onto the pick, there are plenty of options that will be there for Cleveland. Here is a look at some of the prospects who could be suiting up for the Wine and Gold.
1. Trae Young, Point Guard – Oklahoma (6’2″ 176)
Young had a standout freshman season at Oklahoma. He became the first player in Division I history to lead the nation in scoring (27.4 ppg) as well as assists (8.7 apg). Young’s offensive talent makes him a tantalizing prospect. His ability to use ball screens and make the right decisions when driving downhill is great for a player entering the NBA.
Another strength for Young is his ability to score from all over the floor. His long-range shot unlocks the rest of his offense. As defenders go out to guard him beyond the arc, Young can use his quickness to get in the lane and score as well as dish off to a teammate.
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) June 19, 2018
While Young’s flashy offensive game makes him look like a can’t miss prospect, there are some flaws in his game. His high usage rate (led the country in usage rate – 38.5%) caused Young to ware down toward the end of the season. In his final 15 games Young shot over 50 percent just three times and averaged 5.3 turnovers per game.
Young’s frame is also smaller than some would like for a point guard. The other trait that Young will also need to improve on is his effort on defense. He can become an okay defender if he puts in the time, but early on will be tested on a nightly basis by the NBA’s best point guards.
Trae will come into the league with a target on his back, and it will be key for him to tune out the critics and focus on improving. All in all Young has the talent to become a successful player, he will just need to put in the time & effort. He will fill a void at the point guard spot for Cleveland that has not been the same since Irving was traded last summer.
Quote from nbadraft.net on Young, “The first thing that jumps out about Young is his seemingly limitless shooting range … Young is a threat to score from anywhere on the court once he crosses half court and can effortlessly knock down shots beyond the NBA three-point line … He may be the best shooter in college basketball since Stephen Curry played at Davidson”
2. Michael Porter Jr, Forward – Missouri (6’10” 212)
This is arguably the most interesting prospect in the 2018 NBA Draft. Porter would be a lock to go in the top three if it had not been for a back injury that sidelined him for much of the 2017-18 season. In just three college games, Porter averaged 10 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Missouri Tigers.
Porter can play either forward spot in the NBA and would fit nicely along Kevin Love and LeBron, if he chooses to stay. His offensive game is considered to be very polished and can score in a variety of ways. At 6’10” Porter has the ability to shoot over defenders (like Kevin Durant) which is a good tool to have.
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) June 19, 2018
In addition to scoring, Porter is a solid defensive rebounder who can also run the floor and make plays in transition. His defense can be inconsistent at times, but with his combination of physical tools and work ethic Porter can turn into a player who can be capable of guarding multiple positions.
Now the one obvious weakness for Porter is the fact he had back surgery at just 19 years of age. Players that typically deal with back issues early in their career see them pop up again at some point down the road. So whichever team takes Porter, they will do it with the knowledge of his medical history.
With comparisons to Durant and Joe Johnson, Porter surely has one of the highest ceilings in this draft class. If he can continue to develop his offensive game, gain consistency on the defense end and remain healthy then Porter will be a slam dunk selection if he falls to the Cavaliers at No. 8.
Quote from nbadraft.net on Porter, “Porter combines fluid athleticism with comfort as a ball handler, three-level scorer and flashes of playmaking and defense … His physical tools make him a unique prospect in a draft class lacking top wing prospects”
3. Collin Sexton, Point Guard – Alabama (6’2″ 185)
Sexton is another dynamic point guard who has a knack for scoring the ball and getting to the foul line at a high clip. He plays with great physicality, athleticism, and aggression. Sexton has the speed to get just about anywhere on the court. His ability to get to the rim and finish with either hand is hard to ignore. His constant attacking of the basket and speed on the floor keeps the defense guessing. Sexton averaged 19.2 points on nearly 45 percent shooting in his lone season at Alabama.
Unlike Trae Young, Sexton has a better reputation on the defensive end of the floor. He totaled 28 steals on the season, which is not all that impressive, but that could be attributed to his large workload on the offensive end of the floor. He also uses his quickness on the defensive end of the floor to stay in front of his man.
But Sexton is nowhere near the passer Young is and only recorded more than five assists just five times and averaged just 3.6 assists. While Sexton does not pass the ball as well as Young, his decision making is better. Sexton averaged just 2.8 turnovers per game, Young averaged 5.2 turnovers per game. It is obvious Sexton needs to work on becoming more of a distributor, but in terms of decision making on the floor, he may have the edge over Young as of now.
What Young and Sexton do have in common is that they both shouldered quite the heavy load on the offensive end. Sexton did not have the significant drop-off that Young did toward the end of the season, he was overall more consistent than Young.
ESPN's Dave McMenamin adds that the Cleveland #Cavs are going into Thursday night's NBA Draft with the intention of keeping the pick and selecting a playmaker who could play big minutes for them next year. Named Collin Sexton and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. #NBADraft
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) June 20, 2018
Sexton is also a solid shooter, but has a tendency to be streaky and forces shots from time to time. While his driving ability is one of his strengths, he sometimes will just put his head down and go without looking for the open man. When Sexton does not have the ball in his hands he can go into “sit-and-watch” mode and not be as engaged on offense. Sexton will have to learn to play off the ball a little more in order to have maximum success in the NBA.
But one thing that stands out about Sexton is his competitive fire. There does not appear to be a player in this draft with more confidence or desire to leave it all out there on the court. Sexton is unafraid of any moment, which will bode well for him in the NBA, given he approaches the game with the right attitude. Sexton would likely slide into the starting point guard role for Cleveland, as that is the one position they truly lack talent.
Quote from nbadraft.net on Sexton, “He’s a player that loves the spotlight and seems to be energized by the bright lights and stiff competition … He loves to play through contact and has the frame to absorb it when going to the rim … He has the strength and athleticism to finish through contact, and he also gets to the free throw line at a very high rate”
4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Point Guard – Kentucky (6’6″ 182)
The other point guards that have been touched on in this article have been on the shorter side, that is not the case with Gildeous-Alexander. He is a 6’6″ guard with an impressive 7’0″ wingspan.
While not known for his scoring ability, Gildeous-Alexander still averaged 14.4 points per game. He also shot 48.5 percent from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc. While his three point attempts were limited, he did show there is room to grow with his jump shot. Gildeous-Alexander makes his mark on offense by getting to the rim and finishing in the paint.
it's not hard to see why the Cavs like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. he's so smooth getting to the hoop and finishing around the rim. great size and vision. I just always come back to shooting and how you project his improvement at the next level
— Jordan Zirm (@clevezirm) June 19, 2018
Now Gildeous-Alexander’s bread and butter is his playmaking ability on the defensive end. He uses that 7-foot wingspan to his advantage and plays the passing lanes quite well. Despite averaging 1.6 steals, Gildeous-Alexander was rarely out of position. He had just seven games without a steal and recorded three or more steals in seven games.
Gildeous-Alexander’s ability to handle the ball and break down a defender is good for someone just entering the NBA. While his height (6’6″) is great for the point guard position, he will need to add weight to his slender 180 pound frame. Gildeous-Alexander also does not lack confidence for a young player and wants the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.
Like many young players, Gildeous-Alexander can often times force his offense when the better option may be to dish the ball off to a teammate. He will also need to improve his decision making at the next level in order to maximize his success in the NBA.
However there is a quality work ethic in Gildeous-Alexander and with the right approach he can turn into a solid NBA guard. If he is selected by the Cavaliers, his size will give him the chance to play either guard spot. Gildeous-Alexander will likely see time because of his ball handling and strong defensive ability.
Quote from nbadraft.net on Gilgeous-Alexander, “Works extremely hard on defense and has a nose for the ball … Uses his length to smother opposing ball handlers and take away passing lanes … Averaged 1.6 steals per game, many of which were on-ball steals … Doesn’t often get out of position defensively despite his high steal total”
There are quite a few prospects that will push the needle in the right direction for the Cavaliers. While there is a chance the front office chooses to trade the pick, realistically keeping the 8th overall selection is what is best for Cleveland.
Given the uncertainty of LeBron’s decision, this draft pick will either be the first step in a rebuilding process or will give Cleveland a talented, young player to bring along as they pursue another championship. Regardless, it should be quite the night for the Cavaliers franchise.