NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 23: NBA Commissioner David Stern announces that the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Kyrie Irving from Duke with the #1 overall pick in the first round during the 2011 NBA Draft at the Prudential Center on June 23, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
If the Cavs are really looking to be another OKC, they will have to come close to matching the Thunder's picks of Westbrook and Ibaka at No. 4 and 24, the same spots the Cavs occupy in this year's draft. It starts with getting the fourth pick right.
It looks like Cleveland has another fourth overall pick. And there aren't many tougher decisions to make in professional sports than what to do with that pick, or others in the No. 3 to No. 10 range.
Fans in Northeast Ohio should know; the Cavs selected Tristan Thompson fourth overall last year, the Browns traded up from the fourth pick to the third to take Trent Richardson in April's draft, and now Cleveland has plenty of questions - and options about what to do with the No. 4 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
We all know the crapshoot that drafting third through seventh has brought the Browns - Gerard Warren at three, the team moved up to take Kellen Winslow II at No. 6, Braylon Edwards with the third pick, Joe Thomas at No. 3 again, trading down from No. 5 to eventually take Alex Mack, taking Joe Haden seventh, trading down from No. 6 to select Phil Taylor and moving up this year to snag Richardson.
The Cavs weren't picking in the top ten much prior to and during the LeBron Years, but when they did, they had DeSagana Diop (No. 8 in 2001), Dajuan Wagner (No. 6 in 2002) and Luke Jackson (No. 10 in 2004) to show for it.
When you're out of the realm of sure things and into the realm of "must trust the front office," it's a scary place to be. Cavs fans feel a lot better about the front office as a whole than the Trust In Holmgren movement or any of the other regimes before it.
GM Chris Grant has what appears to be a discernible plan modeled after teams like the two matching up in the Western Conference Final, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. The team took on Baron Davis' contract as a salary dump to free up room for the Los Angeles Clippers to ultimately make the Chris Paul deal, but LA had to part with its first round pick, which was not lottery protected -- and became the No. 1 pick and future Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving.
Then the Cavs had a tough call to make at No. 4. With Derrick Williams (who was discussed as the No. 1 pick along with Kyrie in the first place) and Enes Kanter off the table, the Cavs had no more big time prospects left to think about.
Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker were point guards. Guys like Klay Thompson, Alec Burks, the Morris Twins and Kawhi Leonard weren't great values at No. 4. There were a couple athletic projects in Thompson and Bismack Biyombo out there, as well as the always interesting European candidates, including Jan Vesely and Jonas Valanciunas, who was all-but-guaranteed not to come over from Lithuania for the 2011-12 season.
As it turns out, the Cavs did not entertain any trades and -- after Kanter was off the board -- went with Thompson over Valanciunas. The front office liked what they saw out of Thompson with regards to upside, and even though he didn't provide Cleveland with a true post presence they still desperately need, the rookie improved every month and has what looks to be a very high ceiling.
Valanciunas is still a question mark, and while he could help the Raptors significantly when he comes over, the Cavs needed to develop a core and some cohesion now. Thompson also has a ton of trade value if Cleveland ever wanted to go that route.
The rookie from Texas averaged 8.2 points and 6.5 rebounds in 23.7 minutes a game, but saw his numbers increase as the season progressed. He averaged 9.6 points and 7.4 rebounds in 27.6 minutes in 16 April games, including three double-doubles. He obviously has to work on his scoring and skillset, as well as his free-throw shooting, but he was a productive rookie, showed some chemistry with Irving, and at the very least, doesn't appear to be a bust, which is always a concern in those tricky 3-10 picks.
Now the Cavs have the fourth pick on deck again, with what looks to be a vastly deeper draft class, which makes the decision that much harder. The only true position in which Cleveland is set is at starting point guard. While Thompson has shown spurts, that would not have stopped the Cavs from taking Anthony Davis had they been left with the No. 1 pick this year.
It is all but guaranteed that the Kentucky Unibrow will be going to New Orleans, so it becomes a situation in which the two teams above the Cavs will help to decide what Grant will do. If the Cavs had their way, I believe they would take Michael Kidd-Gilchrist without a second thought. He is friends with Kyrie, brings a defensive mindset and a winner's mentality, can do a little bit of everything and would be an instant upgrade over every player the Cavs trotted out to the wing positions this year.
Unfortunately, Gilchrist will not be there unless the Bobcats go with a guy like Harrison Barnes and the Wizards select Thomas Robinson or Bradley Beal, leaving MKG at No. 4. I highly doubt this happens. The Cavs could always trade up, but Grant mentioned how unorthodox a trade like that is in the NBA, even though it happens all the time in the NFL. If the Cavs truly want Kidd-Gilchrist, they have the assets to make a move, and I wouldn't completely put it out of the question.
If the Bobcats go with MKG, the Wizards basically help or hurt the Cavs' decision. Washington is in a similar spot as the Cavs; they need help at almost every position except point guard (and center with Nene) and will be looking for the best player available. Right now, it looks like the Wizards could take Bradley Beal or Thomas Robinson.
I don't believe the Cavs would take Robinson if he was on the board, as he plays power forward, and although he can score, the Cavs still do have two power forwards in Anderson Varejao and Thompson. This leaves Beal as the ideal target. He's a dynamic scoring two-guard who can stretch the defense and rebounds extremely well for his size. His height is a concern, but not enough of one to keep Cleveland from taking the freshman from Florida.
If the Wizards end up taking Beal over Robinson, then that probably leaves Barnes for the Cavs. While Barnes saw his stock plummet somewhat after a disappointing sophomore season in which he returned to work on his brand (and try to bring UNC a title that crumbled after point guard Kendall Marshall was injured against Creighton), the strong and talented wing still has the physical tools to be a star in the league. He has the same agent as Kyrie, the two are friends, and if he had come out a year ago, many Cavs fans would have been clamoring for the team to take him first overall instead of Irving.
What worries many about Barnes is his mental makeup. He disappeared frequently in games, he seemed a bit one-dimensional at times, not pulling down rebounds or swinging the ball, he often seemed like he was too concerned with getting his own shot in a very balanced Tar Heels offense, and he appeared to have regressed a bit, rather than taking the year to improve on his weaknesses. That said, the next few weeks (and workouts) will go a long way to determining whether Barnes will slip further or prove to be a strong value with the fourth pick.
It all hinges on Charlotte and Washington, but any of the three of MKG, Barnes and Beal do fit a big hole in the Cavaliers' lineup, and the team has pick No. 24, as well as back-to-back early second round picks to fill out its draft.
If Cleveland doesn't trust Barnes and both Beal and Kidd-Gilchrist have been taken, the decision becomes a bit trickier. The team isn't going to go with John Henson or Jared Sullinger, so that leaves guys like Andre Drummond, Perry Jones III or Jeremy Lamb, all of which have significant question marks.
Drummond is in better shape than he was during the season and is still the best center prospect in this year's draft. Jones is an athletic freak that can play the three or the four, but often looked to be playing out of position at Baylor, roved the perimeter and went to the dribble too often instead of overpowering players. Lamb is another electric scorer with long arms, but he also disappeared in games and refused to take over at times.
Regardless of what direction the Cavs choose to go, this year's draft will be critical to determining the long-term future of the Kyrie Irving (and Chris Grant) era.
A year after drafting Kevin Durant, the Thunder also had the fourth and 24th picks, taking Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka before taking James Harden third the next season. It's almost impossible to luck out with those two picks the way Oklahoma City did, but the Cavs will need to get impact players like that to surround their superstar in Irving if they are truly hoping to replicate Oklahoma City's success.