Sources say Cleveland Cavaliers will take Joel Embiid with No. 1 Pick

joel-embiid-number-one-pickThe improbable happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers when they landed the 2014 NBA Draft’s top pick. Boasting just the ninth best odds (1.7% chance) of getting the number-one pick, the ping pong balls bounced Cleveland’s way and gave them the top selection. This is now the second straight year that they’ll be picking first on June 26th.

Last year, Cleveland didn’t do so well in the draft as they took UNLV’s Anthony Bennett number one. This was an unconventional pick, to say the least, as Bennett was already injured at the time and considered a project. He’s still widely considered a project, having averaged 4.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 35.6% shooting, and 24.5% three-point shooting. Given these numbers, Bennett could be years away from being a true NBA contributor.

Now, it’s up to new GM David Griffin to succeed where Chris Grant failed so miserably with the number-one pick. Griffin already has a huge advantage because the 2014 NBA Draft talent pool is much, much stronger than 2013’s crop. Some of the names that have been thrown around for this year’s first selection could’ve easily topped the 2013 Draft. Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum and Jabari Parker are all potential top choices.

So who does Cleveland have their eye on with a month left before the draft? Initially, it looked like they could be leaning towards Andrew Wiggins. The 6’8″ Canadian has been on the radar of NBA scouts for the past several years and did nothing to hurt his stock with 17.1 PPG and 5.9 RPG at Kansas. Here’s a look at what ESPN’s Chad Ford wrote a few days ago:

Sources in Cleveland say that Wiggins is the likely choice. The team feels he has the most long-term potential, helps them defensively right out of the gate, can replace Dion Waiters in the starting lineup while adding character to the team.

Interestingly enough, though, Wiggins figures to get some heavy competition from his Jayhawks teammate, Joel Embiid (11.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG). The 7-footer really impressed scouts during a workout hosted by the L.A. Clippers. Embiid was so impressive, in fact, that he quickly made Ford change his tune regarding who’s going number one. Here’s a look at what three different writers had to say on the matter:

 joel-embiid-number-one-pick-1Ford – Embiid quickly re-asserting claim to # 1 pick here. Added muscle, still has quick feet & a beautiful jumper. No evidence of back issues. Just spoke with Embiid. Told me his back is 100 percent. Been working out hard for last 3 weeks. Embiid said he’s gained 15 pounds. Up to 265. Still getting back into shape. Got a bit winded in workout but still looked quick & explosive.

Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports – Watching Joel Embiid in workout for league executives in Santa Monica. Impossible to imagine passing on him at No. 1.

Adam Zagoria, SNY.tv – “I did not see any issues with his back,” one veteran NBA scout on hand at the workout told SNY.tv. “He looked very agile and athletic.”

“He looks great,” a second scout said. “Running, jumping, dunking, bent up like a pretzel in warmups and stretching exercises. Had two ex-NBA bigs [Brian Scalabrine and Will Perdue] banging on him underneath. He passed the eyeball test big time. Move him up. “He helped himself today.”

Cleveland already has some good pieces in place to make themselves a playoff-caliber basketball team. And adding a super-talented big man like Embiid could give them the missing piece to become a postseason lock in the East. But then again, so could adding a shooting guard like Wiggins, who already seems NBA-ready. Likewise, many scouts believe that Parker (19.1 PPG, 8.7 RPG) will also make an immediate impact at the next level.

Another option for Cleveland would be trading their top pick. Since the Cavaliers already have enough young talent in Kyrie Irving, Waiters and Tristan Thompson, they would do well to add a veteran All-Star to the mix. But like the three writers above mentioned, Embiid’s talent and potential may be too much to pass up on.

Cleveland Cavaliers can’t make a Decision on moving Dion Waiters

dion-waiters-clevelandWe’re now just a couple of weeks away from the 2014 NBA trade deadline. And the Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the more likely teams to make a huge deal before the February 20th deadline. Going further, this could mean moving starting shooting guard Dion Waiters, whose attitude has apparently worn thin on teammates and coaches.

Despite his immaturity and clashes with team star Kyrie Irving, this is no easy decision for the Cavaliers. After all, they invested the fourth overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft on Waiters. It’s not like he’s been a bad player either, averaging 14.2 PPG and shooting 38.1% from beyond the three-point line. On top of this, owner Dan Gilbert also loves Waiters’ talent

So will Cleveland actually move a player who could bring them back something significant? Gilbert may not want to do this. However, the driving force behind getting rid of Waiters is the team’s record, which is a miserable 16-32. And shaking up the roster by trading their shooting guard could have a very positive effect on the Cavs.

dion-waiters-cleveland-1They were built to win this season and, at the very least, grab a playoff seed in the extremely weak Eastern Conference. Veterans like Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark, and Jarrett Jack were brought in to provide bench depth and experience on what was supposed to be a good team. The Bynum experiment blew up in the organization’s face, but he did serve a purpose since Cleveland was able to deal his expiring contract for two-time NBA All-Star Luol Deng.

Unfortunately, not even Deng has been able to spark a turnaround with this struggling club. In fact, Deng seems repulsed by what he’s seen in Cleveland so far. He reportedly told a friend “the stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess.” Deng was particularly offended by how certain players talk to head coach Mike Brown, threaten not to play after halftime, and when Waiters was kicked out of practice, yet still played starter’s minutes in the next game.

The latter point is very telling of the root of Cleveland’s problems. Waiters seems to feel entitled and shows little respect for Brown. None of the players seem to have quite the star power to keep him in check either. Deng is new to this situation and is probably just trying to play out the season so he can leave in free agency, while Irving is an All-Star, but doesn’t yet have the accomplishments to help control a locker room.

Obviously the team that’s been assembled isn’t getting things done on the court. So Cleveland either needs to move Waiters while they have a chance, or accept another year without the postseason and look towards the draft…again.

Will the Luol Deng Trade push Cleveland into the Playoffs?

luol-deng-cavs-tradeOver the past couple of weeks, Cleveland Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum has been the league’s hottest trade commodity. And no, it’s certainly not Bynum’s 8.4 PPG and 5.3 RPG that had teams clamoring for his services. Instead, teams merely wanted to sign him and waive him to save salary cap room.

Well, Cleveland finally found a taker for the disappointing center as the Chicago Bulls gave up two-time All-Star Luol Deng in the deal. In exchange, the Bulls save $15 million in salary and taxes this season by trading Deng and cutting Bynum. They also get a bevy of draft picks from the Cavs, including a first-round pick (via Sacramento), and 2015 and 2016 second-round picks (via Portland). It’s clear that Chicago did a good job of at least getting something in return for Deng, who wasn’t expected to re-sign with the Bulls this summer.

But the immediate winner here is no doubt the Cavaliers. This team came into the 2013-14 NBA season with high expectations. Not only did they sign a former All-Star in Bynum, but they also drafted UNLV’s Anthony Bennett number one overall. These two additions, along with Cleveland’s core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson, were expected to produce the club’s first postseason bid in years.

Instead, what they’ve gotten so far is a 12-23 record and a top pick who’s averaging 2.2 PPG and shooting 27.8% from the field. But the good news is that it’s not too late to turn things around with Deng on the roster.

luol-deng-cavs-trade-1Despite a .343 winning percentage, Cleveland is just 2 and a half games out of a playoff spot. Their chances of making the postseason look even more optimistic when you consider that only three teams really appear to be locks in the weak Eastern Conference.

It’s also worth mentioning that Deng fills the biggest hole on the Cavs’ roster. Irving (22.8PPG, 6.1APG) is a star at point guard, Waiters (15.2PPG, 3.2RPG) is having his best season at shooting guard, Thompson (11.9PPG, 9.8RPG) is a more-than-solid power forward, and Varejao (8.1PPG, 9.6RPG) is still a serviceable center. But their gaping hole has always been Earl Clark and Alonzo Gee trying to fill the small forward role. Both players are shooting less than 40% from the field, and they’re forced to play out of position too.

Enter Deng, who’s averaging 19.0 PPG and 6.9 RPG from the small forward spot. Getting somebody like this to plug in the missing piece of your lineup is huge. More than that, Deng seems to be the guy who’ll finally make Cleveland into a postseason-worthy team. Of course, there’s just one catch here: Deng could only be in a Cavs uniform for half a season.

He’ll definitely test the free agency waters when his contract is up this summer. And with Deng being a 9-year veteran, he’s likely going to want to play for a title contender. But then again, Cleveland could convince Deng that they’re capable of competing for a championship with him in the lineup. Sure this seems like a stretch now, but sometimes one player can dramatically turn around a team’s chemistry.

Above all, the Cavaliers will have plenty of cap space to sign Deng to a long-term deal. Seeing as how many people think that he’ll fetch somewhere in the neighborhood of the 4-year, $48 million contract that Andre Iguodala signed with Golden State last summer, Cleveland can definitely afford to front this bill.

Cleveland Cavaliers Gamble on Andrew Bynum

andrew-bynum-clevelandLast year, the Philadelphia 76ers paid $16.5 million to watch Andrew Bynum sit in street clothes throughout the entire NBA season. But knee problems and bone bruises don’t scare the Cleveland Cavaliers since they signed Bynum to a two-year, partially-guaranteed contract.

If Bynum performs and meets incentives during his two years in Cleveland, he’ll earn a maximum of $24.5 million. However, he’s only guaranteed $6 million of this amount during the first year. Assuming Bynum meets certain stipulations, he’ll earn up to $12 million in the first season. The second year is a $12.5 million team option that allows Cleveland to cut ties with the 25-year-old if they no longer want him.

Before signing with Philadelphia and sitting out an entire season, Bynum was one of the NBA’s best centers. He averaged 18.7 PPG, 11.8 RPG, 1.8 BPG and made the All-Star team during the 2011-12 season. Since jumping directly from high school to the NBA, Bynum has put up career averages of 11.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 1.6 BPG.

When the Sixers signed Bynum to a one-year, $16.5 million contract, they were hoping to get the same guy who was coming off an All-Star year for the Lakers. Philadelphia shipped Andre Iguodala to Denver, and Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, and a first-round pick to Orlando in exchange for Bynum and Jason Richardson. After building a team around Bynum, the Sixers thought they could contend for a high playoff seed; what they got instead was a guy who never played and a 34-48 record.

andrew-bynum-76ersLucky for Cleveland, they don’t have to invest as much in the 7-footer since they aren’t banking on his production. The Cavaliers know that the future of their squad lies with 21-year-old’s Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters, 22-year-old Tristan Thompson, and newly-drafted 20-year-old Anthony Bennett.

If Bynum pans out, he could join this young core group and help form a playoff contender. What’s more is that the 25-year-old might provide incentive for LeBron James to return to Cleveland during the 2014 free agency period. But if Bynum doesn’t play much, or at all, the Cavs can simply pay him the $6 million and wash their hands of this deal after one season. For Quicken Loans and casino magnate Dan Gilbert, this is a small price to pay for a potential top-5 center.

The Cavs aren’t the only ones who stand to benefit from this arrangement. Andrew Bynum wasn’t exactly a coveted free agent after 31 other NBA teams saw Philadelphia flush $16.5 million down the drain. So the relatively young center was looking for another opportunity to showcase his skills and prove that his knees aren’t totally shot.

If the Cleveland thing works out, Bynum will earn as much as $24.5 million and lead a strong group of young players. He’ll also hit the free agent market in 2015 with a much loftier status than what he carried this season. And if he has another Philadelphia-type year, well, at least Bynum made an extra $6 million before he enters Greg Oden territory.

Cavaliers shock Basketball World by taking Bennett No. 1

anthony-bennett-nba-draftThe 2013 NBA Draft isn’t even halfway finished yet, but no matter what happens tonight, people are mainly going to be talking about the Cleveland Cavaliers number one pick. The Cavs shocked pretty much everybody involved in the basketball world by taking UNLV forward Anthony Bennett first overall.

Bennett, who won the Mountain West Player of the Year award as a freshman, becomes the first Canadian to go number one in the NBA Draft. He’s also the second UNLV player to be selected with the top pick, an honor he now shares with retired forward Larry Johnson.

Many people who attended the draft were baffled when Bennett was first off the board. According to the DraftExpress mock draft, the 6’7″, 239-pounder was expected to go with the eighth pick. He definitely showed a good overall game by averaging 15.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG, and shooting 38.3% from the three-point line. However, he wasn’t exactly considered number one overall pick material coming into tonight. CBS Sports NBA writer Zach Harper summed this up pretty good when he wrote:

Bennett is a big-time scoring prospect, but doesn’t exactly have the cachet of someone you’d expect taken with the top pick. Bennett has a really good face-up game with range out to the 3-point line.

nerlens-noelMany experts thought that the Cavaliers were leaning towards selecting either Kentucky center Nerlens Noel or Maryland center Alex Len. After all, Cleveland has a solid young nucleus with PG Kyrie Irving, SG Dion Waiters and PF Tristan Thompson. So adding a good defensive center would’ve given them another piece to building a future contender. However, they chose to go with Bennett, who’s expected to fill a hole at the starting small forward spot.

Nerlens was another surprise among the 2013 NBA Lottery selections because, not only did he not get taken first, but he also tumbled down to the sixth pick. The New Orleans Pelicans ended his freefall and quickly traded his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for a package that includes All-Star guard Jrue Holiday.

Nerlens didn’t seem too dispirited about falling down the board as he hugged his mom and smiled at the podium after being picked. “I thought everything was in the air, so I wasn’t thinking I was the No. 1 pick,” the 7-foot shot-blocking specialist said.

victor-oladipoThe Orlando Magic avoided going with a center as well since they took Indiana guard Victor Oladipo with the second overall pick. After getting selected, Oladipo said, “It’s like a weight vest you took off after running five miles. It’s relaxing, man. But at the same time, you know it’s just getting started.”

The Washington Wizards kept Georgetown swingman Otto Porter Jr. in town by taking him with the third pick, while the Charlotte Bobcats took Oladipo’s Indiana teammate, PF Cody Zeller, with the fourth selection. Len rounded out the top five when he was taken fifth by the rebuilding Phoenix Suns.

Besides Noel, another surprising fall in the draft was former Kansas freshman guard Ben McLemore. Many mock drafts had him going within the top three picks, but he wasn’t taken off the board until the Sacramento Kings grabbed him with the seventh choice.

Georgia shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope went to the Detroit Pistons with the eighth draft pick. And Michigan guard/2013 Final Four hero Trey Burke was picked by the Minnesota Timberwolves at ninth, then traded to Utah for the 14th and 21st picks.

Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum was the first mid-major player to be selected as he rounded out the top 10. The Portland Trailblazers love the point guard’s sharp shooting, as McCollum averaged 23.9 PPG while shooting 51.8% from the three-point arc.

2013 NBA Draft: Who will Cleveland pick First?

nerlens-noelThe NBA Draft Lottery was held last night, and the Cleveland Cavaliers truly hit a jackpot. With just a 15.6% chance of corralling the top pick, Cleveland saw their ping pong ball come up first. So they’ll be making the first selection when the 2013 NBA Draft takes place on June 27th.

While nobody is a slam dunk to be chosen No.1 this year, the popular consensus is that Cleveland will take Kentucky center Nerlens Noel. The 7-footer is pretty raw offensively and has a super-skinny frame at just 210 pounds. But he’s got tremendous upside, is a phenomenal shot-blocker, and fills the Cavaliers’ need for another good frontcourt player.

Anderson Varejao currently plays center for the Cavs and has been an excellent rebounder and solid defender…when he actually plays. However, the 6’11” big man has played just 81 games in the past three years, including 25 last season. Because of Varejao’s injury issues, taking a chance on Nerlens certainly isn’t a bad idea. And even if they’re both healthy, Varejao can play some power forward as well.

American v KansasKansas guard Ben McLemore has also been discussed as a potential number one pick. And it wouldn’t be completely unfathomable to think that Cleveland would choose him if they saw something unique. However, this is a team that took shooting guard Dion Waiters with the fourth pick last year. Plus they have Kyrie Irving at point guard, which would make taking McLemore a little overkill.

One more name that’s been thrown out as a potential number one selection is Otto Porter Jr. This is completely a needs-based pick since Cleveland has a big hole to fill at small forward. But as talented as the Georgetown product is, most analysts don’t see him as the absolute best player in the draft.

otto-porter-jrIf the Cavaliers don’t fall in love with anybody, there’s also the option of trading away the top selection. However, this is a bad idea for a team that’s seemingly tanked the last few years in hopes of stockpiling young talent through the draft. It’s also hard to see Cleveland getting fair value on any potential superstar they’d select number in June.

The wheels have definitely been set in motion for the Cavs to return to competitiveness in the 2013-2014 season. Irving is one of the best young point guards in the league after averaging 22.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, 1.51 SPG and shooting 39.1% from the 3-point line. Waiters had a strong rookie campaign after scoring 14.7 PPG and dishing out 3.0 APG. Tristan Thompson is proving to be a good frontcourt player, following a season where he averaged 11.7 PPG and 9.4 RPG.

Plus this club is loaded with solid role players in C.J. Miles, Alonzo Gee, Marreese Speights, Tyler Zeller. Wayne Ellington and Jeremy Pargo. Will all of this be enough for a playoff run next year? Depending upon how their No. 1 pick develops in the upcoming season, Cleveland definitely could be back in the postseason for the first time in four years.