After securing the first overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers once again hold all the cards, but they have good reasons to trade down for more assets. Nearly all NBA Draft observers agree that Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid will be the first three picks in the draft, although the order the trio are drafted remains open for debate. Under the best case scenario for the Cavs, the Philadelphia 76ers fall in love with one of the big three and agree to trade their picks at three and 10 in the first round, together with a player such as Thaddeus Young.
After the Anthony Bennett first overall pick debacle last year, the Cavs need to make the right pick this time around. Initial rumors speculated the Cleveland team to be concentrating most heavily on Embiid. If his back is fully healed without significant risk of reinjury, then the Embiid pick could still occur. The Cavs medical team did evaluate the Kansas big man and reports differ as to the result. To the extent the team has any questions about Embiid’s back after the medical evaluation, they most likely will look elsewhere in the draft. The Bennett pick will weigh heavily on the team’s calculations. Whiffing on two number one overall picks two years in a row is almost unthinkable.
Some of the pressure can be alleviated for all concerned, both for the team and the first player they select, if the Cleveland Cavaliers sift through all available offers and pick the one most reasonable to trade down. The Cavs would be best served if they could trade down, obtain more assets, and still end up with a pick among the top three. The Sixers have reportedly discussed trading the third overall pick and Young for the first pick, but have balked at delivering the tenth overall pick as part of the package. The Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic each own two first round picks and could also be prime candidates for a trade. For teams other than the Sixers, working a deal with the Cavs would require more in terms of player assets because the highest pick for those teams is outside of the top three.
A trade outside of the top three also makes the most sense if a player such as Dante Exum or Marcus Smart manages to convince the Cleveland brass that he is the best choice. This scenario is probably unlikely as the Cavs went against prevailing wisdom last year in the Bennett selection and then General Manager Chris Grant paid the price for a poor pick with the loss of his job at mid-season.
The upcoming NBA Draft presents opportunity and risk to the Cavaliers. Because of last year’s poor regular season showing and apparent epic fail with the Bennett pick, the Cleveland club faces additional pressure to make the most of June’s draft. In the best of all worlds, team executives can look at each upcoming year without looking back at past failures. In this instance, the failures of last year gives the Cleveland Cavaliers a good reason to trade down in the first round and pick up more than one good player to run with Kyrie Irving.
Commentary by William Costolo