Noel could be the Cavs' man at No. 1, but he may not be, too. Either way, Cavs sitting pretty again.
By SAM AMICO FS Ohio
CLEVELAND -- With the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the
Cleveland Cavaliers very well could select
Nerlens Noel, the shot-blocking center out of Kentucky.
As you probably know, the
Cavs won the draft lottery for the second time in three years Tuesday night.
As you also probably know, Noel has a serious upside. He stands 6-foot-11, he can really jump and he can throw it down in traffic. He once swatted 12 shots in a game and led the NCAA in blocks (4.42) during his lone college season.
Of course, there’s also the matter of Noel’s knee.
He tore his ACL in late February and underwent surgery. No one knows when he’ll be ready to start his pro career, but early word is it won’t be until at least December.
But who can say for sure? Chicago’s
Derrick Rose suffered the same injury and missed this entire season.
At the very least, Noel will miss summer league, training camp and the early part of 2013-14. Nor will Cavs general manager Chris Grant, coach Mike Brown and the rest of the staff get to watch Noel in the all-important individual workouts.
Then again, the Cavs didn’t bring in Dion Waiters last season, and still selected him fourth overall. But Waiters wasn’t coming off a major knee injury.
Regardless, Noel was examined by NBA doctors over the weekend. If he passes his physical, the Cavs will without a doubt give him strong consideration. If Noel fails his physical, well, then the door is wide open. Either way, the Cavs will explore the idea of trading the pick.
“We’re open,” Grant said in perhaps his most telling statement of the night. “We’re going to look at all our options.”
If all this plays out in a worst-case scenario type situation, with Noel failing his physical, you’d have to ask what the Cavs could actually get for the pick. The answer is not a whole lot. Not unless some team really wants Kansas shooting guard
Ben McLemore or Maryland center
Alex Len — two other sought-after prospects.
Still, it’s hard to think anything but good things about the Cavs this offseason.
They are rich with available space under the salary cap, and yes, Grant is hopeful of using some through trades and free agency.
They not only own the top overall pick in the draft, but the No. 19, as well as two early second-rounders (Nos. 31 and 33).
And let’s not forget, they have plenty of assets already on the roster. Aside from
Kyrie Irving, you can assume that no one is untouchable.
But let’s start with Noel. Had he not gotten injured, he’d likely be this draft’s clear-cut prize. And if he heals quickly, we’re talking about a guy who could really solidify the Cavs’ frontcourt.
Imagine a big-man rotation of Thompson,
Anderson Varejao and
Tyler Zeller, with an expected game-changing defender like Noel. That wouldn’t be so bad, huh? Especially when you consider Irving and Waiters are in the backcourt.
Obviously, all of this is a one big “if.” The Cavs aren’t expected to have the answers until right up until the very minute of the draft.
Then comes free agency, and you can expect them to at least entertain the idea of trading for or signing a veteran free agent, most likely to provide some depth at small forward.
Names like Boston’s
Paul Pierce, Indiana’s Danny Granger and Chicago’s
Luol Deng have already become popular on the local sports-talk radio circuit.
No matter what happens, this is just the beginning for the Cavs. Grant and his staff still have a ton of work in front of them. They say they know that, but if history tells us anything, it’s that the Cavs won’t press the issue. They’ll calmly calculate their next move, thinking through everything and not rushing into anything.
After all, when you have the No. 1 pick in the draft, you have all the power.