Some teams don’t want to make the most of the luck they had, or simply don’t see the draft as the best way to improve. The Cleveland Cavaliers get to pick at number one in the NBA draft for the second time in three years, but the prospect of Nerlens Noel or Otto Porter isn’t that charming, preferring to make a deal with a team for a forward who can put up points, with Luol Deng (Chicago Bulls), Zach Randolph (Memphis Grizzlies), Thaddeus Young (Philadelphia 76ers) and Ersan Ilyasova (Milwaukee Bucks) coming to mind.
The Cavs finished last season with a 24-58 record, with Kyrie Irving out for 23 games and Anderson Varejao missing almost the entire season. The Cavs still think Varejao is an excellent starter when healthy (14.1 points, 14.4 rebounds in 25 games last season), and aren’t that high on drafting Nerlens Noel, who is somewhat of a raw prospect, not to mention the injury problem after he tore his ACL last season, which hasn’t stopped draft experts from projecting him at number one.
The Cavs need players who can score, and now. Dion Waiters was the second leading scorer on the team (14.7 points at a typical rookie shooting accuracy of 41.7% from the field) while no one else scored over 12 points per game. They do have faith that the young Tristan Thompson will become a very productive player real soon, but they need something more than his 11.7 points per game.
The Cavs owe only $36 million in contracts next season, with a lot of players not going to get a renewal, or at least not at the money they’ve made before, like Luke Walton, who made almost $7 million last season but played only 17 minutes a night, scoring 3.4 points per game. They have enough room to eat some big trades, not to mention to make some free agency moves that might significantly upgrade the team, if players will actually be willing to go to Cleveland, while keeping enough cap space free for the 2014 bonanza.
So what about the option? The Bulls have been thinking about trading Deng, whose contract expires next season and is owed $14.2 million next season. With Jimmy Butler coming up and perfectly ready to start, the Bulls could become a real powerhouse in the East, pretty close to the Miami Heat, with the benefit of having the number one pick.
The Milwaukee Bucks like Ilyasova, but expected more from him this season, more than the 13.2 points per game he gave them. He’s sticking around for a long time, with a deal keeping him until 2017 for $32 million in the next four seasons. While he is a capable scorer who might benefit from being on a team without two players (Ellis and Jennings) who absorb so much of the ball, it’s hard seeing him and his contract being worth a number one pick.
Young enjoyed what was probably his best season for the 76ers in 2012-2013, averaging 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds. His deal runs until 2016 at an average of $9.5 million a season, and he’s more likely to create some intrigue for the Cavs than Ilyasova, although his offensive potential is limited as well.
Zach Randolph is probably the most consistent scorer out of this group, despite his 15.4 points per game in the regular season not showing it. It had a lot to do with the Grizzlies pace, but he has shown that when played on, he can certainly pick up 20 point nights without too much problem, as long as its not Duncan and Splitter playing him. He is owed $17.8 million next season and has a player option for 2014-2015 worth $16.5 million. The Grizzlies don’t have a problem trading a key player, like they did with Rudy Gay, if the Cavs are serious about dealing their number one pick.