The term “loser,” I will admit, might not apply here. The Cleveland Cavaliers were a 19-win team last season, so anything that moves them forward to more wins should qualify this off-season as a positive one, I suppose. While the merits of draft winners and losers will be argued all day today by various writers, I would at least contend that the Cavaliers were the biggest wasters on the day — one in which they had an incredible two of the first four selections of the 2011 NBA Draft.
Even in a weak draft, the Cavs had the chance to add two impact starters and given their lack of overall talent, there’s no doubt Kyrie Irving, the No. 1 overall selection, and Tristan Thompson, the No. 4 selection, will be on the floor immediately. But are they the right duo? Absolutely not.
For Irving to be on the floor, the other point guards on Cleveland’s roster have to be on the bench — and that’s not a good thing based on last season’s performance. Baron Davis was actually an asset coming over from in mid-season with his loaded contract. That allowed the Cavs to get the draft choice, but Davis’ solid performance was unexpected. Ramon Sessions was another solid point guard option, giving the Cavs at least one spot on the floor that wasn’t embarrassing.
The NBA Draft was deep at the point guard position. Kemba Walker fell to No. 9 overall. Brandon Knight went to No. 8. Both will be quality point guards for years in the NBA. They could have been had at No. 4 and everyone knew it. Instead, the best forward by a country mile in this draft was Derrick Williams, the other sure-thing impact player. No other forward comes close and he went predictably at No. 2. He should have went No. 1.
The Cavs grabbed Thompson, a late flier up draft boards around the league, but he’s no Williams even though he had a nice career at Texas and very impressive workouts before the draft. There’s no doubt he will strengthen the Cavs frontcourt with a solid overall game. He can rebound, score underneath and he’s solid defensively. But he can’t take over as a wing scorer like Williams, which is the major ingredient missing for Cleveland.
Both players will start and both will fare well in Cleveland. That’s not the issue facing the Cavs here. Instead, it’s about a missed opportunity to continue to play Davis and Sessions at the point, add Williams and even Jonas Valanciunas at the other spots and build the team with the best possible impact players according to the value available at the time. The Cavs took the safe road — the same one you take relationally after you’ve been burned. They will be better but they will not return to greatness.