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2013 NBA Draft: Cleveland Cavaliers Could Help Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters by Selecting Ben McLemore
By Bob Evans
There is a common misconception floating around that if the Cleveland Cavaliers select Ben McLemore No. 1 overall in the 2013 NBA Draft it means the Dion Waiters era in Cleveland is over before it had a chance to start. In reality, if the Cavaliers decide to select the dynamic scorer out of Kansas over Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel, it means they are adding another weapon to an already potent back court that could use some help.
I know what many of you are thinking. Why would a duo that featured an NBA All-Star in year two in Kyrie Irving and a First Team All-Rookie selection in Waiters need any help?
For starters, the duo missed a combined 44 games last season due to injury. While Irving has been every bit the superstar caliber player the Cavaliers needed to land with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, the youngster missed 15 games in his lockout shortened rookie season and another 23 games in year two.
Irving’s aggressiveness while attacking the hole is part of the reason he is so good, but it will also lead to hard fouls and spills on the ground that his 6’3” and 191-pound frame isn’t going to be able to take from time to time. The same can be said for Waiters, who utilizes his own 6’4” and 215-pound frame to draw contact while getting to the basket. This is not to say these two players are injury prone by any means, but what it is saying is the Cavaliers need another scoring option.
This is where McLemore fits in.
The Cavaliers have 96 minutes of play time to divide between the point guard and shooting guard positions. Irving averaged 34.7 per game last year and Waiters averaged 28.8, which means the team gave 32.5 minutes to reserves that had nowhere near the scoring ability of a guy like McLemore. While the likes of C.J. Miles, Wayne Ellington, Shaun Livingston and Daniel Gibson filled in admirably, not one of those players has the ability to be a 20-point per game scorer—McLemore can.
Standing 6’5” and 190 pounds, McLemore has already drawn comparisons to NBA great three-point shooter Ray Allen thanks to his sweet stroke. Averaging 15.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and two assists per game in his lone season in college, McLemore showed scouts he can not only hit the outside jumper, but he has an uncanny ability to read defenses for backdoor cuts and easy opportunities around the basket. Try to think of the last Cleveland Cavaliers player who could do that—you’ll find him currently residing in South Beach.
Having a player with McLemore’s offensive abilities to share those 96 minutes per game will not only provide the Cavaliers with more scoring—they ranked No. 18 in the league at 96.5 points per game last season—but it will also force defenders to choose between doubling Irving and leaving him open, or giving Irving more isolation plays. For those of you who have enjoyed watching Irving during his first two seasons with the Cavaliers, he is at his best when able to isolate against the opposing defender thanks to his quick first step and court vision.
Another reason drafting McLemore over Noel makes sense is the current composure of the Cavaliers’ roster. While it would be great to add a potentially elite rim protector like Noel, the team does have Anderson Varejao (if healthy), 2012 first-round pick Tyler Zeller and 2011 No. 4 overall pick Tristan Thompson down low. While not elite by any means, Zeller and Thompson averaged just shy of a block per game last season.
On the other hand, the Cavaliers’ next highest wing scorers were backups C.J. Miles at 11.7 points per game and Wayne Ellington at 10.4 points per game. The Cavaliers’ own a team option on Miles for this coming season and Ellington is a restricted free agent. So not only could the Cavaliers vastly improve their scoring on the wing, but they could save some money by letting one of those two players walk in free agency and allocate it to bringing in a free agent that could help protect the rim. With all due respect to Noel, it is much easier to find a big man to defend around the rim than a guy who can put the ball in the basket like McLemore.
McLemore is not without questions of his own, as a number of scouts feel he needs to work on his ball-handling and shot creation while in isolation situations. He also had a sub-par end to his freshman season in college, putting up just 11 points against Western Kentucky and two points against North Carolina in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. He did bounce back to score 20 in Kansas’ loss to Michigan in the Sweet 16, but by then the judgments had already been made.
Many people feel this conversation would not even be relevant if Noel hadn’t torn his ACL, but in this writer’s eyes the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft has to have star potential, the ability to score at an elite level and be someone that can impact your team for a very long time. While Noel will certainly be a very good to great defender, his ceiling as an offensive product leaves much to be desired.
This is where McLemore wins the No. 1 overall pick, because he does have that next level ceiling for the Cavaliers’ franchise. He has the ability to come in and make a major impact from Day 1 thanks to his great shooting ability, and will also keep Irving and Waiters from having to play 40 minutes per game. McLemore also gives the team a clear-cut third (likely second) scoring option they have desperately needed.
It will be a tough sell at first, drafting the first shooting guard in 40 years at No. 1 just one year after taking Waiters at No. 4. But this isn’t a replacement selection, this is adding a dynamic playmaker to an offense currently lacking one with his abilities. It is about taking the best player available, but also the one that can change the offensive dynamic for the franchise in year one. And that player is Ben McLemore.
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