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2013 NBA Draft: Who Will be the Cleveland Cavaliers Sleeper Target This Year?
By Bob Evans
With the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery less than two days away, the Cleveland Cavaliers currently own the third best chance of landing the No. 1 overall selection with 156 combinations (15.6 percent chance). While the top three selections are likely to be Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore and Otto Porter, the past—especially with general manager Chris Grant at the helm—has proven that the Cleveland Cavaliers do not always follow suit with who the “experts” think they will select.
One of the biggest storylines coming out of the NBA Combine was that the Cavaliers did not have an interview or meeting set up with Porter, the defensive-minded small forward from Georgetown who seems like the logical selection if he is available when Cleveland picks. However, if the past is any indication with the Dion Waiters selection last season, fans should not rule out Porter just because the team did not interview him.
The past two drafts have left Cavaliers’ fans scratching their heads when the wine and gold picked at No. 4, as the team selected little-known Texas power forward Tristan Thompson in 2011 and then Waiters in 2012. Thompson certainly showed last season he was worth the development wait, and Waiters rewarded the Cavaliers with a First Team All-Rookie selection and the second highest scoring average among rookies.
While neither player is a superstar yet, both are part of an up and coming core with All-Star Kyrie Irving—the No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 draft. Armed with two selections in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft, Grant and the Cavaliers will look to add two more pieces to the puzzle which will propel them to the playoffs as early as the 2013-2014 season.
With all of this in mind, there are a few players very few experts are currently linking to the Cavaliers to keep an eye on. Thanks to having the third worst record, the furthest down the lottery the Cavaliers can land is sixth, so they are guaranteed one of the top prospects in this draft.
Outside of Noel, McLemore and Porter, the following are three players nobody is talking about who could end up in Cleveland after this June’s NBA Draft.
Alex Len, Center, Maryland
At 7’1”, Len has already drawn numerous comparisons to former Cavalier big man Zydrunas Ilgauskas. With Mike Brown enjoying plenty of success with big “Z” in the middle, a traditional center like Len could be just what the doctor ordered for the Cavaliers.
Len’s offensive game centers around having penetrating guards who can dish him the ball, and that is exactly what the Cavs have in Irving and Waiters. With a good jump shot and polished interior offensive game, Len isn’t afraid to attack the basket—unlike last year’s first-round pick Tyler Zeller.
Many people think the Cavaliers are all set with Anderson Varejao and Zeller down low, but with Varejao’s health always a concern they could certainly use a dependable big man down low with the ability to alter shots and force opposing teams out of the lane.
Anthony Bennett, Small/Power Forward, UNLV
One of the Cavaliers’ biggest weaknesses the past few seasons has been scoring from the small forward position, and while Bennett doesn’t exactly put his best foot forward all the time on defense, scoring is something the 6’8” and 240-pound youngster knows how to do.
He is explosive at getting to the rim, can create his own shot and moves well up and down the court with athletic guards in transition. However, his defensive negatives are forcing many scouts to question whether or not he can defend the small forward position at the NBA level. If he cannot, many will have to ask themselves if he is worth a lottery selection as an undersized power forward.
Selecting Bennett would certainly shock this writer, as his lack of commitment on the defensive end is the opposite of Brown’s philosophy. But if the Cavaliers are looking for a pure scorer to add to their arsenal, there aren’t many better than Bennett in this draft.
Shabazz Muhammad, Small Forward, UCLA
When you look at Muhammad, it is hard not to fall in love with the physical specimen. He is 6’6” and 225 pounds, but his length makes him a nightmare with nearly a 7-foot wingspan. Muhammad isn’t afraid to mix it up with defenders either, as he attacks the basket with that killer instinct NBA general managers are always looking for.
The problem with Muhammad is that he is the epitome of a boom or bust prospect in this draft. His past troubles aside, the 20-year old can get down on himself at times (it shows in his body language) and often tries to do too much with the ball. He also needs to improve his jump shot and isn’t very good at creating his own shot.
Luckily for Muhammad, he would be playing with guys who create a lot of shots for their teammates in Irving and Waiters. His aggressiveness could be just what the Cavaliers need at the small forward position, but the maturity questions need to be answered before Cleveland sinks a Top 6 selection into the lefty.
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