Last night, the Cavaliers tied their franchise’s longest losing streak by crapping out their 19th in a row in a loss to the Nuggets in Cleveland (although, let’s be fair, in those 19, they really only “lost” 15 or so, saving the others with such moral victories as J.J. Hickson grabbing more than 6 rebounds or, say, holding their opponent to under 65 points in the first half … Your 2010-11 “moral victory” Cavaliers currently sit at 12 wins – or good for only third worst in the league. Perspective, Cavs fans … perspective).
But we awake to a new day – and when that day happens to be a late-January Saturday and, if we have not already, we should probably spend a little time thinking about college basketball (or, as I like to call it, “slightly less professional basketball”).
Specifically, let’s spend a little time with the players most likely to be available and worthy of taking on all of our psychological baggage for the next several years.
Let’s get a couple of things out of the way about where it looks like we will be drafting. First, barring a scorching three months of basketball, the Cavaliers will end up with one of the three worst records in the league. Though they’ve given me no reason to believe this is the case, they will most likely win again this year. But, by the time they do, the next worst team could easily have 3-4 games of betterness on them.
Second, we could never win another game – finish the season with only 8 wins, none of them coming in 2011 – and end up picking 4th in the 2011 NBA Draft. Just worth thinking about. The way the basketball gods have been shoving our collective head in the toilet this year … well, just don’t be shocked if we don’t get the number one pick. In fact, be shocked if that does happen. Since this is a draft that looks to have four or five really intriguing prospects, that may not be the worst thing either. Yes, we want the best available player wherever we pick, but this draft may have screw-up potential written all over that first pick – and, remember, the guy making our picks now was part of the management that picked Marvin Williams ahead of Chris Paul.
You may now lock yourself in the bathroom and scream.
So, who are the guys we’ll most likely be looking at in the top of the draft? If you watch college hoops – or, as I did, quickly started figuring out who the top prospects were when it was clear this Cavs season was going to be … um … not entirely fulfilling – you know these names already: Jared Sullinger, Kyrie Irving, Perry Jones III, and Terrence Jones (some other names have started appearing atop the board, such as Derrick Williams from Arizona and Enes Kanter from … well, nowhere right now, I don’t think … but I haven’t had the opportunity to watch them play yet so, Derrick and Enes, just know you’re in my thoughts). None of these guys is a can’t-miss player, but they should all end up being good-to-very-good and, as far as the Cavs go … you know what they say about beggars being choosers and all.
Today: Sullinger and Irving.
Jared Sullinger – 6’9” 280lbs. Forward from The Ohio State University.
There’s a lot to like about Jared Sullinger. He’s come in as a freshman and anchored the current No. 1 team in the nation to a tune of 17.8PTs and 10REBs a game. Most of the detracting talk has been about how “NBA” his body-type is. What’s his body-type, you may ask? I think it’s called “Leon Powe with good knees.” He is not an explosive athlete and, combined with the fact that, yes, there are some guys out there taller than 6’9”, he sometimes has problems getting his shot off against bigger players. I saw this last weekend, when Ohio State played Illinois. I thought I was reliving J.J. Hickson’s rookie season, as several of Sullinger’s looks close to the basket were easily stuffed by the longer Illinois defenders. But, you know what Sullinger ended up with? 27PTs and 16REBs. Not too bad going against a team who is exploiting your weaknesses. While we have plenty of examples of dominant college players who were just not able to translate those skills into NBA success, I think it’s a mistake to overlook Sullinger’s production because of athletic shortcomings. Players who rebound well tend to always rebound well. And Sullinger definitely has the strength to compete against NBA players. In fact, the two things he should have no problem bringing to the NBA – rebounding and toughness – are two things sorely lacking on the Cavs this year. I keep thinking of Sullinger ending up like Michael Cage (who, we should remember, wasn’t all that bad). Not exactly top-4 level production, but a solid contributor.
Kyrie Irving, 6’2” 180lbs. Point Guard from Duke University.
Okay, here’s where I really start betraying my hopes and dreams for the Cavs going forward: I don’t care if Kyrie Irving has to have his (currently) busted toe amputated before the pre-draft camps, I want us to take Kyrie Irving.
Irving was shaping up to be the breakout player of this freshman class when he went down with a toe injury and, yes, yes, yes, while I understand that the toe is not where you want a guard developing any sort of injury history (though Boobie’s hasn’t resurfaced since it cost him much of his production two seasons ago) we can’t keep dumping out a steady string of average point guards who get destroyed by the best 10 point guards in the league. Irving has great point size and quickness and, at the time of his injury, was shooting 53% from the field and 45% from 3. Irving looks like he has the skill set to be an above-average defender on the wing and might just keep us from getting destroyed nightly – not just by top-flight guards like Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul and Deron Williams – but by … ahem … last night, the Denver player who killed us the most when we were trying to come back was Ty freakin’ Lawson.
If he’s healthy (I’ll backtrack just a bit from my amputated toe declaration), I can’t see why we don’t pick Irving, unless someone has picked him already.