May 23, 2011

Cavaliers Should Be Watching What Minnesota Does With #2 Pick

Predicting what teams will do in the draft is hard enough on its own merits. When it comes to trying to guess what a mercurial and enigmatic GM like David Kahn of the Minnesota Timberwolves will do in a draft makes things even more difficult.
Yet, if we are to give any consideration to what the Cleveland Cavaliers should do with the #4 pick in the draft, we must try to ascertain which players will still be there when they are back on the clock. When it comes to the Timberwolves, the general consensus seems to be that they will take Derrick Williams with the 2nd pick, leaving the Utah Jazz to take Brandon Knight at #3 and giving the Cavaliers their pick of foreign prospects at #4.
I’m just not sure that’s how it will play out, though. The Timberwolves have shown that they don’t tend to draft according to need and are unafraid to stockpile players at the same position. Their history with PGs is well documented, but if you look at the 3 and 4 positions on their team, they already have a bunch of similar players who could or should be playing the same position. Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, and Martell Webster are all under contract at least through the next season. So perhaps they will still take Derrick Williams, the other consensus top 2 player in this draft. That’s the safe move.
When it comes to center, though, they only have Darko Milicic and Nikola Pekovic. Neither player is a difference maker and neither one should really be anything more than a bench player who gets spot minutes here and there. Pekovic has a little potential to grow as he had his moments last year in his rookie season. But is Pekovic a guy the Timberwolves are content to slot in as the center of their future? It’s possible, but I would think a guy like Enes Kanter could alter those plans.
In many ways, the thought of Kanter going to Minnesota just makes so much more sense than Derrick Williams. The only way Williams makes more sense is if their team scouts are absolutely certain that Williams will be a much better NBA player than Kanter. Otherwise, Kanter is a tantalizing prospect for any team that needs a center.
This is why I believe that the Timberwolves are going to take Enes Kanter with the #2 pick in the draft. Initially, this might excite some Cavs fans who dream of pairing Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams together, assuming that Utah will still take Brandon Knight. However, if Derrick Williams is still available for Utah at #3, that changes things for them.
With Al Jefferson and Mehmet Okur already there, selecting someone like Kanter or Jonas Valanciunas doesn’t make much sense, which is why most mock drafts have them taking Brandon Knight. However, if Williams is there at #3, it’s hard to see the Jazz passing on him. Andrei Kirilenko is a free agent and CJ Miles has a $3.7 million team option, and that’s about all the depth they have at SF. If they believe Williams can play the 3, then I believe they would select Williams over Knight in this scenario.
Now, if you buy into the Cavaliers’ love affair with Valanciunas, then no harm done, the Cavaliers can take him at #4. However, if you are of the belief that Kanter is the better prospect than Valanciunas, then this is a nightmare scenario.
I strongly belong to the 2nd party, which is why I am desperately hoping the Timberwolves are able to trade their pick to a team that wants to draft Derrick Williams. If that happens, perhaps teams desperate for Kanter will try to trade with Utah at #3, and I’m sure the Jazz would be willing to listen, but the odds of them getting a deal done aren’t all that strong. In a weak draft, you’re really going to need some pretty decent compensation for moving out of the top 3.
My perfect scenario is for the Timberwolves to either pick Williams or else trade the pick to someone who will, and then the Cavaliers take Enes Kanter with the #4 pick. It’s not so much that I’m sold on Kanter as it is that I think that not only is Valanciunas not a good prospect, but I also don’t believe he will be an NBA center. I’ve seen absolutely nothing in his videos that shows me the ability to play center in the NBA. He looks like a power forward and plays like a power forward. And if that’s the case, I don’t believe he will be near as good as JJ Hickson is, and therefore I just don’t get why the Cavs are so high on Valanciunas.
Obviously, the Cavaliers have spent some serious resources on scouting overseas players and they have seen more of Valanciunas than any of us have. But when I weigh what I have seen of Valanciunas with what I have read about him from other scouts and “draft experts”, I have my doubts.
To be sure, there are more than a few experts/scouts who like Valanciunas more than Kanter, but most of those seem to be the ones who are concerned about the lack of tape on Kanter. The majority of the scouting reports I’ve read also seem to see Valanciunas as a PF, and they almost all see him as a project whose success will ultimately depend on coaching and his ability to fill out his body.
My point with all of this is not to necessarily cut down Valanciunas, but more to express why I have such doubts as to the legitimacy of the Cavaliers preferring Valanciunas to Kanter. For much of the season I heard a lot of talk about the Cavaliers really wanting Kanter in this year’s draft. So did Valanciunas’ play in Euroleague last year change their minds? Or is it possible that the Cavaliers are leaking this information to discourage teams who want Kanter from trying to trade up above Cleveland?
Similarly to how I feel about NFL draft rumors, I rarely believe information that is leaked during draft season. Teams will always try to use misinformation to their benefit, and if you really want Enes Kanter at 4, and you believe that under status quo he will be there, then the best thing you can do is say you’re going to draft someone else so other teams won’t be as desperate to shake things up before you. These leaks are often transparent and I highly doubt most other teams buy into it, but it’s a practice that still occurs all the time.
So it’s wise to take any rumors with a grain of salt, but if Valanciunas is the guy the Cavaliers want, he will certainly be there at #4 no matter what. But if Enes Kanter is actually the guy, then we may have to hope for the Timberwolves to find a trading partner who will take Derrick Williams. It will be fascinating to see what the Timberwolves do with the #2 pick, that much is certain, and the results of their actions can have serious implications of the options Cleveland has at #4.
Written By:  Andrew

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