Despite a disappointing NBA draft lottery draw last night, the Cavs are poised to find a franchise player with the fifth pick. In a draft class many consider to be front-loaded, it appears unlikely that the Cavs will land top prospects Zion Williamson, Ja Morant or RJ Barrett. But is it too outlandish to believe a team like the Lakers or Grizzlies is willing to move down in the draft, and do the Cavs have enough to offer?
The Cavs spent much of last season without a player they could call their centerpiece. At the current moment, Kevin Love and Collin Sexton have too many flaws to be the number one option on a winning team.
Williamson, Morant and Barrett are viewed as immediate game changers to any team, and have thus been virtually locked as the top three picks. Other prospects surely will go beyond expectations, but there are no guarantees in this league.
Jarrett Culver, Cam Reddish, Darius Garland and De’Andre Hunter are the current favorites to be selected by Cleveland next month. Few have dared putting them in the same tier as Morant and Barrett. Williamson as the unanimous choice at one has been an accepted fact since March. The point here being that names like Culver or Garland don’t have the same ring as the players the Cavs can get in the top three.
Williamson will go to the Pelicans at one, and they will not take any offers for that pick. Morant is likely bound for Memphis, but they have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Mike Conley, who plays the same position as Morant. The Knicks need a wing player and have little reason to trade their pick unless a pending superstar free agent vows to play for them, putting RJ Barrett in Manhattan.
The Lakers immediately become the top five pick that appears to be available on the trade market. With a resounding need to surround LeBron James with talent, the Lakers have plenty of leverage with their pick. At the very minimum the Lakers would require an all-star caliber player in a trade, or perhaps a later pick in the lottery along with a plethora of picks or proven players. Of course, if LeBron has a prospect on his radar, management may listen to LeBron’s request and keep the pick.
The aforementioned Grizzlies will have to make a decision on Mike Conley. If Conley stays with the team, the Grizzlies will either have to move Conley or Morant to the 2, trade the pick for a haul of players, or take Barrett instead. If Conley is traded, assume the Grizzlies are committed to Morant. Teams who need a point guard will be on the phone with Memphis, but a player of this caliber will be too good for Memphis to pass up unless they receive an incredible offer.
Do the Cavs have the assets to trade up to pick two or four? Unfortunately, the Memphis pick is going to be too valuable for Memphis and too costly for the Cavs. Even if the Cavs and Grizzlies swap picks, the Cavs will still need to throw in an all-star and one or two other key players. Yes, this would mean the end of Kevin Love’s time in Cleveland, and also possibly Jordan Clarkson, Cedi Osman, or even Collin Sexton. Would it be worth trading away their best assets and leave Morant with nothing? Likely not.
The Lakers, meanwhile, may not require Kevin Love in a pick swap trade. Rather, they could ask to have Clarkson back, or even inquire about Collin Sexton. Having pick four would guarantee Koby Altman gets the best available player after Williamson, Morant and Barrett are taken, but at what cost? If Cam Reddish is the guy at four, does Reddish sound like a better improvement to the team over both Sexton and Culver together? This decision comes down to whether there is a clear separation between the fourth and fifth best prospect in the draft, and at this moment we don’t know if there is.
While the results of the lottery are unfortunate, it is better to look positively on what the Cavs could have rather than what they missed, because trading up seems unlikely at this point. New Orleans, Memphis and New York don’t have enough reasons to give up their picks, and the Los Angeles pick may not be worth the asking price.
Stay out of this one, Altman. Focus on pick five.