An NBA Draft Conversation with Alex and Ari

Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

Earlier today, my friend Alex and I decided to throw around some ideas about the NBA draft tomorrow night. Our thoughts have been neatly arranged into the conversation below. Whether you agree with us or you think we’re crazy, let us know on twitter or in the comments section.

Alex: There is no way to accurately predict this draft, but I had some fun earlier today attempting to do so. I believe the Cavs are going to make some trades tomorrow night, but I didn’t bother predicting those; they’re tougher to figure out than the picks themselves! My guess for #1 was Jabari Parker and my guess for #33 was Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis’s brother. I also got into my biggest bust and sleeper, but but those are for another discussion. Ari, what did you think of my predictions?

Ari: I disagree with those picks. Jabari Parker is going to be a great player, there’s little doubt about that, but I really think the Cavs should take Andrew Wiggins at No. 1, if they keep the pick. Jabari might be more NBA-ready right now, but in the long run, once Wiggins further develops and refines his offensive game, he’s going to be the better player. Jabari’s not a great defensive player and the Cavs don’t need another scorer who can’t or really doesn’t want to play defense – see Irving, Kyrie. Wiggins should be the pick here. The Cavs defense wasn’t great last year, they were No. 17 in Defensive Efficiency and No. 23 in Defensive Rating, and Wiggins would immediately improve their defense, while his offensive game would improve.

Alex: Honestly, Embiid was the perfect solution, because Wiggins will take playing time from LeBron (@ComeHomeLebron #ComeHomeLeBron) and Jabari will take PT from both Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson at the 4. Joel Embiid fills the void at center that we’ve had since Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas bolted post-LBJ. Also, we agree on Parker having a higher floor than Wiggins, but I think the pair have similar, nearly equal, ceilings. The defense sucked last season and it’ll suck this season because of the players already on the roster, not because of who we choose tomorrow night. LeBron would make the Cavs decent, but it’s asking a rookie a lot to make a bad defense better.

Ari: Of course it is, but someone’s got to play defense on this team. Wiggins is the type of guy that one day could lock down another team’s top scorer, and score 20 points. Jabari could never do that, and I also think he’s more of a 3 than a 4 – even though he may be a little overweight right now. And if he doesn’t want to be in Cleveland, then I definitely don’t want him. This all goes back to Embiid’s injury though. I agree with you, Embiid was the perfect fit because, although he was very raw, he had Hakeem Olajuwon potential, as long as he stayed healthy – which was a BIG IF before his foot injury, and now is just too big of a risk to take at No. 1. If healthy, Embiid’s the pick, he fills a need and was probably the best player in the draft, but now the Cavs have to decide between Parker and Wiggins, which even you and I disagree about.

Alex: Two words in your Wiggins argument scare me: one day. That one day isn’t coming soon and won’t be this upcoming season, and that’s why I want Parker, so Dan, David, and David can lure LeBron back here. The better the Cavs’ assets are now, the more likely LeBron returns. LeBron wants to win now; he doesn’t care about Wiggins being ready in 2018. And that’s why I am 123.627 percent sure the Cavs will trade their #1 overall pick, I’m just not sure where…yet.

Ari: I think Wiggins will be ready way before then, but I totally get your winning now argument. Ideally the Cavs get a great offer and trade the pick, but I’m just not sure that happens. With Utah, Philadelphia, Orlando and possibly even Boston all looking to trade up, you’d think the Cavs would get a good enough offer, but right now I don’t think they’ve gotten one they’re ready to pull the trigger on just yet. Right now the most intriguing offer is with the Magic, for No. 4 and 12 along with Afflalo, but I’d still like to get another piece for the No. 1 pick, especially in this loaded draft. That way the Cavs could come out with two lottery picks and a veteran player or two and possibly even a future pick, but I’m sure that’s asking WAY too much. Just a side note, say a rumor of a three-way trade with Boston, Cleveland and Sacramento on twitter where Celtics gets the No. 1, Kings get Rondo and Cavs get unknown players….you know who’d be awesome in that trade? Jeff Green or BOOGIE!!

Alex: Please, no DeMarcus Cousins or Jeff Green. That Boston, Cleveland, and Sacramento trade you proposed just doesn’t make sense for us or the Kings. What about Milwaukee? If they want to ensure Jabari comes to them, why don’t they give up their pick, another #1, and LARRY SANDERS! for this year’s #1 and Dion Waiters? Who hangs up first on that one? I bet both teams stay on the line with a few seconds of silence to think about it. But trading down to 4, with Arron Afflalo and #12 included in exchange for #1 and Waiters would be a dream scenario, as Embiid would theoretically fall to the Cavs and then #12 could turn into Nik Stauskas or Doug McDermott. But this is total speculation; all of these trade ideas flying through my mind are starting to give me a headache.

Ari: You wouldn’t want DeMarcus Cousins? Yes he has “character issues” but if he shapes up, he’s one of the best centers in the NBA. And we’d get the No. 6 pick as well so we could get Cousins and possibly Randle, Gordon or Smart. I don’t think Green happens as it prevents #ComeHomeLeBron, but I’d think long and hard about the No. 1 for Cousins and the No. 6 pick. Right now, it’s all just speculation and I don’t think anything happens to at the earliest late tomorrow evening right before the draft. The Cavs are going to prolong this and I could easily see them making 2-3 draft day trades. I don’t think the Cavs need to include Waiters in the deal with the Magic and I could easily see them flipping him to a team for another pick. If the Cavs come out of the draft with 1-2 lottery picks plus a veteran or two, I’ll be happy.

Alex: Again, one word to put holes in your argument: if. He’s been in the league for a while now and his character issues haven’t shaped up. Either Green or Cousins on this roster would prevent @ComeHomeLeBron from happening. Also, if there is a trade offer that works for both sides that can be finished tonight, there’s no reason to delay faxing the papers to Adam Silver because Lord knows he’ll be extremely busy during the draft. (Quick question: Will Silver be applauded or booed by the fans? Stern was always booed as commish while Silver was applauded as the deputy, but now that Silver holds Stern’s role, could he be booed like his predecessor? To put it simply: is it the role that leads to the boos or the person that will continue getting applauded?

What about the idea we bounced around earlier that made us want to write this in the first place? It’s an extreme that would never happen, but the possibility of these trades together was fun when we came up with it. Now you know why I told you to write it down.

Ari: Yes, I get Cousins character issues are a problem, but you still have to think about that trade, especially if the Cavs could get Randle too – two former Kentucky big men would be really interesting, but alas I’d bet it won’t happen, because of said character issues. I don’t think they’re waiting to fax the paperwork, rather they’re waiting for offers to get better or some desperate team to jump into the mix at the last moment. As for Silver, I imagine he’ll be booed because it’s almost become a custom, but with the swift action he took against Sterling I could see him getting some cheers.

Now onto the ideas we spoke of earlier today. My one worry about this team, and specifically their current “superstar,” Kyrie Irving is that there is some thought out there that Kyrie isn’t a leader or a winner – which if true, would be BAD, REALLY, REALLY BAD. So you and I decided to be the Cavs GM for a day, specifically tomorrow – how convenient that it’s also the NBA Draft – and remake the Cavs from the ground up. So here’s what we came up with:

Trade #1: Trade Kyrie Irving and Carrick Felix to the Philadelphia 76ers for #3, #10, Thaddeus Young, and semi-protected future first round pick

Trade #2: Trade Dion Waiters, Jarrett Jack, #33 and a semi-protected future No.1 pick (from Philly) to Orlando for #4, #12, and Arron Afflalo

#1 Pick: Draft Andrew Wiggins

#3 Pick: Draft Dante Exum

#4 Pick: Draft Joel Embiid

Trade 3: Trade #10, #12, and Alonzo Gee to the Lakers for #7 and Steve Nash (Cue Alex celebrating and promptly buying a Nash Cavs jersey)

#7 Pick: Draft Julius Randle

Free Agency: Sign LeBron James

Afterward, the Cavs roster would look like this

PG: Steve Nash/Dante Exum/Matthew Dellavedova

SG: Andrew Wiggins/Arron Afflalo/Sergey Karasev

SF: LeBron James/Anthony Bennett

PF: Julius Randle/Thaddeus Young/Tristan Thompson

C: Joel Embiid/Anderson Varejao/Tyler Zeller

At this point, the Cavs would be over the salary cap by about $7-8 million, but Dan Gilbert has consistently said he’d be willing to overspend to win so I think the Cavs would be fine. And the Cavs could always unload Thaddeus Young’s contract if they wanted to get under the cap.

Alex: And herein lies a problem. We do not have Bird rights to LeBron James. That means we cannot go over the salary cap to sign him. For that reason, I would salary dump Thad Young about 25 seconds after we acquire him. That would (theoretically) give us enough cap space for LeBron. I wouldn’t call myself a salary cap expert, but I know a lot about it and have read a sizable chunk of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, so I can point out simple problems like this one.

That Nash trade needs to be contingent on Nash actually playing next season for the Cavaliers, a likely possibility if he’s promised the starting job but his minutes and injuries are monitored better. The Cleveland Clinic could be a big selling point for Nash to overcome his injury woes if he’s willing to suit up in wine and gold come fall.

My beef with Kyrie Irving is that he comes across as a star player as opposed to a superstar. That difference is a big deal, especially when considering his personality on and off the court (shoot first point guard who made his beefs with Dion Waiters public) and his plans for a max contract this off-season. I like Kyrie, but he’ll be overpaid by the time he reaches free agency, so I’d trade him now and let him become someone else’s headache. I said the same thing about Josh Gordon and I look smart now that he’s been suspended. This isn’t an apples to apples comparison, but Kyrie needs to be traded before he becomes another Cleveland sports headache.

Obviously, no team is going to allow four rookies and three sophomores on the roster, but it’s a fun set of possible trades that would change the complex of the Cavs and the NBA as a whole. But, to be clear: THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WAY ALL OF THESE TRADES HAPPEN.

Ari: Of course, but that’s the fun of it. In about five minutes, we remade the entire roster, with trades that theoretically could be possible. Of course LeBron probably doesn’t sign with a team full of rookies, but its fun to theorize the endless possibilities. The Cavs are in this scenario. There are so many things they could do tomorrow night, they just have to pick the right one. And since it’s Cleveland, 99 percent of the world thinks they’ll mess up, and they may – I really, really hope not – but I think this team is in the right hands and I really think they could get this one right, at least I hope so.

But before I continue let me go on a tangent here. ALERT: RANT INCOMING, I REPEAT RANT INCOMING. PLEASE SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU AREN’T INTERESTED.

First of All, Alex, JOSH GORDON HAS NOT BEEN SUSPENDED YET, and frankly I don’t know if he will be and for how long. I don’t know what it is you have against ONE OF THE BEST RECEIVERS IN THE NFL, but THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY THE BROWNS SHOULD TRADE HIM NOW, IN THE PAST OR IN THE FUTURE, even if he’s suspended for 8 to 16 games this season. Josh Gordon is one of the best receivers in the NFL, and will be a huge piece in the Browns offense for years to come. YOU DO NOT TRADE AWAY A TOP 5 WIDEOUT. PERIOD. END OF DISCUSSION.

Now onto Kyrie. Frankly I agree – I haven’t seen anything out of him that makes him seem like a “leader” and he hasn’t shown himself to be a winner yet, although he has made a few clutch shots so far. If the Cavs got an insane offer, I’d do it, but I don’t consider the above to be an insane offer, and I don’t think Kyrie will be traded, unless he refused to sign a max extension. If Kyrie wants out – he should be traded. But I think the Cavs will sign Kyrie to a max extension and hopefully he’ll continue to develop into the superstar point guard we hope he can become.

Alex: Kyrie wants out, don’t kid yourself. He may not say it publicly, but he and his people want to vamoose and they’d gladly do so now as opposed to four or five years from now. And I’m not ranting on Gordon because this is an NBA piece, not an NFL piece. The Cavs can’t afford to mess up again, but none of this matters once #ComeHomeLeBron comes to fruition [if it comes to fruition].

I think it’s time to wrap this up because we’re both out of time tonight. The NBA Draft starts at 8 PM tomorrow on ESPN. Hopefully the Cavs don’t surprise Bill Simmons as much with their first selection this year. Alex and I will both be live tweeting the festivities so be sure to follow us, @NSF_Alex and @aross50 .

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