Amico: Cavaliers search for manpower begins in Virginia

Rockets rookie forward Gary Clark played in the Portsmouth Invitation Tournament last spring.

If you’re the type of person who will go anywhere to find some help, then this is the place for you.

This is Portsmouth, Va., home of the longstanding Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. It features teams comprised solely of the nation’s top college seniors, some of whom have entered basketball’s Last Chance Saloon when it comes to proving they can be pros.

“They’re all seniors and most of them have played at one school for four years,” Cavaliers director of G League operations Brendon Yu explained to Amico Hoops. “Portsmouth gives us a chance to evaluate them in a system other than what they’re used to.”

In Portsmouth, they also use an NBA ball with an NBA 3-point line. Quite honestly, that’s about as close to the NBA as some of the players here will ever come.

Rather than matching up with Kevin Love or Collin Sexton, many of the guys in Portsmouth will end up chasing the game in some far away place. They may take their talents to Turkey or Spain or maybe even Luxembourg. Others will have to head to the G League if they hope to earn some bucks for their buckets.

But none of that matters to the Cavaliers. They take Portsmouth and other pre-draft opportunities very seriously.

This year, they sent a contingent of six to scout every game, with the mission being the same as always — to find a basketball diamond in the rough. After all, you never know where you might discover the world’s next Matthew Dellavedova.

Along with watching the games, Portsmouth offers what is usually the first opportunity to interview the prospects in a one-on-one setting. If you’re going to take a chance on a kid, it never hurts to find out what type of person he is first.

“Some of them don’t have agents yet, so when you sit down and talk to them one-on-one, you tend to be talking to the unrehearsed version,” Yu said. “When you talk to them later on in the process, they’re usually a little more practiced.”

Along with Yu, the Cavs are represented in Portsmouth by several scouts and members of the Canton Charge coaching staff. (Yu serves as general manager of the Charge.)

Of course, this is about more than just the G League. The Cavs are also seeking players for … well, the Cavs.

And at least a handful of NBA players emerge from Portsmouth every year.

“I was actually looking at some of the rosters, and if you go back and look at last year, a few players did make it,” Yu said. “Brandon Goodwin was here last year and he signed a two-way contract (with the Denver Nuggets). George King got drafted (by the Phoenix Suns). Gary Clark had his two-way contract converted to a standard deal (with the Houston Rockets).”


The Cavaliers finished 19-63 this past season. They have a lottery pick and could draft anywhere from first to sixth overall. They also have the Rockets’ pick at No. 26.

Nobody in Portsmouth is headed for the lottery, and even the end of the first round would be pretty big surprise. But for general manager Koby Altman, assistant GM Mike Gansey, Yu and the rest of the basketball staff, this is just the beginning.

First, the Cavs hit the Portsmouth tourney, which tipped off Wednesday night. They will then head to the pre-draft combine in Chicago in May and summer league in early July.

But this year, there’s even more.

“This year, there will actually be an additional part of the combine, where players who were close to getting invited will play games for two or three days (ahead of the actual combine),” Yu said. “A few of the players from that first one could get invited to the main one. Some of the players from Portsmouth could be there.”

The Cavs’ scouting itinerary really is no different than anyone else’s. But it is different for the Cavs this year — as opposed to the previous four summers, when LeBron James was still on the team. During that era, the Cavs were almost strictly scouting for the Charge.

Today, though, they are hoping to find players for the bench, players to develop, players to grow with the franchise as it goes through the retooling process.

And it all starts right here, right now.

“The guys in Portsmouth aren’t expected to necessarily become stars,” Yu said. “But there are some guys who could become quality NBA players.”