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It is sounding more and more like the Cavaliers want to draft Duke star R.J. Barrett, and if that is indeed the goal, they will likely have to do some real maneuvering to make it happen.
Barrett is a projected top-three pick; the Cavs have the fifth overall selection.
Do the math and you can see that as things are currently constructed, the Cavs won’t end up with Barrett. But according to several opposing execs at the NBA Combine this weekend, Barrett is who the Cavs really want.
Basically, if the Cavs do nothing but hang on to the fifth pick, it’s probably only because they feel they can draft Barrett at that spot. Or it’s because no one would trade with them.
Right now, the third pick belongs to the New York Knicks.
No. 1 belongs to David Griffin and the New Orleans Pelicans. Griffin is the former general manager of the Cavs and now head basketball honcho in New Orleans. He will take dynamic Duke forward Zion Williamson.
The second pick belongs to the Memphis Grizzlies. Rumor has it they are locked in on Murray State point guard Ja Morant.
That leaves the Knicks … and Barrett, everyone’s third-favorite prospect.
Or is he?
Like Williamson, Barrett hails from Duke. Barrett is also 6-foot-7 with a big NBA upside. Some scouts have compared him to a young Grant Hill, as Barrett is a fine athlete who finds ways to put the ball in the basket. Everyone expects his game to translate extremely well to the pros.
But there has been talk the Knicks actually prefer a third Duke player over Barrett. That would be none other than Cam Reddish, another forward with lots of promise. Of the three Blue Devils entering the draft, Reddish arrives with the most question marks.
He averaged just 13.5 points and shot a meager 36 percent from the field as a freshman this past season. Meanwhile, Barrett averaged 22.6 points on 45 percent shooting. He also collected 7.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists a game.
Still, lots of scouts seem to think Reddish has the chance to become a very productive pro — perhaps as productive as Barrett — in the right setting.
It’s hard to say if the Knicks are the right setting for anyone these days, but that’s not the Cavs’ concern. They apparently know who they want in this draft and they apparently will explore every option to land him.
So how would the Cavs go about getting Barrett?
Well, it’s much too early to say.
They could maybe send the Knicks the fifth pick and a player for the third pick.
They could work out a deal ahead of the draft where the Knicks draft Barrett at No. 3. The Cavs would then have to hope the Los Angeles Lakers pass on Reddish with the fourth pick, so the Cavs could draft Reddish themselves. Then the Cavs and Knicks could swap Barrett and Reddish in a straight-up trade.
(This type of scenario would benefit the Knicks most, because if the Lakers took Reddish, the Knicks would just keep Barrett and still get a player they really like. Theoretically, anyway.)
Or the Cavs could do nothing and just hope Barrett falls to fifth. That scenario, though, is highly unlikely.
If all of this is a little confusing, just know this — the Cavs seemingly want Barrett more than any of the prospects they can draft at No 5. A lot more.
And if that is indeed true, they will be placing a call to the Knicks between now and the June 20 draft. Where it goes from there would be entirely up to the Knicks.