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If nothing else, the Cavaliers just might lead the league in question marks entering Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Who is Darius Garland, and will the Cavs actually draft another 6-foot-2 point guard after selecting Collin Sexton last year?
Why the sudden buzz about Garland when the Cavs could use another player on the wing — such as potential top-five picks De’Andre Hunter and Jarrett Culver?
Will the Cavs be able to move up a spot from the No. 5 pick to get the player they really want? Or at least the player they really want who doesn’t go by the name of Zion Williamson, Ja Morant or R.J. Barrett, the projected top three picks?
Finally, will the Cavs consider trading down, perhaps with the Atlanta Hawks, who hold picks Nos. 8, 10 and 17?
Granted, we won’t know the answers until draft night, because when it comes to the draft, no one who actually works in an NBA team’s front office will go on record. Most won’t even go off record. Many blow up their phones shortly after receiving texts from reporters to simply say hello. Not really, but you get the idea.
Still, you can get some people from other front offices to talk about whether they’ve heard from the Cavs. And most contacted by Amico Hoops say they have.
The consensus? Well, the Cavs are indeed exploring trading the fifth pick. But they seem more serious about keeping it. Mostly, general manager Koby Altman and his staff were pretty crushed when they fell out of the top three on lottery night back in May.
Like everyone, the Cavs really had their hopes up for Williamson, Morant or Barrett. Now, despite giving their best efforts to move into the third spot to select Barrett (or Morant), it appears they are out of luck.
NEXT IN LINE
So what about Garland?
That’s a good question. All we really know is teams are supposedly trying to trade up to No. 4 to draft him. That pick will be made by the Los Angeles Lakers but actually belongs to the New Orleans Pelicans. So there’s a good chance that former Cavs GM David Griffin, now the big boss with the Pelicans, will get the two guys the Cavs really want — Williamson, and Garland.
But it’s hard to tell if the Cavs really want Garland. He is a client of Rich Paul and Klutch Sports, and some opposing GMs say at least part of the buzz about Garland has to do with Paul. Or more accurately, Paul’s minions in the media.
Paul is doing his job and making Garland sound like a big deal. And the kid does indeed appear to have big-deal potential. While he’s not the best perimeter shooter in the draft, he appears to be way up there. In today’s NBA, outside shooting is everything, and if Garland really is something close to Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard … well, then Garland may turn out to be better than Morant.
But for now, that’s all hype. Garland’s sample size has been much too small to make a strong call. He played in five college games before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Vanderbilt’s loss to Kent State. (Yes, the mighty Golden Flashes got the better of Garland.)
His defense is said to be a major weakness, not just in college, but even at the high school level. Then again, NBA rules doesn’t really allow perimeter defense anymore, so …
Anyway, the Cavs were one of two teams invited by Paul to watch Garland work out in Los Angeles. The other was the Lakers, but that was before the trade with Griffin’s Pelicans for Anthony Davis. The Cavs sent a large contingent to the Garland audition. At the very least, they are intrigued by the young man’s potential.
Does that mean they’ll take Garland at No. 5? No. They are intrigued by a lot of guys, and Hunter and Culver are two more who are way up there. So are North Carolina combo guard Coby White and even USC shooting guard Kevin Porter Jr.
Altman isn’t likely to take a flier on White or Porter at No. 5. But if the Cavs trade down, those are two names to consider.
WHAT ABOUT THE VETS?
Along with determining what to do with the Nos. 5 and 26 picks, the Cavs will be talking about their older veteran players — Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and especially, The Contract of J.R. Smith.
Of the three, Smith is generating the most interest. The Boston Celtics don’t want all three of their picks (Nos. 14, 20 and 22). The Miami Heat may not want theirs (No. 13) and have actually spoken with the Cavs about Smith. The Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks are also said to be dangling their first-rounders.
If the Cavs want to move Smith, they almost certainly can. But they will want to be smart about it and not take on a terrible contract just to trade Smith and land, say, the 21st pick.
As for Love and Thompson, there is some interest. The Cavs are open to trading either — or both. It’s not their top priority, or really even a priority at all. But when you have a new voice (as the Cavs do in John Beilein), a new system and want to build a new team, everything is on the table.
So don’t worry if you are clueless about what might be in store for the Cavs on Thursday night. Right now, they aren’t too sure, either.
A lot depends on the conversations that will take place between Altman and everyone else over the next 48 hours. Other than that, everyone is just guessing and hoping, including the Cavs themselves.