It didn’t take long for the Cleveland Cavaliers General Manager David Griffin to let the world know the number one overall draft pick in the upcoming NBA Draft is up for grabs. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and possibly others are considered to be possible franchise changing players, so Griffin didn’t have to wait long for his phone to ring.
“I think we’re very open-minded,” Griffin said. “We will try to get radically better, much quicker. We really feel like there’s a sense of urgency in improving our team as a whole and we’re going to look for the right fit and we’re very open-minded to what that really means.”
The rebuild in Cleveland has taken longer than anyone expected and adding yet another young inexperienced talent who needs minutes to develop along side of the Cavaliers six first round draft picks from the past three years probably sets them back another year or two.
Wiggins would be the safe first overall pick for the Cavaliers. The small forward has other worldly athletic gifts and has shown a willingness to defer to other star players – an absolute must for anyone playing alongside Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. Embiid could be the center in the draft to build a team around, but he has a history of back problems and after drafting an injured Anthony Bennett last June, the Cavaliers should be gun shy. Parker could be the next great power forward, but Cleveland bet on Tristan Thompson in 2011 and unless they are planning on moving their current young starting power forward at the draft, taking Parker could put Griffin in a tough spot this summer.
Trading their first overall draft pick isn’t the only way for the Cavaliers to accelerate their program, but it is good option and in a somewhat unique situation, the Toronto Raptors are probably the team Griffin should target to get maximum value.
A hometown boy, Wiggins is from Toronto and there hasn’t been a Canadian expected to go first overall at the NBA Draft since – well never. Wiggins has been a basketball sensation from before he went to Huntington Prep and when he played in an exhibition game in Hamilton, Ontario the season before heading to Kansas, he admitted he had never really been challenged up to that point. He was challenged in college however and went from the undisputed best NBA prospect to one of three and until his teammate Embiid was injured, he wasn’t always considered to be even the best player on his own team. But challenges aside, Wiggins is still atop most mock draft boards and no one should be surprised if he is taken first overall no matter which team holds the pick.
It wasn’t all that long ago the Raptors were being accused of trying to tank their season to get a shot at drafting Wiggins, but things don’t always turn out as planned. The Raptors became a playoff team with more depth than Toronto fans are used to enjoying and better prospects than this team has seen in over a decade. The Raptors found an All-Star in DeMar DeRozan and another star in Kyle Lowry, but they are still missing a transcendental player in the vein of former Raptor Vince Carter and they have never had a Canadian star player. Wiggins could be ‘that guy’ for Toronto. The question becomes, How much is Wiggins worth to the Raptors?
If they want him, it had better be a lot.
First overall draft picks usually aren’t traded because the team holding the pick values it higher than anyone could be rationally expected to pay, however, this year Griffin might just be able to extract that kind of value.
The Cavaliers are in the typical situation of a less than desirable NBA location, free agents are not beating a path to Cleveland and trading a lottery pick for a big name talent on a short term contract could be a career ending move for Griffin – let alone trading the first overall draft pick for a player that could walk after a season or two. Griffin needs to get a player he can control at least long enough that it doesn’t cost him his career if the player leaves down the road.
If the Raptors want Wiggins badly enough, they can probably accommodate Griffin’s needs.
It isn’t hard to identify the young controllable assets Toronto has that could peak Griffin’s interest. Jonas Valanciunas and Terrence Ross have made great strides in their first two NBA seasons and still have two years left on their rookie deals. If Toronto were willing to take back Tyler Zeller and Tristan Thompson and include a future first round draft pick (say the 2016 Knicks pick) and a second round pick(s) that should get the ball rolling on discussions to land Wiggins.
Ross tied Carter’s franchise record for points in a game this season with 51 and Valanciunas had double-doubles in his first three playoff games and had over 30 points and 30 rebounds in his first two playoff games, so both of these players should be expected to break out next season. The Raptors will not want to trade them, however, it will take something painful to extract the Cavaliers 2014 first overall draft pick.
Almost every year there is talk about trading one of the top picks in the draft and it’s usually just talk. Either the draft isn’t that strong and teams can’t extract enough value to make a trade for a controllable asset worthwhile or the draft is strong and there is nothing anyone can offer to get a deal done. Things might be different this time. This year, there could be teams motivated enough to make something happen and the question will be, is it worth it?