Ever since he left in free agency four years ago, LeBron James’ presence has loomed over the Cavaliers organization. While the fascination over James one day returning has always fluttered in the background, the Cavs tried unsuccessfully to fill the gaping hole he left behind at small forward.
From Jamario Moon to Omri Casspi, Alonzo Gee, C.J. Miles and Earl Clark, the turnstile at the most athletic, scoring-dominant position in the league kept on spinning until Luol Deng landed in January.
How ironic that only now, as the Cavaliers seem poised to finally fill the small forward position long term through the draft, that James is yet again available in free agency?
With tonight’s NBA Draft just hours away, no scenario involving the Cavs seems implausible. None.
They could trade the No. 1 pick, although sources with knowledge of the Cavs’ draft plans deem it “unlikely” they would trade down in an event to obtain more picks and a veteran. If they could find a superstar who would aid in James’ return to Cleveland, they’d listen.
Yahoo Sports reported Wednesday that talks between the Cavs and Timberwolves for the No. 1 pick ended when Kevin Love made it clear he had no interest in signing a long-term contract to play in Cleveland.
That would seem to bring the decision back to Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker. And while the Cavs have passed on small forwards in previous drafts — specifically Harrison Barnes and Otto Porter Jr. — none has provided the type of potential and production both Wiggins and Parker seem to present.
While ESPN reported the Cavs front office favors Jabari Parker — who has been atop its draft board much of the season — a league source with knowledge of the Cavs’ draft plans said late Tuesday that owner Dan Gilbert wanted Wiggins. ESPN reported the same. A case study in history perhaps explains why.
Gilbert has made billions with his philosophy to always swing big and reach for the high upside, which in this case is Wiggins. He wanted Victor Oladipo last year with the No. 1 pick, a number of sources have confirmed, but the Cavs front office was debating between Anthony Bennett and Ben McLemore.
Bennett was viewed as a tweener (who arrived out of shape after a shoulder injury and endured a miserable rookie season). Oladipo was viewed by the front office as a high-energy, athletic guard with no discernible skill.
Now 12 months later, Parker showed up overweight for his private workout with the Cavs.
A league source with knowledge of the workout confirmed Parker didn’t show much interest in being selected first overall, then Parker told media in New York on Wednesday he expected to be drafted second by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Parker was terrible defensively at Duke and there are questions about whether he’s a small forward or a power forward, although the Cavs are convinced he’ll handle the small forward position just fine. Still, it’s easy to see the comparisons between Bennett and Parker.
Wiggins, meanwhile, fits the definition Oladipo carried last year. One source who has scouted Wiggins extensively praised his athleticism and leaping ability, but questions his definable skill.
“He runs and jumps better than everyone else,” he said. “That’s what you like, but it’s also what scares you. When you can’t run and jump better than everyone else, now what?”
The front office won last year and Bennett was selected. Given his struggles last year, combined with Parker’s weight issues, positional issues and seeming lack of desire to play in Cleveland, it’s fair to wonder whether Gilbert will allow this front office to select Parker or if he’ll overrule it and take Wiggins.
For all the talk of a Parker/Wiggins organizational split, Gilbert called it all “nonsense” and wrote on his Twitter account “we are united.”
LeBron James is still looming over this franchise, and as July 1 creeps closer, his shadow only grows bigger. There are powerful people within the organization who believe the Cavs will be in the James sweepstakes in the coming weeks, while other team executives believe that regardless of where he lands, it won’t be in Cleveland.
At least now, finally, the Cavs seem ready to address their glaring hole at small forward. No one in the organization wanted this decision to go down to the last minute, but as of Wednesday night, no consensus had been reached.
The clock is ticking. The Cavs are still deciding. So too, perhaps, is James. Regardless of how much time passes, this team and this legend always seem within reach.
By Jason Lloyd - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)
©2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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