2011-12 Record: 21-45, last place in Central Division
2012 NBA Draft: G Dion Waiters (Syracuse, 4th overall pick), C Tyler Zeller (North Carolina, Cavaliers traded 24th, 33rd and 34th overall picks to Dallas Mavericks for rights to Zeller on draft night)
Offseason Additions: F C.J Miles (2 year deal)
Offseason Losses: F Antawn Jamison (signed with Los Angeles Lakers)
Projected Starting Line-Up: PG Kyrie Irving, SG Dion Waiters, SF Omri Casspi, PF Tristan Thompson, C Anderson Varejao
OFFSEASON GRADE: D +
When your biggest offseason move is bringing over C.J Miles from the Utah Jazz, you know it’s been one uneventful summer.
For a team in an obvious rebuilding phase like the Cleveland Cavaliers, signing free-agents may not be the way to go (depending on the player of course). Picking high quality, high potential prospects in the NBA Draft paves the way for future success.
For the second straight year, the Cavaliers landed the 4th overall pick in the NBA Draft.
For the second straight year, the Cavaliers shocked fans by reaching for a player many predicted would go later in the opening round.
For the second straight year, we’re all left wondering as to what exactly GM Chris Grant is thinking when making these picks.
With all due respect to Dion Waiters, very few experts had him going as high as pick #4. Many predicted Waiters going as high as #7 to Golden State and as low as #15 to Philadelphia. That’s not saying that Dion can’t one day live up to his high draft pick, but Cleveland could have very well traded down in the draft and still landed Waiters if they were that smitten with him.
That sounds awfully familiar (Tristan Thompson), doesn’t it?
I for one still despise the Thompson pick from the 2011 NBA Draft. The Cavaliers would have been better suited going with European prospect Jonas Valanciunas at pick #4. Jonas has a higher ceiling and fills more of a need for the team. I’m sure his contract with his Euro club team scared away Cleveland in the moment, but he would have been a better fit long term and could have easily replaced former Cavalier Zydrunas Ilgauskas as the teams legitimate 7 footer at the 5 spot.
That’s all in the past now though.
What matters is that the Dion Waiters pick along with the Tristan Thompson selection are bringing up questions as to whether management is surrounding star point guard Kyrie Irving with the right pieces to turn this team into a contender once again.
In 71 games over the course of 2 years at Syracuse, Waiters averaged 9.7 points, 2.0 assists and 1.9 rebounds. He never started one single game for the Orange.
He’s also a tad undersized for a slashing shooting guard in the NBA (6’4, 215 lbs). He’s very strong for his build and plays bigger than he really is, but NBA defenders will show no remorse for his recklessness driving the basketball.
It’s hard to say if Waiters will complement Irving well on the court, if at all. Dion loves to create offense for himself in isolation situations. The sooner he learns that this is Irving’s team and that he controls the basketball 75-80% of the time, the better. Waiters has himself quite the ego, but it will have to be kept in check on this squad.
Should he have gone ahead of Harrison Barnes? Jeremy Lamb? Even Austin Rivers? Probably not. All 3 of those prospects were probably better fits on the Cavaliers, but you live with what you have. It’s just a shame that Waiters will now be under the proverbial microscope for the majority of the year because of his high pick.
As far as Cleveland’s pick of Tyler Zeller goes, he is what he is. He’s an athletic big man who can run up and down the court and grab some rebounds for you. After 4 years at North Carolina, it’s hard to believe that Zeller will develop into anything more than he already is. The Cavaliers would have been better served keeping those 3 picks (Perry Jones III fell, get more prospects) and using them to shore up the teams bench, rather than putting all of their eggs in one basket and going with a backup center with little potential in Tyler Zeller.
This is just my opinion of course, but to go into one of the deepest drafts in recent memory with the abundance of quality picks they had and to only end up with Waiters/Zeller is somewhat discouraging to me.
Chris Grant is no Danny Ferry, that’s for sure.
For not having a quality draft in an offseason where the team really didn’t make any trades or signings to improve the roster, the Cleveland Cavaliers get a D + in my books.
Christopher Walder is a sports blogger and lead editor for Sir Charles in Charge. You may follow him on Twitter @WalderSports