While the Cleveland Cavaliers have found their groove as of late, finally looking like an elite team on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, there still remains one major question: What the heck are they going to do with their highly coveted 2018 Brooklyn Nets Pick?
As it stands right now, the Nets pick would likely yield a selection in the 6-10 range for the Cavs which would force them to miss out on Luke Doncic, Marvin Bagley, DeAndre Ayton, Michael Porter Jr, and Jaren Jackson Jr. Many people would say that the Cavs should try and trade the pick to continue trying to “win-now” but instead, the Cavs should seriously look at some of the players available in the 6-10 range that could really help the team.
There are four big men and one very special point guard the Cavs should seriously consider with the first of their two picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Granted, this is early-on into the collegiate season and anything can happen between now and then. But after the first batch of early-season tournaments, a few players have really showcased abilities that would be huge for the Cavs now and in the future.
1) Mohamed Bomba – C, Texas – 10.4 Points, 10.0 Rebounds, 4.0 Blocks
NBA Comparison: Rudy Gobert
The player that should be highest on the Cavs’ board is Texas center Mohamed Bomba, an incredibly lengthy player that can dominate the NBA on the defensive side of the ball.
As mentioned before, Bomba has freakish length towering over college players at 7’0” and also possesses a wingspan of 7’9”. This combination has allowed him to destroy in the interior on the defensive side of the ball for the Longhorns, as he has averaged 4.0 blocks per game so far this season. He managed to tally his highest total of five blocks in two games this season, in a win against Lipscomb University and a close loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
The other perk to Bomba’s absurd length is the fact that he looks so incredibly comfortable in his frame. This plus can help Bomba to further develop and be able to serve as a stalwart switch defender, much like fellow Longhorn Tristan Thompson.
On offense, Bomba is still rounding out his skillset but for the most part, he has shown a knack for offensive putbacks and being a willing recipient to lobs from his teammates. This will be huge for Cleveland, a team that has two willing playmakers in LeBron James and Isaiah Thomas who are always looking for the opportunity to create easy baskets.
Besides his ability to finish at the basket with relative ease Bamba is rounding out his offensive game throughout the season with Texas by being a more consistent jump shooter. He even shows an ability to shoot from beyond the arc and due to his size, he is near-impossible to defend from the perimeter. If he continues to develop this part of his game, he will be able to help big-time for the Cavaliers when the offense starts to break down.
The biggest flaws right now to Bamba as a player are his slender frame and the fact that his offensive game is not as polished as players like Marvin Bagley or DeAndre Ayton. As mentioned before he will continue to grow offensively over time and like many centers rookie centers before him he will be able to add bulk as an NBA player.
The player that Bamba most compares to is Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, not only because of Bamba’s knack for defense but also because of how career projects to be the same as Gobert’s. Coming into the NBA, Gobert was viewed as a raw, defensive-first NBA center that would only provide put-back dunks and solid defense for Utah. But with time, Gobert has become one of, if not the best, center in the NBA and helps lead an elite Jazz defense and also shoulders a massive scoring load as well.
Thankfully for Bamba, he will be joining a team that is a consistent threat to reach the NBA Finals so he is not expected to be a game changer from day one. The other nice thing is he will be surrounded by a strong group of veterans that will help him grow as he becomes the future of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
2) Jaren Jackson Jr. – PF/C, Michigan State – 10.0 Points, 8.2 Rebounds, 1.3 Assists, 1.8 Blocks
NBA Comparison: Plus-Sized Draymond Green/Shareef Abdur-Rahim
Continuing with the theme of college big men that project to be potential monsters, another player the Cavs should consider with the Nets pick is Michigan State forward Jaren Jackson Jr. Son of former NBA player Jaren Jackson Sr., Jackson Jr. projects to have a much better NBA career than his father due to his offensive ability and defensive potential.
On offense, Jackson is a monster when he finishes above the rim and he is a ready and willing receiver of lob passes and could easily fill the mold of a recipient of Kevin Love’s world-famous touchdown passes. Besides being able to finish lobs, Jackson is also tenacious offensive rebounder and his high-energy motor will allow him to easily dominate early-on into his NBA career.
Not only is he a fiend on offense when it comes to attacking the basket, Jackson also has shown the ability to stretch the floor from beyond the arc. While he does have an unconventional “knuckle-ball”-like release, it is fast and he has shot at a 33.3% clip from three-point range so far into the Spartans’ season.
On defense, Jackson can guard outside of the lane, showcasing quick feet and good anticipation, and he can guard at the rim with his length and explosive jumping ability. His lateral agility for his size is impressive and he shows some small forward traits with his quick feet and perimeter play. Jackson also shows good awareness off the ball and is a good help defender and weak side shot blocker. His ability to protect the rim and guard outside gives him a lot of value which allows him to be a versatile defender, being able to some-day guard NBA small forwards, power forwards and centers.
Overall, Jackson’s biggest flaw as an NBA prospect is the fact that he is so raw, mostly due to the fact that he only turned eighteen a little over two months ago. Thankfully for Jackson, he is coached by Tom Izzo at Michigan State who will be huge in his development leading towards the beginnings of his NBA career.
In terms of an NBA player, Jackson projects as a plus-sized Draymond Green with a touch of Shareef Abdur-Rahim. He compares to Green due to his defensive versatility, as Green is able to defend every position from 1 to 5 and is a solid three-point shooter. He compares to Abdur-Rahim in the aspect that they are both relentless rebounders that attack the basket with an unstoppable motor.
Jaren Jackson Jr. would be an awesome get for the Cavs with the Nets pick as he would be able to be a huge addition to the squad due to his offensive and defensive versatility. Like Mohamed Bomba, Jackson is a raw prospect who will also have the luxury of being able to grow and develop alongside a myriad of NBA veterans.
3) Collin Sexton – PG, Alabama – 25.2 Points, 3.8 Rebounds, 4.4 Assists
NBA Comparison: A pint-sized Kyrie Irving (ceiling) or Eric Bledsoe (floor)
Out of all the 2018 NBA Lottery prospects, the one that is turning the most heads is Alabama point guard Collin Sexton. Sexton has been stellar a few games into the NCAA season for the Crimson Tide, and this was cemented in his forty-point outburst against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The fact that Sexton almost willed a three-man Alabama squad to victory also caught the attention of Cavaliers shooting guard Dwyane Wade:
Nothing but heart! I love the way he attack’s the game! https://t.co/s0AxwptbZl
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) November 26, 2017
Coming into the NCAA season Sexton was viewed as a late-lottery prospect and his early-season play has helped him make the case as the best point guard coming out of college, only competing with Luka Doncic for the best overall point guard in the class.
The biggest component of Sexton’s game is the fact that he is a scoring machine and that will easily translate to the NBA level and allow him to contribute right out of the gates for the Cavs. When he gets hot, he can score from nearly everywhere but his shooting ability is still improving. The biggest problem for him is his inability to consistently score from beyond the arc but does not lack the confidence to try and keep shooting. He will continue to develop as an elite scorer and the fact that he will not quit on his jump shot shows that he is more than willing to improve on his flaws. Besides, the Cavs did draft a player who was not the best shooter coming out of high school either and he is one of their more reliable three-point shooters now.
Another weakness, albeit a slight one and something that he is constantly trying to improve, is Sexton’s ability on the defensive side of the ball. This is mostly due to the fact that Sexton’s size, which he cannot prevent at all but the fact that he has some shown some defensive instincts and is always looking to constantly improve.
Another thing that is going to be huge in Sexton’s development towards becoming one of the best point guards in the 2018 Draft Class is the fact that he has former NBA guard Avery Johnson coaching him in Tuscaloosa. Johnson, also a former NBA head coach, will be pivotal for Sexton’s growth into becoming a special NBA talent.
If everything goes right and the stars totally align for Sexton, he best compares to a smaller version of Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving. Like Irving, Sexton is a super-creative scorer and when he is hot, is the best player on the court. Also like Irving, Sexton is trying his hardest on his defensive game except Sexton will try on defense, unlike Irving during his time with Cleveland.
If everything does not fall perfectly into place, everything is nowhere near lost for Sexton who has a floor comparable to that to Eric Bledsoe. Conveniently enough for the Cavs, Bledsoe is a point guard who they had eyes on after Irving announced he wanted out of Cleveland and now they get their shot at him with Collin Sexton.
The biggest thing for the Cavs with the Sexton pick is how he can be used as both a starter and a leading member of the bench unit. This, of course, entirely hinges on Isaiah Thomas’s future with the team. If Thomas re-signs with the team, it’s pretty obvious Sexton will serve as his backup which would be huge for the Cavs who have yet again been dealing with backup point guard problems with Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon, and even Iman Shumpert all season. If Thomas parts ways with the Cavs then Sexton is the biggest winner as the point guard for the future with Cleveland as he can grow alongside players like Jae Crowder, Tristan Thompson, and Kevin Love.
4) Robert Williams III – PF/C, Texas A&M – 10.0 Points, 9.0 Rebounds, 2.5 Assists, 2.5 Blocks
NBA Comparison: Antonio McDyess/Shawn Kemp
A big surprise at the conclusion of last year’s college basketball season was Texas A&M’s big man Robert Williams III deciding to return to school for his sophomore season. Last season Williams III was a high-energy beast for the Aggies, with averages of 11.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. With his decision to come back to for his second season with the team, many thought that if Williams improved on his solid numbers he would easily be in the conversation for the top five of the 2018 NBA Draft.
But, so far things have not been a major improvement for Williams III who still is very raw on the offensive side of the ball. Thankfully there as sparks of potential for Williams III who can attack the basket with a ton of energy and is showing a bit more confidence in his jumper the second time around. There is still plenty of time in the collegiate season for Williams III to improve his offensive game but so far it seems like it is still a work in progress. He will earn his points in the NBA thanks to his explosive athleticism where he shows near-reckless abandon when attacking the basket.
While he is not the sharpest on the offensive side of the ball, Williams III has a legitimate chance of being a part of a regular NBA rotation right out of the gates due to his defensive tenacity. He is a hard-nosed defender who will protect the rim at all costs and thanks to his lateral quickness, he is able to shift to defend the perimeter as well.
For Cleveland, Williams III would find a nice niche as what they envision for Jae Crowder on the defensive side of the ball. Williams III can properly defend power forwards, his natural position, as with time can defend teams best perimeter players as well. If he were drafted by Cleveland he would have to brought along slowly on offense but he would quickly become a fan favorite as a scrappy defender.
5) Wendell Carter Jr – PF/C, Duke – 12.8 Points, 9.1 Rebounds, 2.0 Assists, 2.4 Blocks
NBA Comparison: Al Horford
To round out the five players that should be on the Cavs radar is Duke forward Wendell Carter Jr. Carter Jr is a solid all-around power forward that can also play the center positon and his game compliments incumbent starting power forward Kevin Love’s game nicely.
On offense, Carter Jr really does compare to Al Horford in terms of scoring, passing, and offensive versatility. Like Horford, he knows his sweet spots as Carter Jr is an elite scorer in the paint due to his athleticism and his extremely polished footwork for someone his age. When he cannot get his scoring going he is a willing passer, like Horford, and Carter Jr currently averages 2.0 assists per game for the Blue Devils. Finally, he is able to hit shots from beyond the arc, again like Horford creating a defensive nightmare for opposing coaches.
On defense, Carter Jr has natural instincts that will be developed to its highest ability by Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski. He also is a competent rebounder but can still improve in that regard to become the complete player on the defensive glass.
For the Cavs, they could find a franchise cornerstone to help continue the championship process in Wendell Carter Jr. His offensive and defensive game pairs very well with Kevin Love and the sky is the limit for him as he can complement almost every NBA scheme throughout his NBA career.
Obviously the Brooklyn Nets stink, they are nowhere near as bad as the Atlanta Hawks, the Chicago Bulls, the Phoenix Suns, the Los Angeles Lakers, or the Sacramento Kings. As long as the Nets lose, the Cavs win every night as it helps their chances for the future of the Wine and Golders. While the Cavs will not be able to land a once in a generation talent like Bagley or Porter Jr, they can still land a future super star like Collin Sexton or a solid foundation piece like Wendell Carter Jr. While keeping one eye on possible trades involving the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick, the Cavs should keep the other eye on the players mentioned above if they keep the pick when the draft rolls around.
While the Cavs biggest investment in the 2018 NBA Draft is the Brooklyn pick, they do have a pick of their own as well. In the second and final part of this series, we will break down players who are having a great season early-on that the Cavs could consider with their second first round pick. Stay tuned…