Over the next month or so, I will be a writing a series of articles exploring the depth charts of NBA teams, and more specifically, where the rookies from the 2011 draft fit into those depth charts. Thanks to MTD for the idea.
First on the list is the team that drafted first and fourth: the Cleveland Cavaliers. Coming into the draft, the Cavs had gaping holes at three of the five positions. The PG and PF spots were the only positions where they had quality talent and depth. So what did CLE do? Yep, they drafted a PG and a PF.
#1 - Kyrie Irving
- Position: PG
- Measurables: 6'3" 191 lbs
- 2010-2011 Statistics: 17.5 ppg, 52.9 fg%, 46.2 3fg%, 90.1 ft%, 4.3 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.3 spg
While PG was one of Cleveland's best positions, I completely agree with the decision to take Kyrie Irving with the first pick. He was the best player in the draft. He may have only played in eleven games at Duke, but in those eleven games he showed himself to be an incredibly efficient player. All his shooting stats are ridiculously high, and while those were sure to have dropped some if he had played an entire season, it still shows how good of a shooter he is. He is also a natural passer with good court vision who will be able to run a team quite well.
CLE PG Depth: Baron Davis, Ramon Sessions, Daniel Gibson
At first glance, it appears there is no room for Irving on this team. CLE already has 3 serviceable-at-worst PGs on the roster, which is more than can be said for most of the other positions. But There is no way Cleveland takes him unless they plan on playing him early and often. At least one of the other PGs on the roster will be traded. The Cavs would ideally like to move Davis, who could be a bad influence on their new star as he has been known to dog it in the past. But that will be a tough sell, so Ramon Sessions is the one most likely to be moved. Some team in need of a back-up PG (perhaps Phoenix?) will likely come calling and offer them something.
Irving's place on the roster:
I don't know if Irving will be the opening day starter or not, as the labor dispute makes it difficult to project things like this. But even if CLE decides to bring him on slowly and play him as Davis's back-up (assuming Sessions is traded), he will still get plenty of time. Davis is a big guard who has played with an under-sized backcourt mate before while he was in Golden State. Irving showed the ability to play on and off the ball at Duke, and showed the willingness to defer at times to ACC Player of the Year Nolan Smith. Whether Irving starts or not, I believe we will see plenty of Irving-Davis line-ups assuming Baron buys in.
Irving will play well and will be the starting PG at some point next season. He will a be a frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. 14-16 ppg and 5-7 apg.
#4 - Tristan Thompson
- Position: PF
- Measurables: 6'9" 227 lbs
- 2010-2011 Statistics: 13.1 ppg, 54.6 fg%, 48.7 ft%, 7.8 rpg (3.8 off), 1.3 apg, 2.4 bpg
While I completely support Cleveland's decision to take Irving at #1, I am completely baffled by their selection of Tristan Thompson at #4. As I wrote leading up to the draft, Thompson is a good player with a lot of potential. But I wasn't even sold on taking him with the thirteenth pick, let alone the fourth. Considering their best young player -- J.J. Hickson -- and their best old player -- Antawn Jamison -- are PFs, this decision makes even less sense. But they felt like Thompson was their guy and he is now on their roster. The big man from Texas is a high motor player who works hard on defense and crashes the offensive glass relentlessly. He's still very raw offensively, however, and also isn't a great defensive rebounder.
CLE PF Depth Chart: J.J. Hickson, Antawn Jamison, Luke Harangody, Samardo Samuels
Similar to the PG situation, they now have too many PFs. Also similarly, they would ideally like to move the veteran Jamison before the youngster Hickson. Jamison might be a bit more enticing to opposing teams than Davis, however, and they might be able to move him. Harangody and Samuels will probably be lucky if they both make the team.
Thompson's place on the roster:
I'd be shocked if Thompson was a starter this year for any reason other than J.J. Hickson becoming injured or being traded. Thompson will likely play 25 minutes or so off the bench, and similar to the PG situation we will likely see stretches of Hickson and Thompson playing together. The team will hope that he develops into their PF of the future and makes Hickson expendable, although I'm not sure how long that will take or if it will ever happen.
Thompson will be part of Cleveland's frontcourt rotation, but won't start. He will, however, make the rookie All-Star team. 7-9 ppg and 5-7 rpg.