Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

Once again, Chris Grant kept everyone guessing

cavs draft picksEvery time the experts think they have the answers, Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant changes the questions.

Grant did it again Thursday night, selecting UNLV forward Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Grant followed up the Bennett pick by selecting forward Sergey Karagev out of Russia with the No. 19 pick in the first round.

“With our scouting department, our evaluators during the season, the first time we saw Anthony, I think all of us walked out of the gym just amazed with his ability and talent,” Grant said on Friday during a press conference. “And the more we got to know him and learn what kind of person he was and that he was an incredibly hard worker and he was going to do whatever it takes to be the best he could be, it became a very easy decision for us.”

Almost as surprising as the Bennett pick is the reaction from the national media, which, for a change, has been positive about what is taking place in Cleveland.

From USA Today: Bennett ranks right behind Noel for most upside in this draft, and he gives the Cavaliers a scoring complement to Tristan Thompson. They should be able to play together, either in small lineups with Thompson manning center or big ones with Bennett sliding to small forward. Noel is much more similar to Thompson than Bennett is. Karasev may be the best shooter in the draft, and Felix may be the best one-on-one wing defender. Neither was a great pick, but they could both have roles off the bench next season. The Cavs also came out with two future second-round picks in a trade of the No. 31 pick. This wasn’t a great draft for the Cavaliers, but they were in a tough spot and came out OK.

From CBSSports.com: I like a lot of what (Bennett) provides. Good instincts. Size is gonna be an issue. However, if you put Bennett with a great point guard, he can be elite. I think (Karasev) has questions, but he can come in and contribute right now at this level. It’s also a really good pick for the Cavaliers from a position standpoint.

From the Las Vegas Journal-Review: If the draft really was filled with so many questionable skill sets, why not pick the guy who owns the best one first? Bennett has that going for him, and the Cavaliers obviously noticed. His game is like the rest of those selected, which means it has flaws and warts and things that could impede his progress if not addressed and fixed. But beyond any weaknesses exists incredible potential.

From Sports Illustrated: The first Canadian to be selected No. 1 overall, Bennett is undersized but possesses a strong, thick frame. Often compared to Larry Johnson, Bennett is a talented offensive player and a determined rebounder. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert has made it clear he wants to make a run at the 2014 playoffs, and Bennet should be able to give strong rotation minutes immediately.

From Pro Basketball Talk: Bennett is athletic and a beast in the paint, he is one of a group of guys in this draft who could turn out to be special some day.

We think you get the point.

It’s going to be interesting to see what Brown can do with Bennett and Karasev. Both players are scorers, with Ray Brewer writing in The Las Vegas Sun that Bennett, who averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds in his lone college season, made “NBA scouts salivate at his ability to score from multiple spots on the court, dominating the paint for easy baskets on the inside and showing the ability to step outside and easily hit a jump shot. Most games at UNLV, that was a common theme — Bennett rattling the rims with a powerful dunk on one possession, only to smoothly drain a 3-pointer minutes later.”

As for Karasev, who averaged 18.4 points per game for FC Triumph Lyubertsy, Yahoo’s Jeff Eisenberg writes that, “Unlike some of the other top international prospects in this draft, Sergey Karasev will enter the NBA polished. The son of a coach and former player, Karasev has already appeared in the Olympics for Russia and led the nation’s premier basketball league in scoring. He impressed scouts at the Nike Hoop Summit earlier this year with his high basketball IQ and prolific perimeter shooting. His deep range and NBA readiness should be an asset to a Cleveland team clearly eager to emerge as a playoff contender next season.”

So the Cavs added two offensive players to a group that includes Kyrie Irving (22.5 points per game) and Dion Waiters (14.7), giving the Cavs what should be a solid offensive attack.

And they may need those extra points as neither Bennett or Karasev are known for their defense. Adding them to a Cavs team that was one of the worst in the NBA on the defensive end last season seems like a, shall we say, interesting idea.

But Brown, a defensive coach, sounds ready for the challenge of getting the Cavs defense back on track.

“I’m not trying to throw these guys under the bus – I’d say it to their face – but we had Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall here and we were one of the top defensive teams in the league,” Brown said on Friday. “These guys will figure out how to get on the floor. If they can’t figure out they’ll have to play defense, they’ll be doing what they’re doing now (sitting).”

Brown has shown he knows how to coach defense and Grant hasn’t done anything yet for fans to not trust his talent evaluation. For now, the defensive shortcomings can wait until training camp and the regular season.

With the latest additions the Cavs now have six of their top eight (or nine) players under the age of 23. They also have some versatility that will allow Brown to potentially create match-up problems down the road for opposing teams.

“It’s great to have depth in all areas,” Brown said. “Anthony is definitely a guy that has added that to us. He is versatile. He’s different than the bigs we have. He can be used in a lot of different ways.”

“We like guys that can play multiple positions,” Grant said. “It just helps if you put different combinations on the floor. It makes you difficult to guard. A guy like Anthony, you put him in the pick-and-roll with Kyrie and Dion, that’s going to be tough to deal with for the other team. We like guys who can do those things. Ultimately, though, those guys do have a primary position, and the fact that they can play another position is a benefit.”

If Grant is right about the players he has selected in the past three drafts, and Brown is the right coach, this group has a chance to grow together and learn how to win together.

After watching the Cavs lose 166 games over the past three seasons, the thought of watching a winning team is enough to keep us going for now.

(Photo by The Plain Dealer)

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3 thoughts on “Once again, Chris Grant kept everyone guessing

  1. i’m so pro CG based on his record that i’m hopelessly optimistic about bennett. knock remains that he hasn’t/dosn’t play defense. but the question i hadn’t seen asked before the draft was whether he was ever asked to play defense. the answer seems to be no.
    given that defense can be taught, given the mike brown’s coin-of-the-realm is teaching/emphasizing defense, given that they interviewed bennett beforehand and certainly took his temperature on his openness to more defense, i fall on the side that it won’t be a problem.

    now then. _a_ concern is that the overlap between bennett and TT may make TT trade bait. not sure how i’d feel about that.

    looking forward to seeing CG’s FA/trade game plan over the next couple weeks.

  2. tmoore94 on said:

    It’s still hard to gauge if Grant is really ahead of the game or if he just looks good compared to what we have experienced with the GMs of the other teams in town.

    But this latest draft you can see how the pieces can fit together if everything breaks right and Brown can get these guys back to playing defense. Even a modest improvement in the defense should show positive results (similar to the Browns and their offense) and adding more scorers should take some of the pressure off of Irving.

    From what I’ve been reading there seem to be scenarios where Thompson and Bennett can co-exist on the floor together. Putting them together with Varajeo, Karasev and Irving (if you count Irving’s Australian) ties would give the Cavs an all-foreign five, for what that’s worth. (Probably not much).

    It definitely feels like Grant has this thing going in the right direction, now we just need to see some on-court results in the next couple of years.

    • re: defense. i still think byron scott needs more acknowledgement for understanding his role, no matter how dryly the acknowledgement is framed.

      he was truly a maestro in those three 20-point lead losses. and we did, after-all, get the #1 draft pick.

      with a goal of ‘tank the season,’ scott really got after it. making him a fall guy seemed unfair; hope he lands on his feet.

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