Cavs Poised to Fortify Young, Veteran Core in 2020 Draft


Season Recap

Cleveland’s season got off to an ominous start at training camp where rumblings began about the team’s new head coach, John Beilein, having difficulty connecting with NBA players and smoothly making the transition to the pro level. The season would see the Cavs fire Beilein mid-season, match last year’s win total of 19 (in 17 fewer games), and rookie first round pick, Dylan Windler, miss the entire regular season after undergoing season-ending surgery due to symptoms of a lower leg stress reaction suffered in the preseason.

It really wasn’t ALL bad for the Cavs though. The team acquired two-time all-star Andre Drummond to pair with Kevin Love, saw the emergence of 2018 over pick Collin Sexton (16.7 PPG to 20.8 PPG, 43% FG to 47% FG), and electrifying flashes from two out of their three rookie first-round picks in Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. Under interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the team went 5-6 to close the season and appeared to play with more freedom.

Cavs Top Free Agents (via Spotrac)

  • C Andre Drummond ($28.7M player option; expected to exercise)
  • C Tristan Thompson (UFA)
  • G Matthew Dellavedova (UFA)
  • C Ante Zizic (UFA; signed with Real Madrid)

Mindset Entering Draft

With the reports of Dan Gilbert wanting the Cavs acting as a playoff threat next year, there could be a little pressure on GM Koby Altman during this draft process. If you are Altman and the rest of the front office, however, you should feel good about your chances. Cleveland returns one of the league’s best frontcourt tandems in Love and Drummond alongside an emerging young core that’s filled with recent team first-round picks (Sexton, Darius Garland, KPJ and Windler), and productive role players in Larry Nance Jr. and Cedi Osman.

Sexton is displaying everything the Cavs expected coming of Alabama. He’s a scoring-minded guard (30 PPG in March) and fierce competitor with an attacking mindset on both ends that can set the tone for the team. With continued development, he is an all-star level player and arguably is one already.

Garland flashed his sweet shooting stroke and creation ability that teams covet in their guards (12.3 PPG, 3.9 APG, 35% 3P on five attempts per game). KPJ, who has the potential to be a top player from last year’s draft and a future starter, displayed glimpses of his potential throughout the season (10 PPG, 2.2 APG, 0.9 SPG, 33% 3P on 3.2 3PA in 23.2 MPG). Once cleared, Windler should provide an instant impact with his shooting (42% 3P on 7.1 3PA at Belmont), scoring instincts, IQ and activity on both ends.


Even with playoff expectations, the Cavs are still in best-player-available mode instead of drafting by need. The team still is figuring out how its young core will best fit around the anchors of Love and Drummond. With the draft class depth in terms of starters and rotation players, there isn’t much separation outside of maybe the first few picks, giving the Cavs flexibility either way without sacrificing the value of the fifth pick.

Draft Needs: Facilitator, Wing, Perimeter Defense, Shooting, Big/Stretch Big

Top Three Fits at #5 

PG Tyrese Haliburton (Iowa St.) 6’5, 175lbs

An elite-level passer with tremendous creativity and a high basketball IQ, Haliburton is ready as any point guard in this draft class to immediately run an NBA offense while making an instant impact on both ends of the floor. Haliburton will consistently flirt with triple-doubles throughout his career and would provide the Cavs with another versatile perimeter guard.

Haliburton sharing point-guard duties with Sexton and Garland relieves some of the burden on them, thus allowing more opportunities for them to be aggressive scoring, which compliments Haliburton’s set the table mentality. His passing and playing style unlocks other players, especially in transition (94th percentile via Synergy), where he can find instant success with shooters (Love, Osman, Garland, Windler) and finishers (Drummond, Sexton, KPJ, Nance Jr.)

Ranking in the 99th percentile in spot ups and 98th percentile on catch-and-shoots with a career 42% three-point mark (101-237 3PA) is more than enough evidence to believe in Haliburton’s ability to space the floor and operate as a legitimate off-ball threat. Utilizing his size, length (6’8 wingspan), instincts and IQ, he’s a defensive playmaker (2.5 SPG, 0.7 BPG) that can play in three-guard lineups alongside Sexton, Garland and KPJ.

G/F Devin Vassell (Florida St.) 6’7, 194lbs

As the top 3-and-D prospect in this class, Vassell’s career three-point shooting (41% shooter on 168 attempts) and defensive versatility make him an excellent fit for Cleveland. With a tremendous 6’10 wingspan, long lateral strides, active hands and a high motor give him the tools to be a plus, event-creating defender (1.4 SPG, 1.0 BPG) while matching up 1-3 and likely with some perimeter-oriented 4s. The combination of Vassell and Sexton would be a formidable duo at the point of attack, allowing Cleveland to give opposing facilitators different defensive looks to disrupt the offense.

Vassell is still developing as a self shot-creator and shows glimpses of a pull-up game. Cleveland’s roster of primary ball-handlers and scorers will allow them to be patient while he’s utilized in a familiar role of spotting up (37% of his offense) and getting out in transition (20.9% of his offense). He thrived in those roles, finishing in the 94th percentile in transition and 80th percentile on spot-ups with 84% of his made threes assisted. Cleveland would love a plug-and-play guy that seamlessly fits into their roster while addressing multiple needs like Vassell.

F Deni Avdija (Maccabi Tel Aviv/ Israel) 6’9, 215lbs

There is a continent of scouts and NBA personnel who believe Avdija is the best player in the draft and Cleveland would be thrilled to select him with the fifth pick. After becoming the youngest player ever to win the Israeli Winner League MVP (13.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.9 BPG) and displaying an improved shooting stroke upon the season’s resumption, Avdija enters the draft with momentum. He’s a competitive, skilled and versatile point forward who may not have an elite skill, but is an all-around player that impacts both ends of the floor.

Adding Avdija brings in another secondary ball-handler and facilitator to share point-guard responsibilities with Sexton and Garland. Although he isn’t a true point guard and facilitator like Haliburton, he still frees up Sexton and Garland to be more aggressive scoring. There will be opportunities for him to operate as both a pick-and-roll ball-handler and screener, putting him situations where he can make plays for himself and others.

Equipped with a 6’10 wingspan, athleticism, skill and a high basketball IQ, Avdija can play with nearly anyone on the Cavs roster. He can play at the 3 alongside Love and Drummond for a big lineup or move him to the 4 with Love, Drummond or Nance Jr. at the 5. His size, activity and switchability offers a bit more defensive comfort on the perimeter alongside a smaller backcourt in Sexton and Garland.

There are still legitimate concerns about Advija’s shooting consistency and self shot creation, but his well-rounded game combined with legitimate wing size, ball skills and professional experience are worth betting high on.

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About Jamaill Hines

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