Since we’re at the quarter pole of 2012-13 NBA season I figured I’d take a look at how Chris Grant’s lottery picks from 2011 have fared so far for the Cavs and the type of impact they’re having on the team and the organization’s future.
#1 – Kyrie Irving – PG – Cavs - Was last year’s Rookie of the Year after averaging 18.5ppg and 5.4 apg, while shooting 47%fg - 40%(3fg) - 87%ft. He did miss 15 games due to various injuries and ailments. So far in his sophomore year, Irving has upped his scoring average to 22.2ppgand 5.9apg. He’s still shooting it very well at 46%fg – 40%(3fg) – 80%ft. He indeed looks like the “real deal” and a cornerstone player to build your team around, but again, just like last year, and in college at Duke, he has already missed 11 games so far this season to injury. If he can overcome his injury woes and the label of being injury prone, he will be a perennial All Star and prove he was the right choice to be the number one overall pick in the 2011 Draft and fall in line with so many of the great point guards that have played in Cleveland.
#2 – Derrick Williams – PF – T-Wolves – Chris Grant was wise to pass on Williams as he and Minnesota are still struggling to figure out if he’s a small forward or a power forward. Either way, his number are not impressive as he averaged only 8.8ppg and 4.7rpg last year and those number are pretty much the same this year at 8.8ppg and 4.9rpg. Both years he has struggled to shoot the ball, knocking it down at only at 41% clip last year and just 39% this year. He doesn’t get the minutes that Kyrie gets, but if he were good enough, you would think he would. The Timberwolves even let Michael Beasley walk through free agency and Williams has still not grabbed ahold of a key position yet in Minnesota.
#3 – Enis Kanter – C – Jazz – The” Kentucky Kid” who never played a second officially for John Calipari’s Cats struggled through his first NBA season averaging only 4.6ppg and 4.2rpg, but did shoot almost 50% from the field. Yes his minutes were limited to just 13 per game for head coach Ty Corbin, but again, like Williams, if he were good enough those minutes would have increased. His minutes have gone up slightly this season, but unfortunately for him and the Jazz, his numbers have not done the same. In his second year the 6’11 center is averaging just 6.4ppg and 4.0rpg, but he continues to shoot it well at over 54% for the year. Overall, not a significant enough jump so far to say, “Damn I wish the Cavs could have somehow ended up with him.”
#4 – Tristan Thompson – PF – Cavs – Chris Grant and Byron Scott still contend that they are happy with what Thompson has brought to the floor so far. They say they didn’t draft him for his scoring, but for his rebounding and defense. Well it’s good they weren’t expecting much out of him scoring-wise because he can’t shoot, he has trouble finishing around the rim and he’s a liability at the free throw line. His rookie season he averaged 8.2ppg and 6.5rpg while shooting 44%fg and 55%ft and only one blocked shot per contest. He was said to have had the best summer of any Cavs player this year, as far as working out and getting better and stronger and a big jump was expected from him. His numbers through the early part of his second season however dispute that. In more minutes per game and now as a starter, he’s averaged just 8.3ppg and 7.7rpg while blocking less than one shot per game. He’s shooting about the same at 45%fg and 55%ft. I said he was a major reach at number four overall last year and he’s done nothing to change my mind on that to this point. To me I see him as an energy bench player at best and that’s not what you expect out of the number four overall pick in the draft.
#5 – Jonas Valanciunas – C – Raptors – This would have been my pick instead of Tristan Thompson last year. I would have lived with him playing overseas for a season, knowing that he was playing, and getting better and would be a big part of my future at a very important position on the team. Also the fact that he is from Lithuania, he could have worked out and learned from a fellow Lithuanian and Cavalier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas. So how is “V” doing now that he is playing in the NBA this year? The rookie seven-footer is averaging 8.5ppg and 5.5rpg to go along with 1.3 blocks per game. He is shooting an impressive 52% from the field and 74% from the free throw line. All this on top of the fact that he is just 20-years old and actually knows how to play the game of basketball, something Tristan Thompson is also still trying to figure out.
So in my opinion Chris Grant went one-for-two in the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery. Kyrie was a no-brainer at number one overall, but when a tough decision had to be made; Grant dropped the ball in passing on Valanciunas, a true center, for Thompson, a major project whose only real position is power forward, but is being asked to play center at times. Yes, there is still time for players to get better and prove Grant right, but I just don’t see it. Hopefully it does happen and I have to eat crow, because that would mean the Cavaliers will have benefitted in a big way and will again be challenging in the East. But if not, that means they will have wasted a high lottery pick, and it will set them back years in their pursuit of trying to become a championship-caliber team.
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