October 23, 2014

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Wings aren’t strength of Cavs or draft

The Cavaliers had a lot of shooting guards and small forwards on their roster last season. What they lacked were quality players at those positions.

Hamilton

Hamilton

Leonard

Leonard

From soon-to-be free agent Anthony Parker to the waived Jawad Williams to the traded Jamario Moon to journeyman Joey Graham to veteran Daniel Gibson to the unproven Christian Eyenga to the slow-footed Luke Harangody, Cleveland was without a proven scoring threat and creator at both spots.

Help is unlikely to arrive in the first round of the June 23 NBA Draft, as there’s also a shortage of high-level talent worth taking with the No. 1 or No. 4 picks.

The best small forward in the draft — and some teams think he’s a power forward — is Arizona’s Derrick Williams, but it is believed the Cavs are strongly leaning toward taking Duke point guard Kyrie Irving at No. 1. Williams, who worked out for the Cavs on Tuesday, will likely go No. 2 to Minnesota.

After small forward Jan Vesely, a native of the Czech Republic who very well might be an option at No. 4, the talent at the swingman positions drops off fairly quickly.

The top players are considered to be San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard, who is primarily a small forward, and Texas’ Jordan Hamilton, who might be able to play shooting guard and small forward.

Leonard, a 6-foot-7, 227 pounder who will turn 20 on June 29, averaged 15.5 points as a sophomore, but hit just 25 of 86 3-point attempts (.291). He would probably be a bit of a reach at No. 4, but could go in the top 10 picks.

“I was told I could go anywhere from four to nine,” Leonard said at the NBA combine. “I’m going to work my hardest and hope I can contribute.”

Leonard is considered a solid athlete and tough competitor, but his shooting ability is a legitimate concern.

He is physically and emotionally mature, the latter due in part to the fact his father died when Leonard was 16.

“I’m knocking down midrange (shots) consistently,” he said. “I’m just extending into the long-range three. I’m just going to keep working. I know it’s going to get better as time comes. It might not be today or the next three months, but in a year it’s going to be there.

“I’m confident in myself, but I’ll stay humble. I know I have to keep working hard.”

Hamilton, who measured 6-8 1⁄2 and weighed 228 at the combine, averaged 18.6 points and 7.7 rebounds as a sophomore at Texas. The 20-year-old is long and unafraid to shoot — he attempted a whopping 234 3-pointers last season and made 90 (.385) — but there are questions about his athleticism.

“He’s a wing player who has a strong frame,” said Ryan Blake, the NBA’s co-director of scouting. “He can pass and score in a variety of ways. He’s versatile. He can post against smaller players and he can spread the floor by getting out on the wing.

“He’s got a high, quick release and he’s a good shooter, but he’s also a volume shooter. He’s sometimes quick with the trigger. When he gets into the NBA, he’ll be the fifth option, so his contributions are going to have to come at the defensive end.”

Hamilton could also go in the top 10, though his understanding of the team concept has been questioned, as have his lateral movement and jumping ability.

“As a kid, you dream of being the No. 1 pick, but lottery is fine,” he said at the combine. “I’m just going to keep working.

“Basketball has taken me places I’d never thought I’d be. I’m here now and I’m excited.”

After Williams, Vesely, Leonard and Hamilton, the next-best player at the swingman spots is probably Colorado’s Alec Burks, a 6-6, 195-pounder who could also go in the lottery.

Kansas’ Marcus Morris (6-83⁄4, 230) is a likely top-10 selection, but he’s a combination small forward-power forward who is probably better suited for the latter.

The same is true of Florida State’s Chris Singleton (6-9, 230) and Tennessee’s Tobias Harris (6-7 3⁄4, 223), who could both go in the first half of the first round, while Richmond’s Justin Harper (6-83⁄4 228), Duke’s Kyle Singler (6-81⁄2, 228) and Latvia’s Davis Bertans (6-10, 211) could go in the latter half.

The Cavs own the second pick in the second round, No. 32 overall, so they could consider the latter three if they fall.

Among shooting guards, Washington State’s Klay Thompson (6-71⁄4, 206) and Providence’s Marshon Brooks (6-8 1⁄4, 195) are likely late first-round picks, as is Duke combo guard Nolan Smith (6-31⁄2, 188).

Other possibilities are UCLA swingman Tyler Honeycutt (6-81⁄4, 187) and Florida’s Chandler Parsons (6-93⁄4, 221), who could both be intriguing to the Cavs if they fall to No. 32.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.