December 19, 2014

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Rick Noland: Looking for a method to the March Madness? Check out these possibilities for the Cavaliers’ next draft pick

Like you, me and a lot of other people, Cavaliers scouts watched a lot of NCAA Tournament games over the weekend. Their first-round pick could very well have played in one of them.

At 27-44 through Sunday, Cleveland had the ninth-worst record in the league, but was just 3½ games away from being tied for the fourth-worst mark.

Assuming Nick Gilbert can’t work his magic at the NBA Draft Lottery for the third time in four years — let’s please stop talking about the playoffs — the Cavs are unlikely to have a shot at guys like Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins, Jayhawks center Joel Embid or Duke forward Jabari Parker.

But while you were flipping the remote from CBS to TNT to TBS to truTV over the weekend, there’s a good chance you might have seen Cleveland’s future No. 1 pick.

Keep in mind that not all these players will declare for the NBA Draft — and that guys such as Australian guard Dante Exum and Indiana power forward Noah Vonleh will also likely go in the top 10 — but here’s a look at NCAA Tournament participants the Cavs might consider:

Marcus Smart, G, Oklahoma State

At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Smart has the talent and physical size to play in the NBA, but isn’t considered to be super athletic. He’s a tremendous competitor, sees the floor well and can create shots for himself and others. He’s also a willing rebounder and defender, but his outside shot comes and goes.

Even given his infamous run-in with a fan this season, ensuing suspension and the Cowboys’ quick exit from the tournament, the Cavs will likely have to own one of the top five or six picks to have a shot at getting him. Guard isn’t the team’s position of greatest need, but you never know what could happen down the road.

Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky

At 6-9, 250, the left-handed Randle possesses quick spin moves in the paint, good strength and can finish around the basket. He can also move away from the hoop and hit jumpers, which should make him a better version of the now right-handed Tristan Thompson.

As with Smart, the Cavs will likely have to pick in the top five or six to have a chance to get Randle. Cleveland has a glut of power forwards, but Randle’s talent is such that he can’t be overlooked.

Aaron Gordon, PF, Arizona

Gordon is 6-8, 220 and a freakish athlete who can run the court and finish at — or way above — the rim. He also doesn’t turn 19 until September. If you watched Arizona dominate Gonzaga late Sunday night, you watched Gordon put on a dunking exhibition while also showing he could handle the ball a bit and find open teammates.

The potential is extremely intriguing, especially if Gordon develops a reliable midrange game. Right now, most of his shots dent the rim. He’s also a bit small for power forward in the NBA, but he’s strong and should be able to add weight while maintaining his explosiveness.

Gordon’s stock is skyrocketing and he could end up going in the top six or seven picks if he declares for the draft.

Rodney Hood, SF, Duke

Parker has gotten most of the attention, and justifiably so, but the 6-8, 215-pound Hood will be a lottery pick because he can catch and shoot, hit jumpers off the dribble and get to the hoop.

The left-hander’s range extends to the NBA 3-point line and he’s a hard worker who has improved his game, but he has a small frame. That means he’ll have to add strength to play small forward or show he can also play some shooting guard.

Most reputable mock drafts have Hood going in the top eight to 10 picks. The Cavs could have a shot at him if the lottery goes true to form, and he’s someone they’d likely consider.

Doug McDermott, F, Creighton

The 6-7, 225-pound McDermott will likely turn into one of the most debated prospects in the draft. Some people love him; some think he’ll be exposed at the next level.

A rare four-year college player who will be drafted in the first round, McDermott played for his father at Creighton and averaged 26.7 points and 7.0 rebounds as a senior. He showed he could score around the basket, on midrange jumpers and from beyond the 3-point line.

If you watched Baylor wipe the floor with Creighton on Sunday night, however, you saw why there’s some concern. McDermott is a better athlete than he’s given credit for, but he won’t be the focal point of his team like he was at Creighton and may struggle to get off shots against taller, stronger, more athletic NBA players.

However, McDermott is an extremely smart player and extremely competitive, so don’t sell the guy short. He may be a tad slow to defend small forwards and a tad small to guard power forwards in the NBA, but that’s a two-way street: He will be able to draw power forwards away from the basket and he’s got the size, strength and smarts to score inside against smaller defenders.

Willie Cauley-Stein, C, Kentucky

At 7-0, 244, Cauley-Stein is capable of altering a lot of shots and can throw down dunks off lob passes. Right now, that’s all his offensive game consists of, but NBA teams are always looking for quality big men, the Cavs included.

Adreian Payne, PF, Michigan State

Payne is 6-10, 245 and has shown he can score inside and outside. When he plays angry, he can dominate. When he’s not focused, he can disappear for stretches.
There have been more of the former than the latter in recent weeks, which is why the Spartans are still playing and Payne’s draft stock is rising.

Gary Harris, G, Michigan State

The 6-4, 210-pound Harris is a well-rounded player who can score, pass and is a very, very good defender with great hands. On the negative side, he’s a bit undersized for shooting guard, which is his most natural position.

The general feeling with Harris is he will be a solid NBA player, but his ceiling is not that high.

Kyle Anderson, SF, UCLA

Because he’s 6-9, 230, plays in Los Angeles and has some point-guard skills, Anderson has drawn some comparisons to none other than Magic Johnson.

That’s a stretch longer than his Gumby-like frame, but he’s intriguing because he’s a guy that will be able to play three — and maybe even four at some point — positions in the NBA.

Anderson doesn’t have elite-level athleticism, but his size allows him to see the court. He’s also a willing defender and intelligent player.

Zach LaVine, G, UCLA

At 6-5, 180, LaVine is a freakish athlete who excels in the open court. He’s long and lean and needs to add strength, but he’s got a decent jumper and should be able to play both guard spots in the NBA.

As with Anderson, LaVine’s draft status has improved with UCLA’s impressive play in its first two NCAA Tournament games. Right now, though, both are probably stretches to go in the top 10 of the draft.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @RickNoland.

TONIGHT

WHO: Cleveland vs. Toronto
TIME: 7 o’clock
WHERE: The Q
TV/RADIO: FS Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM