This much we know: The Cavaliers own the No. 1 pick — again – tonight in the NBA Draft. What they’ll do with it is uncertain.
If he keeps the pick, general manager David Griffin will likely choose between Duke small forward Jabari Parker and Kansas shooting guard Andrew Wiggins, though Jayhawks center Joel Embiid is not totally out of the picture despite recent foot surgery that will sideline him four to six months.
There were reports Wednesday that the Cavs front office favored Parker and owner Dan Gilbert liked Wiggins, but Gilbert quickly took to Twitter to label that theory “nonsense.”
“We are united,” the owner tweeted.
The Cavs could also explore dealing the pick, as there have been reports Cleveland has received trade offers from Utah, Orlando and Philadelphia.
The Jazz, which covets Parker, is reportedly dangling power forward Derrick Favors and the No. 5 pick, while the Magic is offering shooting guard Arron Afflalo and the fourth and 12th selections. The 76ers are said to be offering the Nos. 3 and 11 picks, as well as forward Thaddeus Young.
Looming over everything is LeBron James’ possible return to Cleveland, so it’s not overstating things to say this offseason could be the most important in franchise history.
It starts tonight with the draft.
“David Griffin is going to do well with this pick,” NBA scouting director Ryan Blake said. “He’s a smart cat.”
Just when it appeared the Cavs had swung in favor of Wiggins, things changed and it started looking like they were leaning toward Parker. The Duke forward, however, told reporters in New York on Wednesday that he expected to go No. 2 to Milwaukee.
The 6-foot-8, 241-pounder is said to have had a subpar workout for Cleveland on Friday — some reports said the Chicago native favored playing in nearby Milwaukee — but Parker denied he gave less than his best effort during his session with the Cavs.
“I think I have too much pride to waste other people’s time,” the 19-year-old said in New York.
Parker, who reportedly weighed in at 255 pounds at his Cleveland workout, averaged 19.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.2 blocks as a Duke freshman. He is considered the most NBA-ready player in the draft by many scouts, but some question how much long-term upside he has.
“You can have him as a power forward and as a small forward and mix that up,” Blake said. “I’m not comparing him to Carmelo Anthony, but you have that versatility with him and that is a key strength.”
Small forward has been the Cavs’ weakest position since James left in 2010, so Parker would fill an immediate need. Even if James returns, one or the other can slide to power forward, or James can play either guard position for a stretch.
The 6-8, 197-pound Wiggins, widely regarded as the most athletic player in a strong draft, averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists as a Kansas freshman. The 19-year-old is also widely considered to have the most potential of any player available, but his slight build and erratic jumper could be issues early in his career.
The drafting of Wiggins would make current Cavs shooting guard Dion Waiters likely trade bait, perhaps as part of a blockbuster deal for Minnesota power forward Kevin Love.
“Is he going to be the type of guy who is going to lead your team and be the best player on the floor?” ESPN draft analyst Jay Bilas asked of Wiggins. “Does he have the burning desire to do that? I think that’s still an open question with him.
“But athletically, he’s the guy. I would take Wiggins if Embiid was out of the picture, but Parker’s safer.”
As for the rumored trades, the Utah one appears unlikely unless the Cavs get more than Favors and the No. 5 pick.
Favors, who has played four seasons in the NBA but doesn’t turn 23 until July 15, averaged 13.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks last season. The 6-10, 268-pounder was originally the third overall pick by New Jersey in 2010.
Orlando’s rumored offer is a little better, but the chance to pick No. 1 doesn’t come around too often — except for the Cavs, who have the selection for the third time in four years.
The 6-5, 215-pound Afflalo averaged 18.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists last season, his sixth in the league, but he was one of the primary scorers on a bad team. Afflalo was originally taken by Detroit with the 27th pick in 2007.
The Sixers’ reported offer, if true, seems to be the best bet, because it likely would allow the Cavs to take Embiid, who appeared to be at the top of the team’s draft board prior to his injury, with the third pick.
The 6-8, 230-pound Young, who just turned 26, averaged 17.9 points and 6.0 rebounds last season, his sixth in the league, but the small forward did so for a team that was even more woeful than Orlando.
If Cleveland pulls the trigger on any of the deals, its preferred target is likely Embiid, but there’s no guarantee he will be there beyond the third pick. The 7-foot, 240-pounder averaged 11.2 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 2.6 blocks as a Kansas freshman, but missed games at the end of the season due to a stress fracture in his lower back.
If the Cavs acquire the fourth or fifth pick, they could be targeting Dante Exum, a 6-6, 196-pound combo guard from Australia who will turn 19 on July 13. There were reports the team was trying to bring Exum in for a last-minute workout.
At Nos. 10 or 12, Cleveland would likely be looking at a guy like Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Croatia’s Dario Saric or Duke’s Rodney Hood, among others.
The Cavs also hold the third pick in the second round, which will be No. 33 overall.