The Cleveland Cavaliers actually did end up making a trade in the draft. With pick No. 17 the Dallas Mavericks selected center Tyler Zeller from the University of North Carolina. Shortly after the Cavaliers offered their Nos. 24, 33 and 34 picks, and both sides agreed on those terms.
The Cavaliers paid a hefty price for the 7-foot center, but have been in dire need of a big man ever since the departure of the dominant Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Zeller became a star on the Tar Heel squad once he exploded with a 6.4 point increase in his average from his sophomore to his junior season. His four seasons in North Carolina makes him one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft, as he has already developed an open-face jumper through experimenting in college.
Zeller posted very scout-pleasing numbers his senior season, averaging 16.3 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks while shooting 55.3 percent from the field and 80.8 percent from the free throw line. His free throw percentage is very impressive for a center, which could end up being a crucial asset when it comes down to crunch time in close games. We will not be hearing “hack a Zeller” in Cleveland, that’s for sure.
With players like Draymond Green and Perry Jones III still available when the 24th pick rolled around, the Cavaliers could have used their traded picks to land the sliding players. That would have added depth at the forward position, which I believe isn’t the most-important need the Cavaliers at the moment. Landing a big man and a true two guard were positions that needed to be addressed through young talent in the draft, and that’s just what the Cavaliers did.
Whether you like the move to trade three draft picks for the 7-footer who uses his frame to position himself in the paint, something that the Cavaliers have been looking for these past two seasons, or you think Cleveland should have stayed put, you have to accept that Zeller is going to be the go-to guy in the paint. His high basketball IQ, helped by him staying all four years in college, makes him aware of where the basket is at all times. That’s the type of player Cleveland needed to land in the draft this year.
Something that I really like about Zeller is his ability to get up and down the court quickly, which will be a critical asset to have during fast breaks and when transitioning back to defense. With Kyrie Irving and the newly-acquired Dion Waiters running the backcourt, hopefully with the quickness that Byron Scott has stressed, Zeller will fit right in with the offense that Cleveland is trying to build.
A downside to Zeller is his history of injuries, which could be a walloping concern for someone who is going to play center in the NBA. I do, however, believe this trade was the right move for Cleveland. Zeller may have been the best true center available in the draft, so the Cavaliers making a big move for him made sense.
The Cavaliers also received Kelenna Azubuike from the Mavericks in the trade. Azubuike had a great start to his career with the Golden State Warriors, averaging 11.0 points and 4.0 rebounds in his first four seasons in the NBA. He was shooting 47.5 percent from the field until he suffered an ACL injury nine games into the 2009-10 season. He only played three games last season, so hopefully he can come back strong for the Cavaliers.
What did you think of the players (Waiters, Zeller and Azubuike) that the Cavaliers obtained today? What would you rate Cleveland’s draft?