When the Cavaliers are again on the clock with the 31st overall pick in this year’s NBA draft, history tells us that there isn’t a pick where a team looks to draft a potential starter or role player. When general manager Chris Grant picks at No. 19, then 31 and then again at 33, he’s going to look to go one for three on those picks. That means that he is going to realistically expect one out of those three players to pan out and become a key player on the Cavaliers in the future.
In two out of the last four years, teams have spent the 31st pick on international talent that they can stow away for later use.
In recent years, Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic was the best player selected with this selection. Interestingly enough, quality big men DeAndre Jordan, Omer Asik and Darrell Arthur were selected in the same range of Pekovic in the 2008 NBA Draft.
2010: Tibor Pleib, C, Germany
Pleib is a seven-footer who, at 23, is already a member of the German national basketball team. He was originally selected by the then New Jersey Nets, who traded his rights to the Atlanta Hawks. The Oklahoma City Thunder now owns his rights. Playing in the Liga ACB in Spain, Pleib only averages 5.7 points and 4.8 rebounds. Granted he’s only playing 16.3 minutes a game, it’s unclear whether or not he’s developing enough to come stateside anytime soon.
2011: Fenerbache Ulker, SG/SF, Croatia
Ulker, whose rights were traded for Norris Cole on draft night in 2011, currently plays professionally in Turkey. Statistically his scoring average has dipped the last two seasons. Also, in 2012, he was kicked off the Croatian national team by coach Jasmin Repesa for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. With his statistics dropping and his lack of playing time on the international level, Ulker appears to be a player that has potential but never makes it stateside.
2012: Jeffery Taylor, SG/SF, Charlotte Bobcats
While born in Sweden, Taylor went to high school in New Mexico and attended college at Vanderbilt. For a moment in college he was viewed as a potential top-15 pick due to his athleticism and potential to be a defensive stopper, but he slipped to the Bobcats at the top of round two. As a rookie on an awful team, he played 77 games (starting 29) and played 19.6 minutes a night. He scored 6.1 points per game but only shot 43.1 percent from the field. His PER of 10.33 is abysmal, but there is still some upside to Taylor. Considering the players taken before him, the Cavaliers would be ecstatic to nab a player like him at 31.
The 2013 Draft
I see the 31st pick as a place where the Cavaliers could nab a player with high athletic upside that they can send to Canton next season with an eye on during the 2013-14. Names that come to mind are C.J. Leslie of N.C. State, DeShaun Thomas of Ohio State and/or Glen Rice Jr. from the Developmental League. DraftExpress.com has the Cavaliers selecting combo guard Erick Green from Virginia Tech, and that type of player is a possibility. But if I’m Chris Grant, I take a small forward and stow that player away for the future. History may not be kind to this pick, but all it takes is a key selection to end that streak.