As the Cleveland Cavaliers enter the 2013-2014 season with high hopes to return to the playoffs for the first time in four years, Cavalier fans see a team whose core has primarily been built through the draft, and which features many players fans and experts are divided on such as Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. In choosing these players, Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant has picked players who are favored by analytics experts such as John Hollinger, but are considered surprise picks by many other draft experts. Today we are going to look at Grantâ€™s draft history both with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks, and determine the overall quality of drafting he has done for both organizations.
Weâ€™ll start Chris Grantâ€™s draft history in 2004, which is when he was promoted to vice president of basketball operations and assistant general manager of the Atlanta Hawks. One of his responsibilities as assistant GM was running the draft for the Hawks. While not the man with the final say, Grant had a heavy influence on the Hawksâ€™ 2004 and 2005 drafts (he was hired by the Cavaliers as their VP of basketball operations/GM in July of 2005). Below are brief summaries of the drafts Grant ran with the Hawks and Cavaliers as well as a draft grade for each player.
In 2004 the Hawks possessed two first round picks as well as three second rounders. With the sixth and seventeenth picks, they selected Josh Childress and Josh Smith respectively. They then followed this up by picking Donta Smith, Royal Ivey, and Viktor Sanikidze in the second round.Â Childress played four solid seasons for the Hawks, before becoming a restricted free agent in 2008 and leaving to play overseas in Greece amid much fanfare.Â While he hasnâ€™t been the same since returning to the league with the Phoenix Suns in 2010, Childress was a very solid player for the Hawks on a cost-effective rookie contract (on a side note, Childress is rumored to have workouts schedule with the Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs over the next few weeks). For all of his well-documented warts, Smith has been an elite defender and above average offensive player for much of his career. At the seventeenth pick, he must be seen as a huge steal. Â As far as the second round picks go, Donta Smith lasted two seasons in the league while Royal Ivey is still hanging on, typically as a fifth guard or third point guard, and has played 490 career games to this point. Viktor Sanikidze has never played in the NBA, which is not a surprise to Cavalier fans who have seen how rarely Grant actually drafts with second round picks. The Hawks drafted three players who are still in the league after nine years. Childress and Smith were large parts of the Hawks return to the playoffs in 2008. Smith in particular has been a huge success for the Hawks before leaving for Detroit this offseason. Looking back, a case could be made that Smith is one of the top three players from that draft class, and some would say second only to Dwight Howard. While he has never been an All-Star, Smith has become one of the best defenders in the league with his combination of size and athleticism and is on many peopleâ€™s list of best active players to never make an All-Star Team. Overall, I would give this draft an A.
In 2005, Grant and the Hawks selected Marvin Williams with the second overall pick as well as Salim Stoudamire and Cenk Akyol in the second round. This draft definitely cannot be looked upon as a success for the Hawks. While Williams has been a solid player and mostly a starter throughout his career, he is roughly a league-average small forward. Adding insult to injury, Williams was selected ahead of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Andrew Bynum, and Danny Granger among others. Stoudamire played three seasons in the NBA, while Akyol played none at all. Only Williamsâ€™ contributions as a starter on a playoff team save this draft from being a total failure. Â Final Grade, D.
Having joined the Cavaliers front office shortly after the 2005 NBA draft, Grantâ€™s first draft with the team in 2006 had a fairly significant impact on the teamâ€™s fortunes over the next several years. That year the Cavaliers picked Shannon Brown with the 25th overall pick, and also selected Daniel Gibson and Ejike Ugboaja in the second round. While Ugboaja never played in the NBA, and Brown did not find his niche as a solid bench player until he was traded away midway through his second season, Gibsonâ€™s impact on the Cavaliers over the years is often underrated. Whether it was his tremendous shooting in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, his solid play in the wake of injuries to starting guards Mo Williams and Delonte West in 2010, or his stepping up as a leader in the wake of LeBron Jamesâ€™ â€œDecisionâ€. Gibson has made significant contributions to the Cleveland Cavaliers. This alone is enough to give this draft an A considering the picks the Cavaliers had .
After having no picks in 2007, the Cavaliers selected J.J. Hickson with the nineteenth pick in 2008. Now I am no Hickson fan. His lack of defense and inconsistent effort frustrates me to no end as it has many Cleveland (and Sacramento, and Portland) fans. That being said, Hickson is a fairly efficient offensive player and very good rebounder who can run the floor and finish the break. For all of his faults, he is a solid pick outside the lottery. Final Grade, B.
The Cavaliers 2009 picks of Christian Eyenga and Danny Green earn the team a D. Not because Eyenga turned out to be an athlete and not a basketball player (the 30th pick is typically a crapshoot), but because the Cavaliers waived Green to give Manny Harris a roster spot. Simply put, Green is an NBA player and Harris is not.
The Cavaliers did not draft again until 2011, when they had gone from perennial contender to the bottom of the NBA in one year. Luckily they made this draft count with the selections of Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. The start of Irvingâ€™s career has been second to none, having already been selected as rookie of the year and an NBA All-Star. While Thompson does not have the accolades of his point guard counterpart, the surprise number four pick has already become a solid two-way player and excellent rebounder who received votes for Most Improved Player last year. This draft is already an A for the Cavaliers.
While 2012 draft picks Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller have already played a full season, and it seems like years since Anthony Bennett, Sergey Karasev, and Carrick Felix were selected in this yearâ€™s draft, it is far to early to assign a letter grade to either draft class. While Waiters and Zeller made NBA All-Rookie first and second team respectively, this season will go a long way in determining their futures in the league.
So there you have it folks, the draft history of Cleveland Cavaliers GM Chris Grant. While it has not been perfect, the good seems to far outweigh the bad. It seems like Cavalier fans have great reasons to be optimistic not only for this coming season, but for many seasons to follow.