As far as the Cavaliers are concerned, the NBA Draft tonight at 7 could be kind of like the 1978 Meatloaf song “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”
Not counting long shots like North Carolina combo guard Coby White and Duke swingman Cameron Reddish, two of the three players the Cavs seem most interested in — Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter and Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver — will be available when the team picks at No. 5.
1. New Orleans Zion Williamson (Duke) 6-7 285 PF Human highlight reel with unique athleticism
2. Memphis Ja Morant (Murray State) 6-3 175 PG Unique blend of scoring and passing
3. New York RJ Barrett (Duke) 6-7 210 SG Lefty can score, rebound, defend
4. New Orleans De’Andre Hunter (Virginia) 6-7 225 SF ACC Defensive Player of Year for NCAA champs
5. Cleveland Darius Garland (Vanderbilt) 6-2 175 PG Knee injury limited him to five college games
6. Phoenix Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech) 6-6 195 SG Skilled athlete needs to improve 3-point shot
7. Chicago Coby White (North Carolina) 6-5 190 PG Lightning-quick, shines in transition
8. Atlanta Cameron Reddish (Duke) 6-8 210 SG Struggled to find role at Duke
9. Washington Sekou Doumbouya (France) 6-9 230 SF Tremendous upside, may need time to adapt
10. Atlanta Jaxson Hayes (Texas) 6-11 220 C Raw, athletic big man with long wingspan
11. Minnesota Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga) 6-8 235 SF At 22, one of oldest players in first round
12. Charlotte PJ Washington (Kentucky) 6-8 230 PF Strong player with versatile scoring ability
13. Miami Nassir Little (North Carolina) 6-6 225 SF Raw, versatile talent must improve shooting
14. Boston Tyler Herro (Kentucky) 6-6 195 SG Could be best shooter in draft
15. Detroit Keldon Johnson (Kentucky) 6-6 211 SF Third Kentucky player chosen in four picks
16. Orlando Brandon Clarke (Gonzaga) 6-8 215 PF Solid defender who can score around rim
17. Atlanta Goga Bitadze (country Georgia) 7-0 246 C With three picks, Hawks can wait on his development
18. Indiana Romeo Langford (Indiana) 6-6 216 SG Short trip from Bloomington to Indianapolis
19. San Antonio Bruno Fernando (Maryland) 6-10 240 C Strong and athletic, but limited offensively
20. Boston Bol Bol (Oregon) 7-2 220 C Weighed just 208 at combine and injury prone
21. Oklahoma City Kevin Porter Jr. (Southern Cal) 6-6 215 SG Big-time athlete whose game needs to develop
22. Boston Ty Jerome (Virginia) 6-5 195 PG Intelligent player with limited athleticism
23. Utah Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Va. Tech) 6-5 205 SG Combo guard with sound feel for game
24. Philadelphia Nicolas Claxton (Georgia) 6-11 220 C High-motor big man who can handle ball a bit
25. Portland Matisse Thybulle (Washington) 6-6 200 SG Pac-12 Defensive Player of Year
26. Cleveland Cameron Johnson (North Carolina) 6-9 210 SF Shot .457 on 3-pointers as freshman
27. Brooklyn Eric Paschall (Villanova) 6-8 255 PF Four-year college player knows how to win
28. Golden State KZ Okpala (Stanford) 6-9 210 SF Athletic wing needs to improve shooting
29. San Antonio Chuma Okeke (Auburn) 6-8 230 SF Tore ACL late in season, but can shoot 3-pointer
30. Milwaukee Dylan Winder (Belmont) 6-7 200 SG Four-year player shot .429 on 3-pointers as senior
Which two are on the board will be dependent on what New Orleans does with the No. 4 pick. If the guy the Cavs covet goes to the Pelicans — or another team via a trade — it’s possible Cleveland general manager Koby Altman could trade down. Atlanta, which owns the Nos. 8, 10 and 17 picks, looks like the most likely partner if that scenario unfolds.
Cleveland also owns the 26th pick in the first round courtesy of a trade with Houston and will be hoping one of the players it really likes or is very intrigued by — North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson, Oregon’s Bol Bol or Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson, to name just a few — somehow slides and is available at that point.
Here’s a look at the three players the Cavs will consider most strongly with the fifth pick:
Garland: At 6-foot-2, the 19-year-old is the same height as Collin Sexton, the point guard the Cavs chose with the No. 8 pick only a year ago. That, however, does not preclude Cleveland from taking another floor general, especially given the fact the team finished 19-63 last season.
Garland played just five games as a freshman before tearing the meniscus in his left knee, but his talent is undeniable. He can score at the rim, off the dribble in the mid-range and from behind the 3-point line, as he demonstrated while shooting .537 from the field, .478 from behind the arc and .750 at the line.
“It’s finally here,” Garland said of the draft to The Tennessean. “Ever since I can remember, this has been my dream.”
The son of former NBA point guard Winston Garland, Garland grew up around the game and has an advanced understanding of floor spacing, when to attack the rim or pull up for a jumper and how to identify the strengths and weaknesses of teammates and opposing players.
Aside from playing just five games at the college level — Kyrie Irving had played eight when the Cavs made him the No. 1 pick in 2011 — the concerns are a lack of strength, defense, a sometimes streaky jumper and a lack of great explosiveness.
Garland weighs just 175 pounds — Sexton is 190 — but owns a 6-5 wingspan and 8-1 standing reach, so his biggest obstacle will be fighting through screens and enduring the more physical NBA game.
Though his jumper can sometimes go cold, Garland’s form is impeccable and he’s able to create space to launch it. Very quick but not an amazing leaper, it will be more difficult for him to finish at the rim in the NBA, but his jumper will force defenders to guard him closely, which will create more driving opportunities.
Hunter: With a well-rounded game and great understanding of how to play, the 21-year-old is one of the more NBA-ready players in a relatively weak draft. The doubts are about his upside. There’s not much question he can be a rotational player for 10 years, but there are legitimate doubts he’ll ever be close to a star.
On the positive side, Hunter has a 7-foot wingspan, shot .438 on 3-pointers in 2018-19 while leading slow-paced Virginia to the national championship and was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Though he may be a bit of a “tweener” — not skilled enough offensively to play small forward and not quite big enough to thrive at power forward — he’s capable of guarding all five positions for at least small stretches and will benefit from the fact the NBA rarely employs set positions these days, which will enhance the importance of his versatility.
The ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year as a freshman, Hunter also is an extremely intelligent player. He understands the importance of moving the ball from side to side, is adept at recognizing opportunities to flash to the basket and can finish at the rim. Defensively, he knows how to use his size and strength, which was on display when he was largely responsible for Culver going 5-for-22 from the field in the NCAA title game.
On the downside, the physical specimen — at least at the college level — averaged just 5.1 rebounds as a sophomore, though part of that can be explained by the fact he frequently defended on the perimeter. His .438 3-point percentage looks phenomenal on paper, but most were unchallenged looks from a shorter distance than he’ll face in the NBA. Finally, while well-rounded, Hunter rarely caught the ball in the 15- to 17-foot range, put it on the floor and scored.
“I’ve been working on a lot more isolation stuff for myself, doing things more off the dribble and getting used to the NBA spacing,” Hunter told Sports Illustrated. “Those are the three things I’ve been working on the most.
“I’m just trying to be myself,” he added. “I’m not really trying to reinvent myself to show that I can do one thing particularly well, but to show teams that I’m the same player who can still do it all and get better at that.”
In short, Hunter might be the safest pick in the draft after Duke’s Zion Williamson, Murray State’s Ja Morant and Duke’s RJ Barrett go one-two-three. There’s virtually no chance he’ll be a flop, but the odds are against him ever being a legitimate star.
Culver: Standing nearly 6-7, weighing 195 pounds and long with very good athleticism, Culver checks all the physical boxes for an NBA shooting guard. The red flag is he shot just .304 from the 3-point line as a sophomore and .687 at the line over his two-year career.
The 20-year-old’s strengths are how hard he plays and how well-rounded he is, as evidenced by the 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists he averaged as a sophomore while leading the Red Raiders to the national title game.
Culver is an extremely good and willing defender who can guard point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and even some power forwards. He’s particularly adept at jumping into passing lanes, getting deflections and quickly transitioning to offense, all large reasons why the Red Raiders were the nation’s best defensive team.
Offensively, Culver had to carry a huge load at Texas Tech, so his shooting may improve when taking fewer shots in the NBA. He’ll have to work very hard to improve his 3-pointer, but he’s shown a great willingness to do that after entering Texas Tech as the 312th-ranked recruit in the nation.
“Like we say around here, you’ve got to be addicted,” Red Raiders coach Chris Beard told NBA.com. “A lot of people are addicted to game night, when the band plays and the cheerleaders are rocking, TV cameras and all that.
“There are only a select few that are just addicted to it, who are in the gym when nobody else is looking. Jarrett’s at the top of the list. He’s addicted to winning. He’s addicted to working. He’s just addicted to the game.”
Like Hunter, Culver is versatile and owns enough physical attributes that there’s not much doubt he’ll be a decent NBA player. The bigger question is how good he will be in a league that has never emphasized the 3-point shot more.
Lastly, the Hawks are said to be very interested in Culver. If it turns out the Cavs aren’t that high on him and the player they like most — Hunter or Garland — goes to New Orleans at No. 4, a trade is possible.
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