Kevin Love is the Cavaliers’ most tradable commodity, Tristan Thompson is a defensive-minded player who makes an offensive impact only on the boards, Larry Nance Jr. is a young talent but needs to develop and Ante Zizic has mostly untapped potential.
That means the Cavs could look to add a big man Thursday with the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft, but upper-echelon talents like Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Texas’ Mohamed Bamba almost certainly will be gone.
A number of other big men still could be available, including Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. (very slight chance), Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. (30 percent chance at best), Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr. (close to 50-50) and Texas A&M’s Robert Williams (95 percent).
Here’s a look at the four players:
Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State
The 6-foot-11, 242-pound Jackson averaged 10.9 points and 5.8 rebounds as a freshman and shattered the program record with 106 blocks (72 was the previous mark).
Jackson is extremely versatile and will play power forward or maybe even small forward in the NBA after shooting .513 from the field, .396 on 3-pointers and .797 at the line in his one season with the Spartans.
The 19-year-old could go as high as No. 3 and probably won’t last beyond the fifth pick, which would leave the Cavs on the outside looking in and Jackson happy he decided to turn pro.
“I kept going back and forth,” he said at the NBA Draft Combine. “It was the toughest decision I ever made. I loved it so much at Michigan State. The people there are amazing. They gave me the confidence to make the right decision.”
Jackson is considered NBA-ready as a defender, both inside and out, and has the all-around skills that could make him a quality offensive player, as well.
“You can’t be a liability offensively or defensively,” he said. “Me being out there, I feel like I can space the floor and get my teammates involved.”
Michael Porter Jr., Missouri
The 6-10, 214-pound Porter attended Father Tolton Regional Catholic High in Columbia, Mo., but transferred to Nathan Hale High in Seattle for his senior season when his dad was hired as an assistant coach at the University of Washington.
Playing under former NBA star Brandon Roy at Nathan Hale, Porter averaged 36.2 points and 13.6 rebounds as his team went 29-0 and won the Class 3A state title.
At that point, many considered him the top recruit in the country, but Porter, who said he originally hurt his back as a high school sophomore, suffered another back injury in his first college game and wound up playing just three games at Missouri, averaging 10.0 points and 6.7 rebounds. He had surgery to repair two disks, but then had a hip injury in the weeks leading up to the NBA Draft.
A smooth, refined player who won’t turn 20 until June 29, Porter has drawn comparisons to former Duke star and current Boston Celtics starter Jayson Tatum. More brash than the mature-beyond-his-years Tatum, Porter can play small forward or power forward and can score inside and out.
“I’m a versatile player,” Porter said. “I can do a lot of things on the floor. … I’m just excited to show everybody the player I am.”
He likely would’ve been a top-three pick had he been able to enter the NBA straight out of high school, but Porter’s injury history could frighten some teams, so there’s a possibility he might be available for the Cavs at No. 8. Then it will be up to Cleveland general manager Koby Altman to make a decision regarding a high-risk but potentially high-reward player.
Wendell Carter Jr., Duke
The 6-10, 250-pound Carter could go somewhere between the fifth and seventh picks, but there’s a decent chance he’ll be available for the Cavs, who could have significant interest.
Playing in the shadow of Bagley, Carter averaged 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as a Duke freshman, when he shot .561 from the field, .413 on 3-pointers and .738 at the line.
Better still for his potential suitors, he just turned 19 on April 16 and already has a pro body.
“I’m a winner. I do whatever I have to do to win,” Carter said. “Whatever team I come into, I’ll automatically buy in. Coaches want to win, and I want to win, too. Whatever they ask me to do — rebound and block shots — I’ll buy in because I want to win.
“I knew what I could do,” he said of his one year at Duke. “I knew how I could affect the game without necessarily scoring the ball. I did those things, and I did those things very effectively. I found a way to stand out from others without putting the ball in the basket.”
A physical player, Carter knows how to score around the rim and is also a threat facing the basket. On the downside, like the Cavs’ Thompson he’s not a quick jumper and his lateral agility is considered to be average, which could make him a liability when forced to defend away from the hoop.
But don’t tell him that.
“I’m a competitor, especially on the defensive end,” the soft-spoken Carter said. “I can guard guards on the pick-and-roll actions. On the offensive end, there’s so much I can do. I think I’m pretty versatile. I can bring the ball up at times.”
Robert Williams, Texas A&M
The 6-10, 237-pound Williams averaged 10.4 points and 9.2 rebounds as a college sophomore, repeated as Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year and will almost certainly be on the board at No. 8.
If the other big men all are gone, the Cavs might consider him, but there’s a better chance they would turn their attention to a guard like Oklahoma’s Trae Young, Alabama’s Collin Sexton or Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, because taking Williams at eight might be a bit of a stretch.
The 20-year-old owns a wingspan of 7-5½, which is very comparable to that of Thompson, and shot .632 from the field as a sophomore, but most of his attempts came from right around the basket. Williams shot just .471 at the line last season.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
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