The New Orleans Pelicans’ trade of Anthony Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers could have a direct effect on who the Cavaliers take with the No. 5 pick Thursday night in the NBA Draft.
That’s because the Lakers, who were widely expected to take Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland at No. 4, traded that selection to the Pelicans as part of the deal.
There’s now a good chance New Orleans will use the fourth pick to take Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter or Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver, the players mentioned most often in connection with the Cavs at No. 5.
If that scenario unfolds, Cleveland likely will pick whichever player remains, though North Carolina’s rapidly ascending Coby White and Duke’s Cam Reddish could be in the mix, especially if the Cavs trade down a bit.
It’s almost a certainty New Orleans will take Duke forward Zion Williamson at No. 1, Memphis will select Murray State point guard Ja Morant at No. 2 and New York will choose Duke shooting guard RJ Barrett at No. 3.
At No. 4, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operation David Griffin, the Cavs’ former general manager, will have his pick between Hunter and Culver (or Garland, White and Reddish).
Since New Orleans got two playmakers in Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram as part of the Davis trade, point guard Garland and combo guard White probably aren’t as high on Griffin’s list, while taking Reddish at four would be a bit of a reach.
The Pelicans appear to be interested in the 6-foot-7, 225-pound Hunter, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year who helped Virginia win the national championship, and, to a slightly lesser degree, the 6-6, 195-pound Culver, whose team lost in the title game.
The 21-year-old Hunter averaged 15.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists in his sophomore season, and had 22 of his 27 points in the second half and overtime as the Cavaliers defeated Texas Tech.
Hunter, who shot .520 from the field, .438 on 3-pointers and .783 at the line as a sophomore, is considered to be a well-rounded and NBA-ready player, but there are questions about how much upside he has.
There also are some concerns he could be a bit of a “tweener,” meaning he might not have the offensive skill set necessary to be a highly successful small forward and might not be big enough to excel at power forward.
Still, new Cavs coach John Beilein, who came to the organization from the University of Michigan, is said to be a fan of Hunter’s versatility, work ethic, demeanor and intelligence, so it won’t be surprising if Cleveland takes him should the Pelicans pass.
If New Orleans takes Hunter, Culver will be the betting favorite to go to the Cavs at No. 5.
The 20-year-old greatly enhanced his scoring skills as a sophomore while averaging 18.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists, but his 3-point shooting percentage fell from a respectable .382 as a freshman to a concerning .304.
Culver entered Texas Tech ranked as the 312th-best recruit in the country, but expanded his game and grew from 6-4 to almost 6-7. He also has the skills to be a good NBA defender, having played for the best defensive college team in the country.
Atlanta, which has the Nos. 8, 10 and 17 selections in a draft where the talent level falls off quickly after the top three picks, is rumored to like Culver a lot, so a trade down by the Cavs that brings them other assets is a possibility.
The other candidates for the Cavs, should they stay at No. 5, appear to be Reddish, White and perhaps Garland.
Along with college teammates Williamson and Barrett, the 6-8, 210-pound Reddish was considered one of the top recruits in the nation. Seemingly unable to find a consistent role, the 19-year-old averaged 13.5 points as a Duke freshman while shooting a disappointing .356 from the field and .333 on 3-pointers.
Many scouts, however, love his upside — he’s athletic, can put the ball on the floor and is capable of playing shooting guard and small forward — so Reddish could be a player who blossoms in the NBA.
Cavs general manager Koby Altman is believed to be a fan of Reddish, but whether he’d be willing to take him at No. 5 is uncertain. A trade down with the Hawks, however, could be done with Reddish in mind.
While Reddish has fallen a bit in many mock drafts, White has moved up. Extremely fast, the wild-haired 6-5, 185-pounder averaged 16.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists as a North Carolina freshman. He’s considered a point guard, but has the size to play some shooting guard in the NBA.
The 6-2, 175-pound Garland played in just five college games, averaging 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists before suffering a season-ending knee injury, but most teams consider him the best pure point guard in the draft.
Since the Cavs took 6-3 point guard Collin Sexton with the No. 8 pick in 2018, it appears more likely they could pair him in the backcourt with the bigger White.
Cleveland also owns the No. 26 pick in the first round through a trade with Houston. Anything could happen there, but some players to keep in mind include North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson, Georgia’s Nicolas Claxton, Villanova’s Eric Paschall and Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke. If Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson or Oregon’s Bol Bol falls to No. 26, Cleveland would be intrigued.
Currently without a pick in the second round, should the Cavs elect to reach for a guy with a long reach at No. 26, Central Florida’s 7-7 Tacko Fall fits the bill.
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