The 2011 NBA Draft is in the books, and nobody epitomized this year's madness better than the Cleveland Cavaliers. In ten years, we'll look back at the "fresh start" for the Cavs, wince a little, and think, "In fairness, that may have been the worst draft in history."
Why does this always happen to Cleveland?
In any case, Thursday night began with the Cavs and Kyrie Irving, so we may as well start there. Here's my problem with Kyrie. The point guards in the NBA that he'll be competing with are just better. Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Russell Westbrook, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Chauncey Billups, Brandon Jennings, Jason Kidd, and Stephen Curry—it's a pretty solid group.
A few of those guys are old and will fade away over the next few years, but by the same token, a few of them are young and only getting better. Kyrie will probably crack the top 10 within a year or two, but there's a decent chance that the number one pick in Thursday's draft will never even be in the top five at his position. Think about that.
Don't get me wrong; Kyrie seems like an awesome person, and he's polished enough to help the Cavs immediately. But the ceiling is a lot lower than you'd want from a number one pick, and as an added bonus, he's going to have all kinds of pressure to become a bigger star than he is.
If he's the next Chris Paul, then the Cavs look like geniuses. Chris Paul's got similar athleticism, but he thrives because of preternatural passing instincts, insane competitiveness, and Nash-like creativity. It's a pretty big "if" to say that Kyrie can do what Chris Paul's done the past few years.
And then they took Tristan Thompson at no. 4...
For weeks now, we've heard all sorts of talk about the draft being weak, but that's when it really clicked for me. Because, uh... Who's Tristan Thompson? Anytime you have to ask that about a top five pick that played college basketball, it's probably a bad sign.
He played at Texas, he's long and athletic, and before the draft process began, 90% of NBA fans had never of him. Not really a fair criticism of his game right there, but the track record of athletic big men who didn't make an impact in college isn't great, ya know? Remember Stromile Swift?
If Cleveland had taken Derrick Williams first, they could have gotten a guy with legitimate superstar potential (albeit with more risk), and then taken Brandon Knight at no. 4. Doesn't that leave them in better shape? As good as Kyrie is, there's at least a chance that Brandon Knight turns into the better player. He's less polished and more of a risk, but the potential is right up there with Kyrie.
Instead, the Cavs bet big on a prospect with a low ceiling, and gambled on a project that may never pan out. Like I said, they're the epitome of the 2011 draft, in general. They wanted help right away, so Kyrie made sense. They didn't want to wait on a better project like Jonas Valanciunas, so they took the Canadian big man that's just as much of a project, with less potential. Why does this always happen to Cleveland, then?
Because more often than not—whether it's panicking to overspend and surround LeBron with a crappy supporting cast, or drafting the way they did Thursday night—Cleveland does it to themselves.