For the second time in three years, the Cleveland Cavaliers will have the No. 1 pick at the NBA draft. For a franchise just a few seasons removed from LeBron James' controversial departure to Miami, it sure seems the Cavs are well on their way to becoming relevant in the Eastern Conference again.
The early money is on Nerlens Noel heading to Cleveland come draft night. Noel impressed with the Kentucky Wildcats as a freshman, leading the SEC in blocked shots while averaging 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds. He tore his ACL in February and is currently rehabbing, with his NBA debut expected in late December.
Even with the Kentucky big man's upside being higher than anyone else's in this year's draft class, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert made no commitments on Tuesday night.
"I think as most people who study this will tell you, this isn't a draft with a clear cut, obvious, no-holds-barred, No. 1 choice," Gilbert said in a phone interview. "Obviously, we're going to have workouts between here and the draft that will play a role in this. I don't think there's a direction the franchise is leaning at this point. We're going to be open minded knowing we have that choice and just hope we make the right pick for the team."
Assuming Noel is able to make a full recovery, he could join Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao and a handful of other young players in Cleveland. That's a solid core to build around, especially if Irving continues to develop as one of the league's top point guards.
If not Noel, the Cavaliers could elect to take Otto Porter of Georgetown or Victor Oladipo of Indiana. Cleveland really struggled on the defensive end last season, and both players are regarded as defensive specialists on the wing.
Regardless of who the pick is, Cleveland appears to be in good shape.
"We're going to have a choice of several really good options here at the top, not to mention our 19th pick, cap space and everything, and our new coaching staff," Gilbert said. "We are more than excited."