Reports suggest the Cleveland Cavaliers will consider Otto Porter as the No. 1 pick overall in the 2013 NBA Draft. If that's true and proven so in the coming weeks, this will mark the first draft since 2008 that we ride through June without a consensus No. 1 pick. In 2009, Blake Griffin was such an overwhelming consensus that a Clippers executive had his blazers lined with a Griffin replica jersey at the draft lottery. John Wall was never challenged at the top in 2010. The same can be said of Kyrie Irving in 2011 and Anthony Davis in 2012.
This year, that name was supposed to be Nerlens Noel. But he showed such a limited offensive game at Kentucky before suffering a season-ending injury in February that you can't blame a hungry-for-success team like Cleveland for looking at other options, including Otto Porter. Porter is attractive on multiple levels: he's one of the draft's more developed players, he's versatile, he has defensive talent and he plays a need position. (Small forward is the only position at which the Cavaliers don't have a lottery pick from the last two years.)
Back in 2008, none of those questions were in play for Chicago, who had the top pick. They needed both Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose. Joakim Noah had a rough rookie season and the Bulls were stuck with a bad power forward rotation due to Ben Wallace imploding upon arrival. Beasley put up ridiculous scoring and rebounding numbers at Kansas State, and that had to have been attractive. But Rose, a local kid at a critical position with heaps of talent, got the nod. (And thank goodness.)
2007 was debated only on the internet -- Greg Oden was always the No. 1 pick in that class. (Let's not forget that teams were offering All-Stars for that pick once Portland won the lottery.) In 2005 and 2006, big men ended up winning contested drafts. Andrew Bogut went over Chris Paul and Deron Williams in '05 and Andrea Bargnani went over ... well, another big man in LaMarcus Aldridge and his buddy Brandon Roy in '06.
Cleveland needs defense, which makes Noel look like a fine fit. And really, as Conrad Kaczmarek argues at Fear The Sword, it's not like rookies regularly make a huge impact in the win-loss ledger anyways.
Cavs fans are tired of losing. I get that. I'm certainly tired of losing as well. With the #1 pick in the draft, it's assumed that the Cavs should be able to draft someone to make a difference and change the fact that they've been a horrible team for the past three seasons. Unfortunately, I just don't think that's the case. Even if Nerlens were healthy, he probably wouldn't have that effect. Adding someone like Otto Porter probably doesn't do that either. Porter will at least be healthy to start the season and looks to be the perfect fit next to Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving -- but would whatever short-term impact that Porter has be worth passing on the long-term potential of a dominant shot-blocker like Noel?
With high draft picks, you're looking at seven years of having that player on your team: four years on a rookie deal and at least three on a second deal before an opt-out. Two months is an impossibly short period of time compared to the remainder of those seven seasons. So unless you think Porter is going to be a better player for a bigger chunk of that period, Noel is the smart choice. But you could very well determine that Porter will be better, and I wouldn't be surprised.
Of course, there's a subtext here: Kyrie Irving probably doesn't enjoy losing. Fortunately, he'll be in town for five more years. Top young players never refuse max early extensions, and if Irving becomes the first to do so, Cleveland will have much bigger problems than Noel's development.