- Chad Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
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Despite numerous reports to the contrary, multiple sources say the Cleveland Cavaliers have yet to make a decision concerning who they’ll take with the No. 1 pick.
The Cavs continue to mull their options at No. 1.
They are engaged in trade talks with a number of teams. Sources say the Thunder, Timberwolves and Blazers have been the most proactive in trying to get the No. 1 pick -- but so far neither team has persuaded the Cavs to move out of the top pick.
The Cavs have narrowed down their list of prospects, according to sources, and it looks like it may ultimately come down to a battle between Kentucky's Noel and Maryland’s Alex Len. I’m still persuaded, though not convinced, that it will be Noel.
Here’s my thinking:
Noel told Louisville's Courier-Journal on Sunday that the Cavs' lead doctor, Dr. Richard Parker, had medically cleared him. I’ve had that confirmed by several sources. The Cavs have no serious issues with his knee.
The Cavs are stressing that they’re taking the best talent available, regardless of team needs or development curve.
The Cavs believe that given the strength of their roster, it’s unlikely that they’ll draft a starter. They believe their core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao is better than anyone they could draft at No. 1. They also believe that while they have a huge hole at small forward, they’ll use their cap space to find a veteran small forward to fill that hole. Regardless of who they draft, he is likely coming off the bench.
That means the Cavs are less likely to focus on which prospect will have the greatest impact now. They are free to take the player they think will be better down the road.
If history is any guide, the Cavs have a proven track record of taking young, less experienced prospects that show big upside.
They also have selected players that have, historically, graded out strongly in the various analytic measures they employ. Irving, Thompson and Waiters all ranked very highly by virtually every analytical tool.
All of that suggests to me that Noel, not Len, is likely to be the No. 1 pick. Noel has the most upside of any player in the draft. He tests at the top or near the top of every analytical tool I’ve seen (here’sKevin Pelton’s WARP where Noel comes out on top). In fact, if I had to put a second player down, I think it would be UNLV’s Anthony Bennett who fits the criteria best.
While I know Len is in the picture and is a tempting option, he has a couple of things going against him. One, he has his own medical concerns and may be on a return timetable similar to Noel’s. Two, he rates poorly on most of the analytical tools I’ve read (he came in as the 26th prospect on Kevin Pelton’s WARP). While he might be the “safer” pick, I would be surprised if the Cavs made it just out of fear.
One last point on Noel. Given his steep improvement from November to February, if Noel had not hurt his knee -- Kentucky is in the tournament, Noel is the leader of the team, his numbers keep improving and he's the consensus No. 1 pick across the board. So, if he Cavs aren't worried about the knee ... isn't he the same guy they had ranked No. 1 on their board all season?
9dJustin Rao and David Rothschild, Special to TrueHoop