I decided to eat lunch with Rodney Hood and Dario Saric on Tuesday afternoon. I had followed the careers of each prospect over the last couple years. I’m a fan of both players. I believe their games will eventually translate at the next level. But with the NBA Draft Lottery looming, I needed to develop a deeper understanding of their individual potential.
I sat at my desk with a turkey sandwich flanked by an orange and a bottle of water. Rodney and Dario were directly across from me. They didn’t eat, but they also didn’t seem to mind that I did. Instead, they each spent parts of that next hour making spectacular basketball plays on the YouTube machine. I watched, I was encouraged, and wondered if they’d ever been to Cleveland.
Hood is smooth, his jumper is NBA ready. Standing 6-7, he has the size and ability on the perimeter that’s difficult to defend. But could he eventually play small forward in this League? If he is better suited to play shooting guard, would that fit alongside Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters?
Saric, meanwhile, is an intriguing prospect. He’s a Croatian prodigy who, at 6-10 and only 20 years old, can play both forward positions. He starred for a club named Cibona this past season. Thirty years ago, a Croatian prodigy named Drazen Petrovic followed a similar path to NBA stardom. But could Saric defend athletic forwards in this League? Would the Cavaliers need him to do that?
As I mumbled these questions aloud, to nobody in particular, I eventually arrived at the place I had hoped to find myself before getting back to work. Either way, I’ll go Hood or Saric at nine. Whoever is still on the board. I’ll take my chances with those two guys. That’s where the Cavaliers will eventually be drafting and either one could be a steal. Then, I swiveled around in my chair, leaned back, and launched my orange peel in an Ehlo-esque trajectory through the middle of my trash can. Buckets. Draft board is set.
Later on that evening, I was in my backyard with a lawn and refuse bag. The weeds that had mockingly invaded my patio were now under attack. The timing couldn’t be any better. I wasn’t about to make this particular night a celebration. How lame were those last two draft lottery nights, anyway? Nick Gilbert’s cool. His part was great. But what was Machine Gun Kelly doing there? Who was that old guy who yelled out Nicky baby? What an embarrassment. I’ll get these weeds pulled just in time for the ninth overall pick to be confirmed.
A couple hours after successfully defending my back patio, however, I’d find out that the ninth overall pick was earmarked for Charlotte. Not Cleveland. The look on David Griffin’s face explained exactly what that meant for the Cavs. I’m pretty sure I’d look exactly like he does right now, I thought. I’m sure he’s trying to play it cool. I’m sure he’s reminding himself that he’s on national television. I’m so glad Machine Gun Kelly isn’t there. It’s hard to not be excited right now. I’d be cheesing too if I was Griff.
Minutes later, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Draft Lottery for the third time in four years. It’s impossible to imagine. They cashed in a 1.7 percent chance of securing the top overall pick. It was a monumental moment in Cavs history that I’m still not sure I’ve fully processed yet. Everything is in motion now because of it. Everything is in play. Anything can happen. And as much as I like Rodney Hood and Dario Saric, that was probably our last lunch for a while.
Embiid, Parker or Wiggins
If I’m making the No. 1 overall pick today, I’m going Jabari Parker. I think. I also think that Andrew Wiggins is a generational athlete. He has the highest upside in this draft. But Parker is ready now. I love Wiggins. And I might change my mind in the days to come. But today, after reaching a consensus on Hood or Saric at nine less than 24 hours ago, I think I’m going Parker here. He’s not the freak that Wiggins is, but he’s dynamic in his own right. And he fits.
Joel Embiid could move past both of those guys, however, if it’s somehow determined that he’s all the way healthy. He’s a shot-blocker, rebounder, and a game-changer at the basket. His skill-set also fits into any system with any team. There is always a place in front of the rim for a monster like Embiid. Whichever way the Cavaliers go, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where they lose. They were picking ninth yesterday, now they’re picking first overall.
Parker’s ties to Cleveland
Expect to see Jabari Parker around Cleveland in the weeks to come. Like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who prepared for the NBA Draft two seasons ago at Beachwood and Garfield Heights High Schools, Parker is represented by Cleveland-based agent Rich Paul. In addition to being my AAU teammate in the ninth grade, as members of the Ohio Runnin’ Rebels, Paul is LeBron James’ agent too. The head of Klutch Sports is also a graduate of Benedictine High School and has a working relationship with the legendary agent and graduate of Case Western Reserve University, Mark Termini. Paul could very well help deliver Parker to Cleveland by the time this whole thing is all over. Hearing this might not be true anymore. Sounds like Arn Tellem may have signed Parker away from Klutch. Will circle back on this sometime. Or maybe not.
Programming Note: I will be a guest on The Sam Bourquin Show tonight at 6:05 pm on News-Talk 1480 WHBC. Here is the link to listen: The Sam Bourquin Show.
Photo: Kathy Willens, AP