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Cleveland Cavs

With two picks in the first round, we come next to the Cleveland Cavs.  For their first pick (which is their own), their GM for this pick is John Popp who selects:

Pau Gasol, SF, 7'1", Spain

Cleveland Cavaliers: Knocking on the Basement Door

John Popp (jpop@aol.com), A single fans surrounded by a sea of blue seats.

The Cavs started the off-season with the surprise trade of Jamal Crawford for Chris Mihm. Mihm was expected to go much higher and in fact never even worked out for the Cavaliers. When GM Jim Paxson had inquired about a workout, Mihm's agent told him "If you can tell me a scenario that has Chris falling to the #8, I'd be glad to bring him in" Paxson couldn't and the team was left sorting through tapes and working out other prospects. Mihm certainly had his difficulties, but showed a nice array of offensive moves while having some trouble keeping opposing centers off the offensive boards.

The off-season also brought a myriad of trades. Bob Sura was sent packing and in return the Cavs received a plump Robert Traylor and a career journeymen in JR Reid. That was soon followed by an attempt to land Brian Grant in exchange for the bewildered Kemp. Grant bowed out of the deal and was searching for greener pastures which lead to Miami's involvement and the Cavs winding up with Clarence Weatherspoon, Chris Gatling and Miami's 1st round choice (#20) while Kemp found his way to Portland. Certainly Kemp didn't find his way in Portland, as he had the worst season of his career, and before the end, admission to a treatment center. Call it lucky or call it smart, as in retrospect the deal that Paxson pulled off was possibly a franchise saver as it reduced salary and cleared the enigmatic Kemp.

Paxson still wasn't done with clearing the roster. He followed the Kemp deal up with the trade of disgruntled Andrew DeClerq (I really don't know where the disgruntled part comes in as the first time it was ever reported was when he was packing his bags) for Matt Harpring. Harpring had a very good rookie season but had missed nearly all of his sophomore campaign with ankle problems.

There was also the acquisition of Bimbo Coles who the Cavs certainly went over the top in their contract offer but felt the need to have a stable veteran to mentor the upward rising Andre Miller and give some quality minutes off the bench.

The Cavs blasted out of the gate posting a 15-9 record. They were winning the close games and putting away teams with injury problems. They probably weren't as good as the early record indicated, but they were moving the ball, shooting with confidence and a formidable team competing for not only a playoff spot in the East but perhaps even a home court series. Of course, that wasn't going to last long. After playing well and nearly back to the form of his 97/98 season, center Zydrunas Ilgauskas suffered yet another broken flipper. This was the third time that he had broken a Navicular bone in one of his feet.

Simply a season that fell apart. Besieged with injuries, players becoming malcontent with their situation and a coach that couldn't provide the glue to keep things together. That eventually lead to the dismissal of Randy Wittman and a roster full of players that would be better suited to rent than buy housing in Cleveland.

Cavalier Draft History

Former General Manager Wayne Embry

  • 1986 - Brad Daugherty 1st, Ron Harper 8th, Mark Price 25th
  • 1987 - Kevin Johnson 7th
  • 1988 - Randolph Keys 22nd
  • 1989 - John Morton 25th
  • 1991 - Terrell Brandon 11th
  • 1993 - Chris Mills 22nd
  • 1995 - Bob Sura 17th
  • 1996 - Vitaly Potapenko 12th, Zydrunas Ilgauskas 20th
  • 1997 - Derek Anderson 13th, Brevin Knight 16th

General Manager Jim Paxson

  • 1999 Andre Miller 8th, Trajan Langdon 11th
  • 2000 Jamal Crawford 8th, Traded to the Chicago Bulls for Chris Mihm 7th

I've been at the Arena for many drafts and heard the normal boos (Vitaly Potapenko) or fans adulation (Derek Anderson) when David Stern announced the choice. With the Jamal Crawford selection there was near silence. I looked over my shoulder at my buddy (Brian Hook, GM for the Cavaliers 20th selection in this years Usenet draft) and we simultaneously said "TRADE". Within minutes, with the fans still paging through their draft night media guides, the deal was announced. Mihm for Crawford and looks of confusion became gaping smiles. In fact, Paxson was so pleased with the draft day coup that he, Wittman and the other Cavalier brass were across the street at the Tavern having a celebratory pint shortly after the completion of the first round. If they knew what the season had in store they would have been putting on a good drunk as I did with the selection of Langdon the previous year.

The team, as it stands, is again, in near complete disarray. Without Ilgauskas, lacking interior defense and a new coach in John Lucas. There are question marks at nearly ever position outside of a solid set of point guards in Andre Miller and Bimbo Coles. A developing center in Mihm, a handful of underachieving veterans, a pie wagon in Traylor and a few free agents who are career journeymen.

Player Analysis


Zydrunas Ilgauskas - An oft injured but stronger Rik Smits. Good post moves on the blocks, decent jump shot out to 18', strong and the ability to block some shots. A real talent and the steal of the 1997 draft. He'll need to return to health for the team to be real competitive and could possibly be an All Star. His continuing foot problems may find some relief as the latest surgery has reshaped the navicular bone to create less stress. However the Cavs will enter this years draft as if he will not be on the roster and plan for a future without him.

Chris Mihm - Nice speed for a center, solid post moves although does not use his body well to create space. Uncanny knack for picking up a handful of offensive rebounds but does not box out well defensively. Nice jumper out to 18' and if ever given the opportunity to slide over to power forward will see himself ranked amongst the to 20 at the position.

Power Forwards

Robert "Tractor" Traylor - A man of immense talent but a waistline more suited to Sumo wrestling. Aggressive on the boards, strong post moves and despite a heavy appetite for fried chicken and doughnuts able to put the ball on the ground a few times and make moves to the hoop. The tragic part is after the first few minutes on the court his poor conditioning reveals itself, he becomes foul prone and gets distracted by the ice cream vendors in the stand. Currently undergoing a vigorous team sponsored training program, which the Cavs hope brings him into camp at a more manageable 270lbs.

Clarence Weatherspoon (FA) - The only free agent the Cavs have expressed in interest in resigning. An undersized power forward whom rebounds well and stays in front of opponents defensively. Can hit the offensive boards pretty hard and the majority of his points come from bail out shots or his tenacity for putting back up second shots. Could very well end up being renounced and then sign as a free agent with the midlevel exception, which would add some flexibility to the Cavaliers maneuvering under the cap.

Chris Gatling (FA) - A shooter at the power forward slot that can hit the open jumper consistently just inside the three point line. Sometimes thinks he can nail the three, but his 30% success speaks volumes of leaving that shot for someone else. Can put the ball on the ground well for a power forward but if the rest of the league can ever seem to remember he is left handed he wouldn't have quite the same success. The biggest rap against Gatling is his seeming unwillingness to do any board work or even play defense. At one point in the season even his Mom said he needs to be more aggressive hitting the boards. When you don't even listen to your Mom there's little chance that your employer will open up the vault and he will probably be playing elsewhere this coming season.

Small Forwards

Lamond Murray - A down year in what's been a career of decent seasons followed by poor ones. Sat in Wittman's doghouse a large portion of the season but certainly capable of keeping all the other successors coming off the bench and doubtful that any rookie would unseat him. A big frame and a reliable jumper from the perimeter. The thing that impresses me most is his ability to play the game almost effortlessly, clearing room for his shots with very polished moves and then getting to the front of the rim with a simple shoulder shrug. If the cycle should continue he should have a good year and return to the leagues top 20 starters at small forward. Perhaps Coach Lucas will get inside of his head and release some of the talent and promise of when he was selected #7 in the '94 draft.

Cedric Henderson - Cedric had a very poor 2000/01. He saw his role further diminished to that of a defensive stopper at shooting guard or small forward. A decent defender on the wing, can get out and finish on the break but has seen no improvement on the open 18 footer which teams will give him all night long. By hitting the open jumper he would be a totally different player but I won't hold my breath.

Shooting Guards

Wesley Person - Can knock down the long range bomb and plays pretty decent defense for an offensive minded shooter. Doesn't put the ball on the floor much and rarely gets to the charity stripe. Wes is at his best when opposing teams double the post from the 2 spot. Sorely missed the post presence of Ilgauskas and was in a deep funk for most of the season as he was removed from the starting line up. The funny thing is this is verbatim of last year's report, perhaps Lucas will get something more from him. He'll need to as his contract with the Cavaliers makes him untradeable unless he shows some vast improvement.

Matt Harpring - A tough-minded player who hustles for loose balls and gets more bumps and bruises than the rest of the team combined. Not really physically skilled enough to play either small forward or shooting guard he does put the defensive clamps on players and does an excellent job of denying them the ball. The problem starts when the opponent does get the ball and his foot speed is lacking enough that he is best relegated to coming off the bench. Shoots well from 18' but really needs to hit a third of his shots behind the arc to advance his game enough for him to be of starting caliber.

Jimmy Jackson (FA) - Acquired in a midseason trade for Brevin Knight. More of a salary dumping move than it was to try and retrieve any of what little gas was left in the tank. Once a great post up guard and adequate defender there seems to be little resemblance to the player he once was. Certainly an early summer casualty and will likely be elsewhere next season.

Trajan Langdon - I almost forgot to put him in. The second lackluster year from this undersized shooting guard. Not able to create his own shot, a defensive liability as he often gives up several inches and a player that's smart enough to not look lost but never seems to have a handle on what's going on. To his credit he can bury the three if left alone and stays in front of his counterparts. His ideal role would be that of Steve Kerr's where he could come off the bench and drop a couple bombs with a more than adequate post game. That doesn't seem to be in the cards and it wouldn't come as a surprise if he was outright released.

Point Guards

Andre Miller - Perhaps the only bright spot on the Cavs roster. Hopefully will benefit from an infusion of talent that will see him taking things into his own hands when things get rough. Without surrounding him with more talent his development could stagnate and he could well see his tremendous skills thwarted by not becoming a more complete player. Andre is as strong as any point in the game and looks to draw contact when attacking the rim. His pull-up jumper is money in the bank and if he ever gets proficient behind the arc could be a threat that will make all but a few teams envious. Solid playmaker and even showed the ability to play some minutes at the two guard. Could make a couple of All Star game appearances in his career but the certainly need to add some talent to the roster to get the most from him.

Bimbo Coles - Played extremely well in the early part of the season until he missed a long stint of games due to injury. Solid and steady as a backup point and a great mentor for Andre Miller. Plays solid defense and can distribute the ball well his offense leaves a lot to be desired. The first part of the season he looked to be worth all the dough that Gordon Gund shoveled out but when he returned from injuries and the wheels were already off the team made it look like a bad investment. Such is life in a Cavs uniform.


John Lucas - Agreed to terms in the midst of me writing this report. Obviously not the Cavs first choice but a coach that may be able to come to terms with a few lethargic veterans and get better performances from them. My personal belief is that the Cavs had the whole process backwards and should have been looking for a veteran coach when they hired Wittman and a rookie coach when they hired Lucas. The barometer on how well Lucas is doing is what type of performance he can get out of Wes Person and Lamond Murray. If Lucas gets these guys to play to their potential Paxson made the right move. If the team flounders it wasn't the most lucrative deal for a coach and will once again be paying some one for sitting at home.


Jim Paxson - Paxson has made some bold moves as General Manager and is as hands on as anyone in his position. Pulled the trigger on the biggest deal in Cavs history and cleared the seemingly outlandish contract of Kemp off the books. He has been managing the draft and scouting players for this years draft and even made a trip to Europe. Many have speculated that the trip was in order to get a first hand look at Pau Gasol. Has done well in the draft with the exception of Trajan Langdon and no one seems to know how the Cavs boosted him a half dozen choices above where anyone had him ranked. With the hiring of Lucas and the upcoming draft Paxson will have the laid the groundwork for a long-term management opportunity or a quick trip to being unemployed.


Gordon Gund has always ran a first rate club, but always as a business first. He restored a team that had traded away most of its future and inserted good management and coaches. He is always fiscally responsible but never afraid to spend money on quality turnstiles are clicking. With some cap room becoming available and some lean years ahead we'll need to see what he does to field a formidable team.

Foreign Scout

Rudy D'Amico - I only mention Rudy as the Cavaliers for a number of years have retained him. He was instrumental in the drafting of Ilgauskas, alerted the team of Vitaly Potapenko before he attended Dayton, had the Cavs heavily considering Jake Tsakalidis in last years draft and obviously planted seeds about a possible Pau Gasol selection at #8 or Vladimir Radmanovic at #20. Needles to say for better or worse he has the Cavs ear and certainly elevates the possibility of the Cavs drafting a foreign player.

The team again is in a state of flux. With 10 players under contract the Cavs desperately need some help from the upcoming draft, as there is little chance that a marquis free agent would come to town. The team's future rests primarily in the hands of a few players that either have sorted injury tales or are simply underachievers. Ilgauskas again missing the majority of the season has the team entering the draft as if he will never return. If Ilgauskas were to remain healthy for a season few would question the viability of the team reaching the playoffs. Without Ilgauskas this is a team in the midst of a serious rebuilding process and a brighter future is years away.

Draft Needs

Once again I find myself referring to my last years report and very little has changed. Here are the five items that Paxson placed as priorities last year, followed by my commentary.

  1. SIZE - With Mihm and Traylor the only two power forward/centers under contract the team needs to acquire some size. There certainly is the distinct possibility that the Cavs will retain Weatherspoon but as an undersized power forward it wouldn't hurt to add some inches at the position. Much the same as the Cavaliers can't count on Ilgauskas ever returning to health, they shouldn't count on Traylor ever passing a McDonalds without the cooks having to do some extra duty. As the resident poster boy for Weight Watchers the Cavs need to secure a player at the position that can give them a brighter future than Tractor. Mihm should continue his progression but there is certainly no one to play behind him. With these points in mind a backcourt player would need to have hands down better talent and potential to be selected at #8.
  2. ATHLETICISM - Miller, Murray and Mihm provide some degree of athleticism to a squad replete of it. Since the departure of Derek Anderson there hasn't been a player that can put the ball on the floor and get to the front of the rim. Certainly Miller has this ability but to have a point guard taking on so much of the scoring responsibility does little to develop a team. The Cavs will certainly look hard at the shooting guards and small forwards that can create their own scoring opportunities but will do so with caution as the roster is full with players at those positions while at the same time being nearly void of talent.
  3. COMMITMENT AND DISCIPLINE - Traylor boosting the stock in Pizza Hut, Wesley sulking like a little girl, Lamond playing the victim and being emotionless night in and out. Lucas certainly has his work cut out for him. No doubt that these guys can all play at a level above what they've shown but without the effort they will all sink to the depths of the NBA's talent pool.
  4. LEADERSHIP - This is the one aspect of Lucas that made him a great choice for the position. This team has no floor leader, no one vocal in the locker room and not even an enforcer who will step up when things get rough inside. The closest player to having leadership quality is Harpring and Miller who do so by example. Unfortunately, some of the players' need vocally chastised on the floor and in the locker room while still having enough compassion to not make for adversarial relationships. That's a hard fix for the club as no one is capable of assuming that role but Lucas could be a facilitator and bring that fire from the bench.
  5. DEVELOP MORE CONSISTENCY - The constant fourth quarter collapses and simply getting drilled coming out of the locker room in the second half made it difficult to watch the Cavs. There were times when the Cavs moved the ball around the perimeter, played solid defense and simply outplayed their opponents for three-quarters of the game. The talent certainly reveals itself at times but after Ilgauskas went down there was only a small handful of games where the team played well throughout. It's pretty easy to point the finger at Wittman, but the players also need to be accountable.

With these points in mind I set out to evaluate the talent in the upcoming draft.

Possible selections

(Working under the assumption that Eddie Griffin, Eddy Curry and Kwame Brown have already been selected). I must say that I would have put Battier on this list as well as I believe he won't be around at 8 but that's not exactly how things unfolded.

Shane Battier

As one of the few seniors available up front in the draft the Cavaliers would certainly take a hard look as they have the inclination to draft players capable of making contributions early on in their careers. A well-rounded game with the ability to hit the long jumper, rebound and create opportunities for others. Measured out well in Chicago, in fact being taller than the uprising Rodney White. The questions about Battier are pretty simple, can he hit the NBA three and will he be able to stay ahead of the potential that will surround him in the draft. A certain Blue Chipper with little or no downside but equally void of star potential.

Rodney White

Everyone is probably aware of how Rodney's stock went through the roof once Michael Jordan took an interest in him. At the same time no one seemed to pay any attention to how badly the Wizards want to move the #1 selection and could have eyes on drafting him anywhere in the lottery after a trade. While White is a tremendous athlete and certainly possesses excellent range for a power forward he came up so short in Chicago that even some of the draft analysts have been reevaluating where he'll be selected. At only 6'7" 5" he is much closer to the next Marcus Fizer than the next Rasheed Wallace.

Jason Richardson

Truly an impressive player that will open up the court and provide explosiveness to a team in true need of athleticism. A developing jumper that will become better in time, and certainly the guard that will rattle the rim with some thunderous dunks more than any of this years rookies. The only possibility that he might be available to the Cavaliers is that he came up short and only measured out at less than 6'5" but still has a wingspan of nearly 7'. It's very doubtful that he'll be around when the Cavs select but just the kind of talent that will keep the team from drafting a frontcourt talent.

Loren Woods

Great size and long arms make him the best shotblocker in the draft. Has been impressive in workouts and continues to climb the ladder and possibly find himself in the top ten. There is an unsubstantiated rumor that the troubles with his back may be more than what can be repaired surgically. It's said that he is suffering from a congenital bone disease and any team drafting him should do so with caution. Again, the report is unsubstantiated and I have not been able to verify it through any media.

Joe Johnson

Adds size at shooting guard and can play small forward. Has good range and great ability behind the arc. An all around game and a poor man's Lamar Odom. He has proved to be inconsistent and at times lacks effort. He should have been a leader on his Arkansas squad but there was always the question of which Joe Johnson would show up. Will certainly be a project and needs to add some muscle but very athletic. The team drafting him needs to ask the same question posed before which Joe Johnson will they get?

Pau Gasol

Legitimate 7' small forward who in time will be capable of spending minutes at power forward. Three point range, passing and ball handling skills and able to defend players on the wing. Will fit well into the newfound NBA zone defenses. Needs to add some strength and weight but at just 21 years of age there's plenty of time. Potential contract buyout has some teams worried that they may need to wait a year for his services. In an article from the Boston Globe it was stated that he would return to play for Barcelona if not a top 5 selection. Any team drafting him outside of 5 should be willing to belly up to the bar and have dollars under the cap (teams over the cap are limited to a $350,000 contract buyout) to buy out his contract if they want him in an NBA uniform next season.

Future Considerations


One would think that Lucas would get some better performances out of some of the lethargic players. The relationship with the players should improve and it could well be the first time there was any unity on the team since the late 80's or very early 90's. With Wittman's well-documented player struggles Lucas is just the guy to turn things around. His weakness is that of an X's and O's coach and hopefully the Cavs will find an assistant that can adequately fill that role.

Free Agents

The Cavs will definitely be seeking some veteran help this off-season. Be it retaining Weatherspoon or searching for a player willing to come to town for the majority of the midlevel exception.

The Next Couple of Drafts

The Cavs won't have a selection in the first round next year if they crawl out of the lottery. They are certainly making Phoenix wait a long time for the pick (originally Denver) as part of the deal that brought Wes Person to town. If they are a lottery team again next season they should be better suited to taking the best player available instead of filling holes.


Pau Gasol, Small Forward, Barcelona Spain, 7'0" 227lbs

The Cavs have a couple ways they can go but so much will be predicated by whose on the board when they select. The front runners are Pau Gasol, Jason Richardson and Rodney White. If these players are gone it becomes a situation of which the best player left might be which could include Joe Johnson, Shane Battier or Loren Woods. Some other outside possibilities would include Diop, Chandler or Murphy.

Having never seen Gasol play I selected him on much more than a hunch about his ability. The Cavaliers put a lot of faith into foreign player scout Rudy D'Amico. Paxson left in the middle of a coaching search to go to Europe spending five days there and with all that was going on its certain that it wasn't to look at Antonis Fotsis. Paxson after his return also stated that he had never seen Vladimir Radmanovic who is believed to be selected in the high teens or early twenties. Needless to say his mission was to get a handle on Gasol and also his contract situation.

A few words on Gasol's contract situation and him playing in the NBA next year. The buyout for his contract is $2.5 million. A team over the cap is able to spend $350,000 on a contract buyout. A team under the cap can spend as much money as they have available under the cap. The Cavaliers will be over the cap unless they renounce all of their free agents. If they do renounce all their free agents they will have $3.6 million available under the cap. If the Cavs were to buy out Gasol's contract in full they would in essence be paying him as much money as he would receive as the #4 overall pick. Gasol's Agent has stated that at the #5 selection he would only be paid about $190,000 for the 2001/02 season after he fulfilled his buyout obligations. Therefore any team selecting him past the #5 would either need to wait a year or be able to take on more of the contract buyout. The one caveat for the Cavs is they would lose their Bird rights to Clarence Weatherspoon. However as of July 15th they are able to use their midlevel exception, which would fulfill Weatherspoon's contract demands.

With Pau Gasol the Cavs get another outside scoring threat to stretch zone defenses. In time and with some extra muscle he will be able to spend time at power forward slot on a team that has no contracts for the position after this season. With Murray and Weatherspoon's bulk there can be a lot of interesting combinations put on the floor. Needless to say a multi-position 7 footer gives a team lots of flexibility.

As the Cavs have little to look forward to outside of another walk to the land of bouncing ping pong balls this coming season, its not inconceivable that they would choose to wait a year on Gasol. In many ways he is not ready for the NBA but the tremendous strides he has made this season bode even better for his future. Certainly Paxson will have full knowledge of where the matter stands if he makes the selection.

What will actually happen

The Cavaliers will walk away from the draft with a bigger or more athletic player than what currently fills the starting roster. They won't care how they arrive with one be it a trade of the choice or Pau Gasol landing in their lap. The goal is to return some camaraderie to the club and restore some order. The wins and losses won't matter nearly as much as players working together every night. Next year is certain to be a rebuilding one and only Ilgauskas being healthy the Cavs make a trip to the playoffs. There's about as much chance of that happening as Traylor passing a Dirty Water Dawg Cart.