CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from the May 23, 2022, episode of The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show.
The NBA Draft is now less than a month away and the Cleveland Cavaliers hold the 14th overall selection. The team didn’t receive any luck in the draft lottery earlier this month, though it only had a 2.4 percent chance of escaping the final pick in the lottery.
Cleveland made quite a leap this past season and could be in a position to do so again next year, but a successful selection in this draft would likely be part of that equation. The team has a significant need for shooting and defense on the wing. This draft could be where general manager Koby Altman turns to fill that void, whether it be with a selection at No. 14 or trading the pick once it’s made to another team in exchange for a role player on the wing.
For sake of this writing, let’s pretend trades don’t exist and the Cavs are going to make a selection and keep the player on the roster. Here are seven options that could be available for the Cavs in the first round of next month’s NBA Draft.
Tari Eason, Forward, LSU
Eason has the size at nearly 6-foot-7 that the Cavaliers badly need from a wing defender. He should step in and be a good defender right away in the NBA. His jump shot at LSU from the outside was solid, as he shot 36 percent but it was on a small sample size, just attempting 78 three-pointers.
Eason did play as a freshman at The University of Cincinnati before transferring.
Bennedict Mathurin, Forward, Arizona
Mathurin projects to a microwave off the bench of sorts and he may not be everything the Cavs are searching for, but he also could be the best player on the board when the 14th pick rolls around. Offensively, he’s a very good shooter and can create his own shot better than most players available at this spot in the draft, but the rest of his game is very much a work in progress.
Dyson Daniels, Guard, G League Ignite
Daniels is one of the players that’s slated to go in the first round this year that took advantage of the professional avenue provided to prospects instead of attending college. There’s a lot to like about Daniels’ game. He’s a bigger guard at 6-foot-6 and projects as a defensive stopper that can create easy offense for others both in the halfcourt and transition settings. His shooting is a bit of a question mark but with the right coaching, he could become an incredibly dynamic oversized guard.
Jaden Hardy, Forward, G League Ignite
Hardy, like Daniels, decided against going to college and chose the G League. Unlike Daniels, he’s a score-first player that can get his own bucket whenever he seemingly wants. He certainly qualifies as a raw prospect but has a relatively high ceiling for a player that’s available at the end of the lottery.
Ochai Agbaji, Forward, Kansas
Agbaji seemingly would be the perfect fit for the hole on the wing the Cavs have.
He’s very experienced after spending four years playing for Kansas. While his ceiling may not be as high as some of the other players on this list, he also could be one of the more pro-ready guys in the draft. He improved every year for the Jayhawks, improving his 3-point shot from 30 percent as a freshman to 40 percent in his final year after a 37 percent mark as a junior.
Malaki Branham, Guard, Ohio State
Branham is the smallest guy on this list at just 6-foot-4, and may not exactly fit a need on the wing for the team. In fact, if he’s selected by the Cavs, it could be a signal that things between the team and guard Collin Sexton aren’t in a great place heading into his restricted free agency this summer.
That said, Branham is a knockdown shooter that connected on just under 42 percent of his 3-point attempts at Ohio State. He’s also a strong defender that could pair well with Darius Garland.
E.J. Liddell, Forward, Ohio State
Liddell is the better fit for the Cavs of the two Buckeyes likely to be first-round draft picks this year. He, like Branham, is a strong shooter from the outside and a quality defender. Unlike Branham he’s a bit bigger standing at just over 6-foot-5.
Liddell is a quality rebounder and has a bit of a postgame. The worry with him is that he’s a bit more of a stretch power forward than anything else, and he’s going to be undersized at that position in the NBA. He may be classified as a tweener, and that’s not a distinction that’s wanted by prospects these days.