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Cleveland Cavaliers won't let position dictate draft pick

According to general manager Koby Altman, the Cleveland Cavaliers are interested in the "best talent" available in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Credit: AP
Murray State's Ja Morant (12) during the first half of a second round men's college basketball game in the NCAA tournament, Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- The reporter didn't even need to finish -- or sugarcoat -- his question. Koby Altman already knew where he was heading.

As his 25-minute question and answer session at Cleveland Clinic Courts late Friday morning, the Cleveland Cavaliers general manager praised the improvements rookie point guard Collin Sexton made over the course of the past season.

While insightful on their own, Altman's comments begged a natural follow up. As the Cavs enter an offseason in which they'll own one of the top picks in the draft, will they let what they already have on their roster dictate who they will -- or more importantly, won't -- pick?

The subtext: If Cleveland is in a position to draft Murray State point guard Ja Morant, will it let Sexton's presence stand in its way?

Credit: AP
Cleveland Cavaliers' Collin Sexton shoots against the New Orleans Pelicans in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Although he wasn't posed that exact question, Altman appeared to know what was being implied. And he didn't shy away from answering it either as he downplayed the role a player's position will play in whether or not he's picked by the Cavs.

"I hear where you're going with it," Altman said with a laugh as he was asked how Sexton's development could affect his draft plans.

"His progress and what he's been able to do -- the evolution of Collin, we don't know how far he's going to go and what he's going to become. We know he's a great scorer, we drafted him to be a great scorer."

While Altman went on to praise the improvement the former No. 8 pick made in his scoring efficiency, he admitted his playmaking left something to be desired. It wasn't so much that Sexton -- who averaged 3.0 assists in his rookie year -- is a selfish player, but more that Cleveland needed to do a better job of maximizing his assist opportunities in terms of both the system he's playing in and the talent he's playing alongside.

That, however, wouldn't seemingly preclude the Cavs from drafting a point guard for a second straight year -- especially one of dynamic and multitalented as Morant. Considered by many to be the No. 2 prospect in the draft behind Duke forward Zion Williamson, Morant averaged 24.5 points per game on .499 percent shooting (.363 from 3-point range) and 10.0 assists in the 33 games that comprised his rookie year.

Credit: AP
Murray State's Ja Morant (12) during the second half of a second round men's college basketball game in the NCAA tournament, Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Between Sexton's impressive 3-point shooting -- he shot .402 percent from long range in his rookie year -- and Morant's playmaking prowess, there's no reason to think the two couldn't play together despite the defensive deficiencies (Morant is listed at 6-foot-3, Sexton at 6-foot-2) their size might bring. That remains especially true in the modern NBA, which has become increasingly positionless in recent years.

"We're fortunate we're in an era of basketball now where everyone is so versatile, so talented and has multiple skillsets," Altman said. "We have a chance to add an impact player at both picks that will supplement and complement the group.

Those two picks Altman referred to are the Cavs' own first-round pick and the Houston Rockets' pick, which they acquired at the NBA trade deadline.

While the Houston pick will be 26th, Cleveland won't know where its own selection will land until the NBA Draft Lottery on May 14. Having finished with one of the three-worst records in the league this season, the Cavs will have a 14 percent chance of securing the No. 1 overall pick with a 52.1 percent chance of their pick being in the top-four -- the best odds available under the current draft format.

But regardless which pick Cleveland winds up owning, all options appear to be on the table when it comes to which player they will pick.

"Are we looking for a specific position? No," Altman said. "We're looking for the best talent that we see in this draft."