In an attempt to build a winning team in the post-LeBron James era, the Cleveland Cavaliers will draft in the top 10 for the third year in a row.
Next Tuesday’s NBA draft is extremely important for the Cavs. Any team with three top-10 picks should at least be a playoff team, and Cleveland was a long way away from that last year. The Cavs need a player who can contribute immediately and who is not a guard — having drafted guards in the last two drafts.
So...the big question is, what will the Cavs do with the fifth overall pick?
Let’s start by assuming that the top three picks will be (in any order) LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards. Cleveland most likely won’t trade up to get one of those three guys.
The Cavaliers need defense...badly. Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman, two of the team’s best prospects, averaged over 60 minutes per game combined last year and were two of the worst defenders in the NBA.
Realistically, I think the Cavs have three options:
First, they could draft Onyeka Okongwu, a center from USC. Okongwu averaged 3.5 blocks per 40 minutes in college last year. He’s viewed as one of the best defenders in the draft and would immediately make the Cavs a better defensive team. He is a better rim protector than Tristan Thompson, who will likely be leaving the team in free agency. Okongwu also has the ability to defend on the perimeter, which made Thompson so valuable.
I believe that if the Cavs keep the fifth pick, they will draft Okongwu. But if they don’t, they should consider trading back in the draft. If they do trade back, I think they will try to get a pick in the nine or 10 range and draft either Obi Toppin or Isaac Okoro.
Toppin is a forward from Dayton, and if the Cavs do want him, they’ll have to add a good defender in the trade because there are some question marks surrounding Toppin’s defensive ability. However, he is an excellent offensive player and would complement the Cavs’ group of young perimeter players well due to his finishing ability and willingness to operate in the post.
Okoro is a forward from Auburn and an elite defender. This would give the Cavs a great perimeter defender to make up for the defensive issues of their other guards. Okoro would be a great pick if the Cavs can get a solid offensive piece in the trade, or if they think the rest of the young guys can pick up the slack on that end.
I think the Cavs need to address their defensive issues before they can even think about contending. For that reason, I think they should either take Okongwu with the fifth pick or trade back and take Okoro. Toppin is an extremely exciting player and I would also be happy if the Cavs traded back and took him.
The bottom line is that the Cavs cannot go wrong if they take one of these three options, and I trust the front office to make the right decision for the future of this team.
Will Cunningham is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Will? Tweet him @willocunningham.