Opinion: Cavs’ choice obvious

June 26, 2013


Now that we (almost) all agree that the Cleveland Cavaliers should not select a center with an injury history, let’s look at the smartest place for them to turn with the first selection in tonight’s draft, televised by ESPN.

If the question is Ben McLemore or Victor Oladipo, frame it this way: Would you rather have Ray Allen or Tony Allen? Tony Allen plays winning basketball, defends relentlessly and has worked his way into the starting lineup the past two seasons for the Memphis Grizzlies, but he’s no Ray Allen.

Oladipo has a more aggressive game and is a better defender than McLemore, but despite his junior season three-point shooting percentage (.441), he doesn’t have nearly as soft a jumper as McLemore. Oladipo shot .338 from long range for his career, a better indicator of future results. Tony Allen’s percentage in his two-year career at Oklahoma State was a similar .346. Both were exceptional defenders in college. The points Oladipo scored closer to the hoop will be far tougher to come by in the NBA.

Even if Oladipo exceeds the Tony Allen projection and becomes a modern-day Sidney Moncrief, a five-time All-Star and great defender, McLemore, who also has a high ceiling as a defender, has more all-around talent.

Ray Allen was a .448 career three-point shooter, including .402 as a freshman. McLemore shot .420 in his lone college season. Athletic shooters tend to make a smoother transition to the NBA than guards who slash to the hoop.

No less an authority on basketball than Jay Bilas ranked McLemore as the top available prospect. It’s difficult to make a case for anyone else. Bilas also said he thinks every player in this draft comes with questions.

McLemore’s, Bilas said, center on his “personality type,” and because of that he needs to walk into the right situation. If he goes to a team that has “been a mess,” Bilas said, “and he is expected to shoulder the entire burden, that’s a problem. It’s not one he couldn’t overcome.”

Teaming with Cavs franchise player Kyrie Irving, Bilas said, would be a situation in which McLemore could thrive.

“(The Cavs) don’t need him to be the man right away, and he would have a chance to develop at a more leisurely pace,” Bilas said.

The former Duke forward and trial attorney and current ESPN analyst pointed to “attacking off the dribble and getting his own shot” as areas McLemore needs to improve, but also called the St. Louis native “a great athlete, he glides down the court” and “the best shooter in the draft.”

If the Cavs take Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, Otto Porter or Victor Oladipo ahead of McLemore, they’ll regret it forever. Prediction: UNLV’s Anthony Bennett and Indiana’s Cody Zeller will have better NBA careers than anyone not named McLemore.


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