On the night of the 2021 NBA Draft Lottery, the Cleveland Cavaliers finally had a little luck. Possessing the fifth-best odds for Cade Cunningham, the consensus number one pick, and a 45.1% chance of a top-four selection, the Cavaliers walked away that evening with the third-overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
"I think it’s a tremendous opportunity. I think it really positions us well,” said Cleveland general manager Koby Altman. “When we started this a few years back we talked about building through the draft and creating sustainable success. There’s some real game-changers at the top of this draft, but also it puts us in a position to capitalize on different opportunities throughout the landscape of the NBA with this position.
“We’re fortunate to be able to have this pick, add another talented young man to this roster. But when you look at our young core, we’re in good shape from a talent perspective and we’re going to have another large injection of talent coming soon.”
For Cleveland fans, it sure can be a little disappointing to not get Cade Cunningham, who is a one-of-a-kind talent. But, other than first-overall, securing the third pick is the perfect situation for the Cavaliers to be in.
After Cunningham, the next two best players available are Southern California's Evan Mobley and G-League Ignite product Jalen Green. While neither Mobley nor Green has the potential of Cunningham, both are All-Star level prospects. The luxury of having the third-overall pick means that Cleveland doesn't have to spend the next month agonizing over who they should pick. The Houston Rockets, who pick ahead of the Cavaliers at no. 2, will likely pick one of Mobley or Green. That means whoever is remaining will be lapped up by Cleveland immediately and will in turn be able to make an immediate impact.
The Rockets, much like the Cavaliers, could go in either direction with Mobley or Green. Also, like Cleveland, Houston also is not in the position to be particular when it comes to acquiring talent through the draft. Just because Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. are on Houston's roster it doesn't mean the Rockets cannot take either of Mobley or Green. The same can be said for Cleveland when it comes to Jarrett Allen and Collin Sexton. Thankfully, according to league sources the Cavaliers know this and will take whomever they view as the best player available.
When it comes to either Mobley or Green, both can be viewed as the best player available for Cleveland. We'll break them down more at a later date, but, here is a quick rundown on both of them:
Mobley has established himself as the best big man in the 2021 draft class. Averaging 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.9 blocks per game, Mobley showcased the potential of a player who could be one of the best two-way big men in the NBA in the near future. He is impressively mobile for a player of his size and utilizes this fluidity and his God-given gifts in order to protect the rim. Mobley also shows potential as a perimeter shooter and tertiary playmaker as well, making him the ideal archetype for a modern NBA big that has shades of Anthony Davis and Chris Bosh mixed in.
Green, meanwhile, was the No. 1-ranked high school prospect in ESPN's Top 100 for the class of 2020. The 6-foot-6, 178-pound guard received offers from numerous blueblood programs before electing to forgo his college eligibility and pave a new road to the NBA as the headliner of the G League's new development team. While with the Ignite in this season's G League bubble, Green averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 46.1 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from three. Green is a fluid and dynamic scorer that can get to the bucket in a variety of ways. He also is developing as a passer and could grow into a big-bodied secondary playmaker in time as well. If he lands in the right situation, Green could develop into a player similar to Washing superstar Bradley Beal.
"The difference is these players, this high level, they’re really talented and can play right away," said Altman. "We might have to do some internal adjustment to how we gauge what we wanted to do right out of the gate, but we still want to supplement that four that we talked about. The difference is there could be a game-changer where we’re picking."
The internal adjustments the Cavaliers make likely boil down to their lineups and rotations. If the team takes Green, there's a good chance he supplants Sexton for the team's starting two-guard spot and forces Sexton into a sixth-man role. If that isn't agreeable to Sexton and his camp then Cleveland can trade the former first-round pick in order to build around the backcourt tandem of Green and Darius Garland. With Mobley, meanwhile, Cleveland can start him at the four alongside Jarrett Allen and try their damndest to trade Kevin Love to make the fit less clunky. Ultimately it's on the Cavaliers to figure out how to make the fit work after the selection. But, that seems entirely doable for Cleveland to figure out.
Thankfully, there's still time between now and next season to figure everything out. After an injury-wrecked season, a few missteps that had some wondering whether Altman even would keep his job, three straight years without lottery luck and 159 total losses since LeBron James left for a second time, the Cavaliers, and their fans, finally have a reason to believe in the future once again.