The Definitive Answer of What the Cavaliers Should Do with the #8 Overall Pick

Trades, picks, pick-then-trades, LeBron's future, and more. I'm going to make it crystal clear what the Cleveland Cavaliers should do with the #8 pick in Thursday night's draft.

The Cavaliers should draft the best basketball player available at number eight overall. It's that simple. There are a lot of question marks surrounding Cleveland's off-season plans (OK it's mostly just one question mark, but you get the idea), but any plan going ahead will include more good basketball players, right? That's why the #8 overall pick needs to be used on whomever the Cavaliers believe is going to make the best NBA player.

I know, there's more, so let me explain why this is the best option.

Why The Pick & Player Matter if LeBron James Leaves

If LeBron James decides that he's done in Cleveland - and who could honestly blame him at this point? - then the Cavaliers are starting their rebuilding process immediately. It may not be as bleak as the 2010-2011 season which saw them lose 36 out of 37 games at one point, and which included spending millions of dollars on Antawn Jamison and (15 of the final 44 games of) Baron Davis. After LeBron left, there was really nothing left on the roster. When it became clear that the season was irreversibly disastrous, the Cavs made the Mo Williams/Jamario Moon for BD and the pick that would become Kyrie Irving trade.

But what's missing from that equation? The draft class of 2010. 

Kyrie Irving became a great basketball player, but his first few years were awful for the team. The Cavs had no pick in the 2010 draft, which meant their rebuilding efforts were pushed back by a full year. By any measure, they were unbelievably lucky to land three #1 overall picks between 2011 and 2014, and even then the rebuilding effort only worked because LeBron James just happened to be from northeast Ohio.

(That reminds me: this was also my exact reasoning for trading the pick six months ago. The likelihood of a rebuild working out even remotely well is very low. The then-prospective 6-8th pick in the draft is worth far more in theory than it is in practice, as it has been something like 26 years since the last time a #8 overall pick was even a one-time All-Star. When you have a chance to keep one of the greatest players ever, you should do absolutely anything you can do to make it more likely. The problem with the Cavs' brass is that they have made a lot of questionable decisions about what would make that more likely. Now that they didn't trade the pick, the math changes.)

At this point it sounds like I'm saying they should trade the pick because so much of this is luck. I'm not. Here's why: The Cavs need something. Anything. They have enough tradeable players and contracts that a rebuild may not take five years like it did for Philadelphia (the only other "successful" rebuild in recent memory, although time will tell if it works or not), and maybe they could get a jump on it sooner. If the Cavs can start at the ground-floor with a bigtime win of a draft pick, they can let the player develop in low-stakes basketball while surrounding him with other things. If the Cavs keep guys like Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, Larry Nance, and George Hill, that's a not-terrible group of basketball players - and a group of good basketball minds - to surround a young player with and get his NBA bearings. In the weak Eastern Conference, and with proper coaching, who knows? Maybe that's an 8-seed.

If the Cavs trade some/all of those guys and come up with a completely new roster by the summer of 2019, that #8 overall pick could be in line to make waves as the face of a young, developing, two-years-away franchise. That, if nothing else, would symbolize hope.

In either case, the player chosen at #8, if chosen correctly, is going to be a big step toward the future success of the franchise, even if that's several seasons away. 

Why the Pick & Player Matter if LeBron James Stays

This is the more fun option because it means the Cavs would be good again and Cavaliers fans would continue to get to watch one of the greatest basketball players ever on a regular basis. More importantly, since the draft is before free agency opens, the Cavs need to prepare for themselves before they prepare for LeBron. By making a smart, accurate choice with the #8 overall pick, the Cavaliers have flexibility.

If LeBron remains a Cavalier, the Cavs can trade that 8th-pick player in a month for whatever they can get. After free agency peters out, some trades will be made. As you certainly recall, Andrew Wiggins was picked #1 overall and traded a month later for Kevin Love.

By the end of that 30-day post-draft window, Summer Leagues will have taken place and teams will have a new set of knowledge about how good a player the guy the Cavs drafted was/is. Perhaps this player offers new options on the trade market, or perhaps this player is actually good enough to contribute, even though Ty Lue doesn't like playing rookies.

Or maybe Ty Lue hasn't had a good enough rookie to play yet.

Why None of this Matters

The entirety of the success/failure of each of these plans rides on whether or not the Cavaliers front office can make an excellent pick at the #8 overall spot. Unfortunately, that is far from guaranteed. Dan Gilbert is well-known for being very hands-on as an owner, and while he doesn't technically make the draft choices, the guys that he hires do, and they have been less than stellar.

Since 2005, the Cavs have spent first-round picks on Shannon Brown, JJ Hickson, Christian Eyenga, Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Sergey Karasev, Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, and Tyus Jones. Five of those players were top-5 picks and only one of those players has been an All-Star. The only two legitimately good players were picks one and four in the same draft. Everything else has been bad (jury still out on Tyus Jones though, and he seems promising). Again, I realize that these picks were made by different guys, but the one through-line has been Dan Gilbert. That's frightening.

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