Just because the Cavaliers have the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft doesn’t mean they are going to keep the player they choose tonight.
Rumors continued to circulate Wednesday that the Cavs would make the eighth pick for Charlotte, then trade that player and another on their roster (to make the deal work under salary cap rules) to the Hornets for point guard Kemba Walker.
The 6-foot-1, 172-pound Walker, 28, will earn $12 million in the final season of a four-year, $48 million deal and become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
An All-Star the last two years, Walker averaged 22.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 2017-18. He shot .431 from the field, .384 on 3-pointers and .864 at the line.
The eighth pick and a player like Jordan Clarkson or J.R. Smith would make the deal work under salary cap guidelines, but it’s doubtful the seemingly rebuilding Hornets would have any interest at all in the latter.
Though the Cavs would be at risk of losing Walker after just one season, it might be a gamble they are willing to take because he appears to be a solid roster fit regardless of what LeBron James does in free agency.
James has until June 29 to inform the Cavs he is opting out of a $35.6 million contract for next season, which he is expected to do in order to become an unrestricted free agent and test the open market beginning July 1.
The Cavs can trade the No. 8 pick to Charlotte immediately after making the selection, or they can wait up to 30 days, which was the scenario that played out when James returned in 2014 and No. 1 selection Andrew Wiggins eventually was dealt to Minnesota as part of the trade for Kevin Love.
If the Cavs take a point guard like Oklahoma’s Trae Young or Alabama’s Collin Sexton at No. 8, the possibility exists they will have made that pick for the Hornets. That’s not a certainty, however, as Young or Sexton also could fill a need in Cleveland’s backcourt.
If, however, Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. falls to No. 8 and the Cavs take him, it will likely be with the intent of keeping him.
Porter played in just three games as a college freshman and underwent surgery to repair two discs in his back. He also had a hip issue in the weeks leading up to the draft, so there are legitimate health concerns.
On the flip side, the 6-foot-10, 214-pounder probably would have been a top-two or top-three pick if fully healthy, so Cavs general manager Koby Altman might be willing to take the risk in order to potentially reap what could be a very high reward.
That decision will be taken out of Altman’s hands, of course, if Porter is taken with one of the first seven picks. If he falls to eight and the Cavs still take Young or Sexton, it could be a strong indicator a deal for Walker will be announced.
Even if the Walker trade rumors don’t reach fruition, the Cavs may end up benefiting from the fact an abnormal amount of big men are expected to go high in the draft.
Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, Duke’s Marvin Bagley III, Texas’ Mohamed Bamba and Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. all are likely to go in the top five or six picks, increasing the odds of Young and/or Sexton, as well as Porter and Duke center Wendell Carter Jr., being available at No. 8.
With the Cavs looking to add athleticism throughout their roster whether James returns or not, all four players are possibilities to play in Cleveland.
Another player creeping up many draft boards and now being mentioned in connection with the Cavs is Kentucky point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The 6-6, 180-pounder has tremendous athleticism and possesses a nearly 7-foot wingspan. The least heralded member of Kentucky’s freshman class, he ended up being arguably the Wildcats’ best player, averaging 14.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists while shooting .485 from the field, .404 on 3-pointers and .817 at the line.
The knocks on Gilgeous-Alexander, who will turn 20 on July 12, are that he’s raw, sometimes inconsistent with his jumper and too often fails to utilize his athleticism.
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
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