Created on Thursday, 27 June 2013 Written by TOM WITHERS,AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Once again, the Cavaliers are facing a major summer "decision."
The last one was hard to accept. This one is difficult to make.
And while it doesn't quite stack up with LeBron James' infamous announcement that he was bolting from home three years ago and leaving Cleveland heartbroken and short of a title, the Cavs are faced with the challenge of picking another top-flight player to get them back to respectability.
For the second time in three years and third time over the past decade, the Cavaliers hold the No. 1 overall draft pick.
This year, it's both a blessing and burden.
With no player emerging as the consensus first choice, the Cavs, who also own the No. 19 pick and two second-round selections (Nos. 31 and 33) have spent the past month doing their due diligence by meeting with players, assessing their needs and weighing their many options.
They've discussed several trades to rid themselves of the top pick, move down and acquire veterans for one of the league's youngest teams.
The Cavs have kept things close to the vest during the weeks leading into the draft. General manager Chris Grant has not spoken publicly to the media since firing coach Byron Scott after last season, and the Cavs did not open their pre-draft workouts to reporters.
As of Tuesday night, Grant and his staff were still working on their draft board and it's possible they could go into Thursday with their plan still evolving.
Last weekend, owner Dan Gilbert, who made it clear after winning the lottery that he expects his team back in the playoffs next year, even went on Twitter to solicit some feedback.
"Ok @cavs fans, its Chris Grant's call but who do you like #1 & why?" Gilbert posted. "One of the toughest calls in NBA draft history. Let's hear your view."
It was so much easier two years ago, when the Cavs took point guard Kyrie Irving, who despite some injury issues — he's missed 38 games in two seasons — has developed into an All-Star and is one of the league's rising stars. That same year, Cleveland used the No. 4 pick on forward Tristan Thompson and then selected shooting guard Dion Waiters fourth overall last year.
Both Thompson and Waiters proved to be solid picks, and along with Irving, form the foundation for the Cavs to build upon.
Picking the next piece isn't such a given.
The Cavs don't view any of the top candidates as immediate game-changers. In fact, they aren't certain their top pick will crack the starting lineup as a rookie.
Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, Maryland center Alex Len, Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, Georgetown forward Otto Porter Jr., UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett and Indiana guard Victor Oladipo are all in the mix and under consideration by the Cavs, who went 24-58 last season, finished 25 1-2 games out of first place and haven't sniffed the postseason since James left.
All six of the top players have their plusses and minuses, and barring a trade, the Cavs will eventually have to settle on one of them.
"The Cavs have to take the attitude of, 'Let's find out what these guys do well instead of obsessing over what they can't do'," ESPN draft expert Chad Ford said. "Because if you do that, you disqualify every player in the draft, especially this year."
Under normal circumstances, the 6-foot-11 Noel would be a slam-dunk selection. However, the Kentucky defensive standout is still recovering from a torn knee ligament sustained during his freshman season and probably won't be available to play until January.
Noel visited the Cavs last week, and while the club is intrigued by his shot-blocking skills, there's concern the 206-pounder will get pushed around underneath by bigger, stronger, more seasoned centers. Also, Noel has an extremely limited offensive game and putting him on the floor at the same time with Anderson Varejao and Thompson doesn't make sense.
Len, too, has injury issues. He's recovering from surgery for a stress fracture in his left ankle, which wasn't diagnosed until after the 7-foot-1 center left Maryland after his sophomore season. Len's statistics — 11.9 points and 7.8 rebounds — certainly don't scream No. 1 pick, but there's reason to believe he's only scratched the surface of his potential.
The Ukranian has been compared to former Cavs center Zydrunas Ilguaskas, who overcame serious foot problems to have a solid career and now works in Cleveland's front office.
McLemore's stock took a hit recent amid reports Kansas officials are reviewing allegations that his former AAU coach received $10,000 to steer him to agent Rodney Blackstock. While that may raise questions about McLemore's character, the Cavs like that he made 42 percent of his 3-pointers and could see him in lineups alongside Irving and Waiters.
There hasn't been a true shooting guard taken first since 1975, when Atlanta selected David Thompson, who decided to play in the ABA before coming over to the NBA when the leagues merged. McLemore, whose game has been compared to Ray Allen's, knows he has a chance to do something special.
"I can make history," the 20-year-old said at the scouting combine. "I could see myself as a superstar at the next level. The hard work pays off. Years before this I probably wouldn't think I'd be in this position to take care of my family and take care of myself. It's a dream come true."
It's up to the Cavs to make it happen.