New blood: Cavaliers add 3 first-round picks in NBA draft
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers have given rookie coach John Beilein some first-year projects.
Looking to accelerate their roster rebuild following a dismal 19-win season, which was followed by Beilein’s surprising hire, the Cavs added three first-round draft picks on Thursday night in the NBA draft.
Cleveland selected point guard Darius Garland, who was something of a mystery man leading into the draft, with the No. 5 overall pick before taking Belmont swingman Dylan Windler at No. 26. General manager Koby Altman then completed the first-round trifecta by sending future second-round picks to Detroit for USC guard Kevin Porter Jr., who taken at No. 30 by Milwaukee.
The Cavs’ young team now includes two new 19-year-olds and a 22-year-old.
Beilien will feel like he’s back at Michigan.
The 66-year-old built his sterling reputation over four decades in the college game by developing young players, and the Cavs are hoping he’ll keep his touch with professionals.
“The motivation is to give coach Beilein young talent from the start to develop those guys, and we want to utilize coach Beilein right now and give him youthful guys that he can develop right now,” Cavs general manager Koby Altman said. “That’s the motivation to bring in three first-round picks — right now.”
Garland’s short-lived college career didn’t scare off the Cavs.
After all, they’ve had luck with an injured point guard before.
Garland suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee during a Nov. 23 game against Kent State and underwent season-ending surgery. The 19-year-old might have salvaged his freshman year, but decided to focus on getting ready for the draft.
“We’re super excited about Darius,” Altman said. “Is it ideal he only played five games? No, but it doesn’t diminish his talent level. He’s healthy and we’re excited to bring him to town.”
Garland’s stock began to soar in the final week before the draft and the Cavs were impressed after attending his private workout in Los Angeles last weekend.
“Our fascination started with the workout,” Altman said, adding how impressed he was with Garland’s ability to simply flick his wrist and launch 30-foot shots.
This isn’t the first time the Cavs have rolled the dice on a high draft pick. A similar gamble with a point guard turned out well in 2011, when the team took Duke’s Kyrie Irving at No. 1 overall despite him playing in just 11 college games.
Irving not only blossomed into an All-Star, but made the biggest shot in franchise history — a go-ahead jumper in the waning moments of Game 7 of the 2016 Finals as the Cavs beat Golden State for their first NBA title to end Cleveland’s 52-year title drought.
The Cavs plan to pair Garland in the backcourt with Collin Sexton, a lottery pick in 2018 who shook off a slow start to have a strong rookie season. Sexton played point last season, but is considered more of a shooting guard and scorer.
“I just like to win,” Garland said moments after sharing a hug on stage at New York’s Barclays Center with Commissioner Adam Silver. “I’m a competitor. I’m ready to get to Cleveland.”
Altman said the Cavs spoke with Sexton before they zeroed in on Garland. Sexton has been studying Portland’s guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and believes he and Garland can have similar success in Cleveland.
Altman said Sexton told him, “That could be us.”
The Cavs pulled off another mild surprise with their second choice in the first round, picking Windler. As a senior, the 6-foot-8 Windler averaged 21.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, made 43 percent of his 3-pointers and led the Bruins to their first NCAA Tournament win.
Cleveland then traded back into the first round, sending the second-round picks to the Pistons for Porter. League rules prohibited Altman from discussing Porter because an earlier trade between Milwaukee and Detroit that included a swap of forwards Jon Leuer and Tony Snell and the 30th pick.
Porter has talent, but he’s also been in trouble. He averaged 9.5 points and made 41 percent of his 3-pointers last season, but was suspended by the Trojans for unspecified reasons.
Although there was a flurry of trade activity prior to the draft sandwiched around Cleveland’s No. 5 pick — Atlanta moved to No. 4 and Minnesota to No. 6 — the Cavs stayed put.
Altman considered several offers to move up and down, but never found the right deal and chose the 6-foot-3 Garland, who averaged 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists in his brief collegiate career.
Garland is represented by agent Rich Paul, whose clients include LeBron James as well as current Cavaliers J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson. Smith was exiled from the team last season, and the Cavs have been shopping him to dump his $15.7 million contract for next season and open up salary-cap space.