Inside the Cleveland Cavaliers' draft
From Brian Windhorst, who was embedded with the Cavaliers for draft day. A really fascinating piece on the Cavs' draft, and just the draft day process for teams in general.
Two months ago, when the team really started its draft process, there were about nine players who could've been its first pick. (Then several dozen or so more possibilities for the second pick, No. 24 overall.) By Thursday night, it was down to about four. There were numerous opinions and each scout and coach had slightly different lists. But it was pretty clear there were two names at the top once everything had been culled: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky and Dion Waiters of Syracuse.
Waiters had gotten a promise from a team that it'd pick him and he and his agent, Rob Pelinka, were content to skip the normal process. There's a belief this promise came from the Phoenix Suns with the No. 13 pick, though Waiters and the Suns have so far refused to talk about it.
As a result, Waiters was not ranked highly and many fans did not read or hear much about him in the days leading to the draft. There had been some buzz about the Cavs' interest but only if they traded back. But looking for an aggressive and tough scorer, the Cavs had done highly detailed work on Waiters and he kept impressing them.
Waiters' basic statistics didn't seem all that impressive for a player under such consideration: 12.8 points a game off the bench, a couple rebounds and a couple assists. But the more advanced stats the Cavs looked at impressed them further. He shot a high percentage on the kinds of shots they felt he'd take in the pros and they liked his numbers scoring out of the pick-and-roll.
When it was Kidd-Gilchrist whose name was called by Charlotte, Waiters was aligned to be a Cav. Barnes was under consideration, yes, but Waiters was the consensus pick. This wasn't known outside the room, which was the point, and certainly not very expected at the Cavs' draft party in downtown Cleveland at Quicken Loans Arena. The fans there, unfamiliar with Waiters because of the limited discussion about him before the draft, booed when the pick was announced.
There was no false pretense; the executives and coaches were genuinely elated. They'd gotten a player they felt better about the more time they put into making the decision.