After a 22-win improvement last season, the Cavaliers embark on a crucial offseason with Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Some of the questions they face — including guard Collin Sexton’s future in Cleveland — will not be answered until the free-agency negotiating period begins.
But with the 14th overall pick, along with Nos. 39 and 56 in the second round, the Cavs should be able to find second-unit players who can help secure a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference next season. All-Star center Jarrett Allen’s fractured finger suffered on March 6 sabotaged that goal last season, and the Cavs (44-38) were ousted with losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks in the play-in tournament.
The Cavs’ biggest needs are a two-way wing, a backup point guard and perhaps another big man. There’s no guarantee they will keep all three of their selections, although they could use one on a foreign player and stash him overseas. They also brought in Ohio State power forward E.J. Liddell, 6-foot-5½ and 243 pounds, a possible late first-rounder, for a June 7 workout.
Here’s a look at some of the possibilities for the Cavs with the 14th pick.
Malaki Branham, Ohio State guard
Height/weight: 6-5, 195, 6-10 wingspan
College stats: 13.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 49.8% field goals, 41.6% on 3s, 83.3% free throws in 32 games.
What the Cavs might like: The former St. Vincent-St. Mary star’s name has been most frequently attached to the Cavs in mock drafts and he worked out for them on June 8, but there’s no guarantee he will last until No. 14. Branham, who turned 19 in May, finished his freshman season at OSU on a tear, averaging 17 points in his final 22 games, 19.4 in his final 11. He has a deadly mid-range game that would be valuable for a 2 guard and might translate to the 3. Along with his high ceiling, he also fits in terms of character and work ethic.
Quote: “He’s one of the most mature freshmen I’ve ever coached,” Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said.
Ousmane Dieng, New Zealand Breakers forward
Height/weight: 6-10, 216
NBL stats: 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 39.8% field goals, 27.1% on 3s, 66.7% free throws in 23 games.
What the Cavs might like: Showing potential as a ball-handler and pick-and-roll creator, Dieng is the kind of highly skilled playmaking wing the Cavs need. He participated in the National Basketball League’s Next Stars program, a route also taken by LaMelo Ball, Josh Giddey and R.J. Hampton. At age 18, Dieng averaged 13.3 points and 4.0 rebounds and shot 51.4% from the field in his final 11 games with the Breakers and demonstrated defensive agility befitting a guard. Born in France, Dieng spent his high school years in Paris at INSEP Academy, attended by six-time All-Star Tony Parker.
Quote: “What he can do with the ball and his feel for the game and his length and his passing ability and vision and just how fluid he is with the ball is just incredible. I think he’s a total freak when I look at him in terms of the basketball package,” Breakers coach Dan Sharmir told The Huddle Podcast.
Ochai Agbaji, Kansas guard
Height/weight: 6-5¾ 216, 6-10 wingspan
College stats: 13.6 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 44.8% field goals, 37.4% on 3s, 71.4% free throws in 122 games.
What the Cavs might like: The Cavs need scorers and 3-and-D wings and Agbaji can fill both of those needs. He’s one of the best shooters in the draft as well as the kind of strong, versatile defender coach J.B. Bickerstaff covets. The Most Outstanding Player as Kansas won the 2022 NCAA championship was a consensus first-team All-American. Agbaji, 22, led the Big 12 in scoring (18.8) as a senior, finished second in the league in 3-point percentage (40.9), 23rd in NCAA Division I. He set a school record by making a 3 in 53 consecutive games and ranks fourth with 250 3-pointers made.
Quote: “To see him being a guy that is going to make a lot of money playing this game for a long time when he wasn’t projected to do that, it’s been special to watch,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Tari Eason, LSU forward
Height/weight: 6-8, 217, 7-2 wingspan
College stats: 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.9 steals, 1.1 blocks, 52.1% field goals, 35.9% on 3s, 80.3% free throws in 33 games at LSU. As a freshman in 23 games at Cincinnati, 7.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 blocks, 1.2 steals, 46.2% field goals, 24.1% on 3s, 57.4% free throws in 23 games.
What the Cavs might like: Eason is known for his explosiveness, physicality and intensity, which could help set the tone for the young Cavs. With the ability to defend point guards and big men, Eason makes the most of his 7-2 wingspan and 11-inch hands, just a ¼-inch smaller than Kawhi Leonard’s massive mitts. Eason became the first player in Southeastern Conference history named the Sixth Man of the Year and to the All-SEC first team. A magnet for steals, blocks and rebounds, Eason played for former NBA All-Star Brandon Roy at Garfield High School in Seattle.
Quote: “He’s got a boulder on his shoulder. I wouldn’t even call it a chip. He’s always been overlooked,” former LSU coach Will Wade.
Jeremy Sochan, Baylor forward
Height/weight: 6-9, 230
College stats: 9.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 47.4% field goals, 29.6% on 3s, 58.9% free throws in 30 games.
What the Cavs might like: The Cavs would have to put defense ahead of offense with Sochan, whose shot needs work. Turning 19 in May, Sochan was named the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year. He made an impact in four games in the Big 12 and NCAA Tournament, averaging 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds. Sochan checks a lot of boxes – a playmaking forward, a versatile defender, great energy and competitiveness. His multiple hair color choices show his personality, his background is also intriguing. His mother, Aneta, is a native of Poland, but Sochan was born in Oklahoma and spent much of his youth in England. He played his junior year of high school in Indiana, his senior year with German club OrangeAcademy.
Quote: “This game has gone more toward positionless basketball. Having guys who can pass, dribble and shoot and defend 1 through 5 really makes the game a lot easier. Jeremy definitely fits that mold,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
TyTy Washington, Kentucky point guard
Height/weight: 6-3¾, 196 pounds
College stats: 12.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.3 steals, 45.1% field goals, 35.0 on 3s, 75% free throws in 31 games.
What the Cavs might like: The Cavs need a backup point guard and might prefer a veteran free agent. But they have ignored the parade of Wildcats who have succeeded in the NBA with 26 drafted since 2014, including Karl Anthony-Towns, Devin Booker, Julius Randle, Tyler Herro, Jamal Murray and Bam Adebayo. Washington excels at changing speeds, can play with or without the ball and can shoot from the mid-range and distance. He broke John Wall’s single-game UK assist record with 17 against Georgia.
Quote: “We’ve had a number of players leave here and be successful at the next level who are in a similar mode as TyTy,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
Johnny Davis, Wisconsin guard
Height/weight: 6-5¾, 196
College stats: 13.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.1 steals, 43.1% field goals, 32.5% on 3s, 77.9% free throws in 62 games.
What the Cavs might like: Another who may not last until No. 14, Davis was a consensus first-team All-American and the Big Ten Player of the Year in both the coaches and media vote. Cavs President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman got his start in USA Basketball and Davis won the gold medal at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup. A physical wing who is always in attack mode, Davis draws praise for his defensive versatility and intangibles. He also improved his scoring average by 12.7 points as a sophomore.
Quote: “There may not be a more dynamic scorer in the country,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said.
Dalen Terry, Arizona guard
Height/weight: 6-7, 195
College stats: 8.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.2 steals, 50.2% field goals, 36.4% on 3s, 73.6% free throws in 37 games.
What the Cavs might like: This would be a reach from where Terry is projected to be selected, especially when some believed he could have vaulted to the top of the 2023 draft with another college season. But the Cavs could gamble on a developmental player with a big upside since this pick would have conveyed to the Indiana Pacers if the Cavs had made the playoffs. Terry was invited to USA Basketball’s training camp in 2021, but did not make the U19 team. He finished second in the Pac-12 in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.84) and shot 9-of-15 from 3-point range in the final six games (three in the Pac-12 Tournament and three in the NCAA Tournament).
Quote: "I feel like I'm ready. I’d rather be in the NBA and go through my struggles and trials and tribulations than be in college and be the star,” Terry after a workout for the Portland Trail Blazers, per azcentral.com.
Jalen Williams, Santa Clara guard
Height/weight: 6-6, 195, 7-2 wingspan
College stats: 18 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1/2 steals, 51.3% field goals, 39.6% on 3s, 80.9% free throws in 33 games.
What the Cavs might like: Williams has virtually everything the Cavs want in a wing player. He's a poised, mature, versatile playmaker who shot 39.6% from 3-point range last season and averaged 18 points, second in the West Coast Conference. He scored 18 points and handed out 10 assists in an upset victory over No. 22 St. Mary's, Santa Clara's first victory over a ranked opponent since 2004. He has the court vision to be an effective distributor because he played point guard as a youth, growing about six inches from his sophomore to his senior years at Perry High School in Gilbert, Arizona. He learned discipline from his parents, who both served in the Air Force. Playing for a mid-major, he's highly motivated as he seeks to become the first Santa Clara player drafted since Steve Nash went 15th in 1996.
Quote: "He's the hottest player in the draft," a league source told CBS Sports.
MarJon Beauchamp, G League Ignite guard/forward
Height/weight: 6-6½, 197, 7-0 wingspan
G League Ignite stats: 15.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.5 steals, 53.8% field goals, 28.8% on 3s, 70.6% free throws in 21 games.
What the Cavs might like: A rangy and athletic wing, Beauchamp could help immediately on defense with his versatility and long arms, guarding 1-4. Offensively, Beauchamp uses his hustle to create his shots. The Cavs saw him up close during the 2022 All-Star Game in Cleveland as Beauchamp participated in the Rising Stars competition with Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro.
Quote: “I had to go through a lot of stuff and find my game. Really just bring that energy because I used to play lackadaisical,” Beauchamp told ESPN.
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read more about the Cavs at www.beaconjournal.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Cavs consider Malaki Branham, Ochai Agbaji in 2022 NBA Draft