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Three Players for the Cavs to Draft with the 14th Pick
After narrowly missing out on their first playoff berth since 2018, the Cleveland Cavaliers couldn’t overcome astronomical odds of landing a top-four pick. Instead, the Cavs will make the 14th pick in the highly-anticipated 2022 NBA Draft.
While Cleveland won’t be welcoming Chet Holmgren or Paolo Banchero to its solid roster, President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman will have several high-upside prospects at his disposal. Ideally, the Cavaliers will land a player who can become an integral part of their core as early as next season.
The Cavaliers could conceivably package their first-round pick for a marquee veteran, something the aggressive Altman should consider. But if they stand pat, here are three players the Cavs should lend extra consideration toward on June 23 in Brooklyn.
SG Ochai Agbaji, Kansas
On paper, the Cavaliers possess a need for wings. Collin Sexton is a restricted free agent coming off of a season-ending knee injury, while 2020 first-rounder Isaac Okoro hasn’t developed offensively. Enter Ochai Agbaji, who fits a glaring need and would easily be the best player available at 14.
Agbaji, 22, was the leading scorer for the national champion Kansas Jayhawks. The senior averaged 18.8 points on 47.5 percent shooting from the field and 40.9 percent from three. He was also named the Big 12 Player of the Year and the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player.
At 6-foot-5, Agbaji is a prototypical 3-and-D player at the pro level. His catch-and-shoot abilities help him provide instant offense, while his athleticism allows him to thrive in transition and on the defensive end.
Even if Agbaji doesn’t become a superstar, he has the makings of an NBA-level talent ready to contribute immediately. He can also replace Sexton or relieve Okoro of some of his offensive responsibilities.
SF Malaki Branham, Ohio State
There have been two recipients of Ohio’s “Mr. Basketball” award who hailed from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron. The first is LeBron James, who won the honor in 2001, 2002, and 2003. The second is Malaki Branham, who could follow James’ footsteps by going to the Cavaliers this June.
Branham was one of college basketball’s top freshmen in 2021-22. The 6-foot-5 G/F averaged 13.7 points on 49.8 percent shooting from the field and 41.6% from deep. He finished his short collegiate career as the Big Ten Rookie of the Year and was named Third Team All-Big Ten.
If Cleveland aims to improve off of its 20th-ranked offense, Branham is the guy. His shooting should translate to the next level, and his ability to create his shots makes him more than a catch-and-fire wing. He’s not a great defender, but his scoring makes up for the difference.
Branham’s projections are all over the place. Some scouts view the teenager as a top-10 pick, while others see him going inside the 20s. Nevertheless, the Cavs would be wise to consider the Ohio native if he’s available.
SF Johnny Davis, Wisconsin
There was a time when mock drafts had Davis going inside the top-five picks, placing him among the ranks of the other franchise-changing prospects. But his tumble could be Cleveland’s gain if he’s sitting there at 14.
Like the two previous players, Davis is a 6-foot-5 wing that could be a two or an undersized three in today’s NBA. But his college resume is impressive, averaging 19.7 points and 8.2 rebounds for the Badgers in 2021-22. His excellent season earned him the honor of Big Ten Player of the Year.
A late-season ankle injury affected Davis’ overall numbers and, in turn, his draft stock. Now the 20-year-old could slide out of the top ten altogether. That said, his three-level scoring was on full display at Wisconsin, bested only by his ability to hit clutch shots.
There’s serious upside with Davis, even more so than Agbaji and Branham. The Cavs would be hard-pressed to find a more intriguing player available when they go on the clock.