Cavaliers big on Valanciunas who may not even be around for two years

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The Cavs have a great shot at getting not just one building block for their rebuilding franchise in this year’s draft, but two. Even in a weak class like this one, having two top-five picks is sure to land you some significant talent if you use the picks correctly. And while they continue to debate which of the two best prospects should go first in the draft (for some reason), their second choice at the fourth pick may be just as important in shaping the future of the franchise and trying to get it out of the rubble of you-know-who’s departure. And at this point, the Cavs may be leaning towards a player who may or may not be around the next two years. From the Akron Beacon Journal, in a lengthy and thorough roundup of where the Cavs stand with both picks:

The Cavs are high on Valanciunas, who is 7 feet tall and has a 7-foot-4 wingspan. One league executive who attended the Eurocamp told NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper that Valanciunas is ”a future franchise center.” The question is how long a franchise would have to wait to get him. The Cavs are leery of Valanciunas’ European contract, which lasts for two more years and does not include an NBA buyout. Valanciunas is represented by Leon Rose, who is still negotiating the buyout. Working in Valanciunas’ favor is the fact his Lithuanian team, Lietuvos Rytas, is reportedly hurting financially and open to a deal. The team that drafts Valanciunas would probably have to pay Lietuvos Rytas $500,000. Valanciunas would then pay his former team a portion of his first contract based on his draft position. The exact percentage is part of what is being negotiated.

via Ohio.com – Irving or Williams? Cavaliers haven’t decided. Valanciunas is likely to get the buyout taken care of and be free to be you and me for the Cavs. But this pick doesn’t make much sense. Yes, Valanciunas could, if he continues to add weight and isn’t bowled over by the extra aggressiveness of NBA bigs, be a defensive stalwart. And yes, Valanciunas rolls off the pick and roll as well as any big drafted in the past three years. But setting aside the Zydrunas Ilgauskas comparisons and the fact that he allowed a 1.02 points per possession according to Synergy Sports last year for Lietuvos Rytas (which is high), look at what the Cavs have and don’t have. Their best player right now, at any position, is center Anderson Varejao. You can conceivably play Varejao at power forward with Choonus, but is the big rook going to be able to produce enough offense on his own, even with Irving dishing to him? It does make Varejao expendable on the trade block, but he’s there already and is still recovering from injury. Meanwhile, the Cavs’ biggest positional need is small forward, which they would simply not address in this draft. If they take Derrick Williams No.1, they have to target a guard to get him the ball (“But what about Baron Davis?” you cry. “What about Baron Davis?” we respond.).

It’s certainly true that the Cavs should be shopping for overall talent and not positional need given the absence of any discernible talent on their roster. But wouldn’t a better combination be Irving and forward Jan Vesely, who comes with a bit of nasty aggression, even if he’s older and not as much of a pick and roll threat? But then, so far this Cavaliers’ organization that took over from Danny Ferry’s regime following the anarchy created by you-know-who hasn’t been much in the way of well-conceived planning. If the worse they get is a huge defensive presence with touch out of that fourth pick, they’re still doing fine. That’s the luxury of those two top-five selections, even in a draft as questionable as this one.

Utah’s Donovan Mitchell wins throwback Dunk Contest with Vince Carter tribute

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LOS ANGELES — The 2018 Dunk Contest went retro.

And it worked.

The throwbacks started with Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. going quick-change to pay tribute to his father, the 1984 winner of the Dunk Contest.

Nance later had the best dunk of the night, but it wasn’t enough in the face of Utah’s Donovan Mitchell‘s strong and consistent night highlight by his throwback dunk — donning a Vince Carter Toronto dinosaur jersey and doing VC’s famed 360 dunk — which got Mitchell the 48 points he needed to hold-off Nance and win the contest. It was over.

“Growing up I was a big dunker,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t really much of a basketball player. I just dunked and played defense, and I watched a lot of Vince’s videos. I’ve been seeing what he’s been doing all year at his age, which is incredible.

“So I figured, you know, at my size if I was able to get it, it would be a great dunk and a way to finish it, you know. And actually, funny story is I haven’t made that dunk in like half a year. I tried it in practice the past two days and tried it this morning, didn’t make it. Tried it last night, didn’t make it… But to be able to make it was why I was so excited.”

Earlier in the night, Mitchell had done another tribute worn a Darrell Griffith jersey — Utah’s Dr. Dunkenstien, who went to Louisville like Mitchell — for an off-the-side-of-the-backboard jumping over Kevin Hart dunk.

“You know, just knowing your history, I think, is the biggest thing,” Mitchell said of the throwbacks. “Just understanding where this game originated, I guess the OGs of the game, I guess you would call it. But just understanding. Even if it’s just dunking. Whether it’s dunking in the NBA in general, Darrell Griffith, we went to the same school in college. I know Darrell very well. Both got drafted by the Jazz, and he was an incredible player. To be able to pay homage to him meant a lot to me.”

For my money, Nance had the dunk of the night, his first in the Finals, a double off-the-backboard throwdown that you had to see on replay to get (it wasn’t as evident in the building what he had done until it was re-shown on the big screen).

It was a fun contest all night long.

Mitchell (the leader in the Rookie of the Year race) started it off brilliantly — he brought out a second backboard, and did a self-alley-oop off one to the other.

Larry Nance Jr. did his tribute to his father with his first dunk, and on his second one came from behind the backboard, going around the world, and threw it down hard. That got him into the Finals.

Oladipo missed all three of his dunks in the first round, which almost doomed his night. He, however, did a dunk wearing the Black Panther mask for his second dunk, which impressed.

Mitchell said he wanted to beat Dennis Smith Jr. because the Mavericks’ point guard had beaten him in dunk contests for years. Smith had one monster dunk, when he went between the legs and threw it down hard and got the full 50. It just wasn’t enough to get Smith to the Finals.

Nance started off the final round by bringing out his father again to throw an alley-oop to a windmill. Mitchell responded with a self-alley-oop to a windmill that was flat-out wicked. That got Mitchell a 50-46 lead after one round of the Finals.

Then Mitchell went to Vince Carter and “it was over.”

Larry Nance Jr. throws alley-oop to himself, throws alley-oop to himself (video)

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LOS ANGELES — Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. immediately motioned for the replay to be shown of this dunk. It was necessary to properly appreciate it.

Best dunk of the night.

Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest, though.

Larry Nance Jr. plays tribute to father — rock-the-cradle dunk in Suns uniform

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LOS ANGELES — Back in 1984, high-flying Larry Nance Sr. won the first NBA All-Star Dunk Contest with this set of dunks — most famously a rock-the-cradle move.

Larry Nance Jr. came into the 2018 Dunk Contest and went nostalgic — all the way back to the Suns’ throwback uniform and the same dunk.

That and a good second dunk got him into the Dunk Contest finals. In that round, Nance Sr. threw an alley-oop to his son for the windmill.

Donovan Mitchell throws alley-oop to himself – off second backboard (video)

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LOS ANGELES – Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell set a high standard with the first slam of the 2018 dunk contest.

Very creative. Very well-executed.

Looks like all that preparation paid off.