Heading into the 2022 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers were equipped with four picks and had the opportunity to add players to round out their rotation. Well, they did that and then some – adding four rookies on Thursday night with the no. 14, no. 39, no. 49 and no. 56 selections. Today, we'll be breaking down every pick the Cavaliers made in the 2022 NBA Draft and look ahead to what the next steps are.
Pick no. 14 – Ochai Agbaji, G/F, Kansas
Cleveland opened things up by taking former Kansas swingman Ochai Agbaji, who answers an immediate need in terms of defense, athleticism and, most importantly, perimeter shooting. During his final season with the Jayhawks, Agbaji connected on 40.7% of his three-point attempts on the team's way to a national championship.
Granted, Agbaji's career statistical three-point percentage is shaky overall, going from a 30.7% shooter his freshman year to what he is now. But, there is tangible evidence that Agbaji honed his game and refined his skillset towards something that can translate to the next level. It's part of the appeal of drafting him in the eyes of the Cavaliers since it'll help them tremendously. Cleveland ranked 20th in offensive rating and made 3s. The Cavaliers also ranked just 22nd in three-point attempts and 15th in three-point percentage.
“The shooting piece was important,” Cleveland President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman said. “The fact he can play wing, the fact he can guard wing is great. I don’t know if that went into it so much as the need for shooting. I don’t want to put him on a pedestal and say, ‘This is the next great wing that we draft.’ But maybe it is. I do know that he fits a need right away and he’s going to compete and he has that winning pedigree that we really like.”
Altman's overall outlook on Agbaji is the correct one. Historically speaking, most players who are selected at 14 aren't expected to contribute right away and, overall, the career expectations aren't super high either. But, again, Agbaji is also more of an NBA-ready prospect compared to other players taken near him on Thursday night. Sure, there might be a bit of an adjustment for his three-point shot at the next level and at his apex, he may only be a fourth or fifth option offensively. But, with how Agbaji grinds every step of the way, there's reason to be optimistic about his overall potential on the offensive side of the ball.
What's even more NBA-ready for Agbaji compared to his three-point shooting is his defensive acumen. He stands at 6’5″ with a 6’10” wingspan that he uses to disrupt passes and block shots. Agbaji can defend one through three and can be a valuable point of attack defender for Cleveland right out of the gates. The defensive potential between Agbaji, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen is going to be lethal once they all gel on the court together. With how Cavaliers head coach J.B. Bickerstaff likes to play, Agbaji is an overall step in the right direction.
Draft grade: B+
Pick no. 39 – Khalifa Diop, C, Gran Canaria B
For a team that has an overabundance of big men, Cleveland taking Senegalese center Khalifa Diop with their first pick in the second round feels a bit like a head-scratcher. But, considering the fact that the Cavaliers expect Diop to remain overseas, the pick makes a bit more sense considering how tight things are for Cleveland both financially and roster-wise.
But, more on Diop. He started his professional career with Gran Canaria, a Spanish Club that plays in the Liga ACB. Diop had his best season in 2021-22, winning the EuroCup Rising Star trophy, which honors the best under-22 player in the EuroCup — a second-tier competition under the EuroLeague. NBA players Kristaps Porzingis and Jonas Valanciunas are past recipients of that honor.
In 49 games for Gran Canaria Diop averaged 6.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game. The thing that stands out most with Diop is he possesses an elite frame. He also plays hard with a consistent motor and the potential is there for him to be a quality big, especially in the pick and roll.
The plan, for now, is for Diop to remain overseas. Sources say that several European clubs are interested in signing the big man and that'll likely keep him from coming to the shores of Lake Erie anytime soon. With a team that is tight financially and roster-wise, a draft and stash scenario like Diop's makes sense. But, when picking at 39, it seems a little questionable. The Cavaliers had an opportunity to grab a higher-end talent that they could develop right away with the Cleveland Charge, their G League affiliate. Instead, they took the more financially sound route all while adding another big man instead of a wing player.
Draft grade: C-
Is it time for the Super Mobley-o Bros in Cleveland? Maybe one day. Photo credit: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Pick no. 49 – Isaiah Mobley, PF/C, USC
Later in the second round, the Cavaliers drafted Isaiah Mobley, the older brother of Cleveland star Evan Mobley, with the No. 49 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Cleveland acquired the selection Thursday afternoon in a trade with the Sacramento Kings, giving up the draft rights to international forward Sasha Vezenkov and $1.75 million in cash to move into position for the elder Mobley.
Known for his high-level defense and versatile offensive skill set, much like his brother, Isaiah connected on 36% of his three-pointers and became one of the Trojans’ best passers. The elder Mobley was named first-team All-Pac 12 this past season for his play as well. A 6-foot-10, 238-pound forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Mobley averaged 14.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists this last season.
After playing together in high school and college, Isaiah will have the opportunity to form a fearsome tandem with his younger brother once again. But, it might take a bit for the Super Mobley-o Bros to take the court together. There's a good chance the elder Mobley joins the Cavaliers on a two-way contract and starts his professional career in the G League with the Charge. There's a reason why Mobley was drafted so low compared to his younger brother and having the runway to develop in the G League is a great way to iron out those wrinkles in his game.
If it works out, then the Cavaliers have the possibility to develop a great, multifaceted forward that can stick with them long-term. Again, like Diop, there are questions with Cleveland taking Mobley when they have an overwhelming need on the perimeter. But, it's also a good thing to do right by your franchise cornerstone as well. So, it won't get as harsh of a grade compared to the last pick.
Draft grade: B
Pick no. 56 – Luke Travers, G/F, Perth Wildcats
A combo forward from Perth, Australia, Luke Travers over the last year took on a bigger role as an initiator and really showcased his ability to shoulder the load as a part-time playmaker as well. Considered one of Australia’s most sought-after basketball prospects, he had interest from a number of colleges stateside before opting to stay home and play in the NBL. Travers was the third and final pick of the second round for Cleveland.
Last season, Travers averaged 7.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 22.0 minutes per game for the Wildcats. There is definitely intrigue with Travers as a possible long-term prospect in the NBA. But, due to his age, slight frame, inconsistent outside shot and lack of athleticism, Travers will likely continue playing in the NBL, trying to improve his game and prove he can one day belong in the NBA.
Like Diop, Travers was another draft and stash prospect for Cleveland. The Australian swingman could be something one day but, for now, he'll remain overseas. If he continues to develop and play up to his potential, then there's a chance Travers could be a trade chip for the Cavaliers down the line.
Draft grade: C
Overall, the first-round selection of Agbaji was a solid option for Cleveland. The Cavaliers were able to get a player that could be a long-term depth piece that is also able to contribute immediately. The selection of Mobley was nice as well, especially if he's able to develop into a backup big for the team. But, using the no. 39 pick on a draft and stash player in Diop feels like a bit of a misstep and there are still more questions than answers for the Cavaliers as the start of free agency is only a week away.
Depending on what happens with Collin Sexton, this could be a very interesting offseason for Cleveland. Resting on your laurels and running it back shouldn't be an option for the Cavaliers. For now, it feels like that might be the case due to situations somewhat out of their control.
Final grade: C
Featured image credit: Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Did you enjoy this edition of Right Down Euclid? You can get it in your inbox two to three times a week by subscribing here. All it takes is either your Facebook account or email address!