NEW YORK – The Cleveland Cavaliers' intrigue with selecting Syracuse guard Dion Waiters with the fourth overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft has gathered significant momentum, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The Cavaliers haven’t been able to get Waiters to visit Cleveland for a workout and meeting with officials, but it hasn’t extinguished management’s ever-evolving fascination with choosing Waiters at No. 4 – especially if the Cavaliers are unable to secure Florida guard Bradley Beal.
Cleveland has intensified its background checks on Waiters, and sources in direct contact with Cavs officials believe Waiters would be the franchise's choice over Kansas’ Thomas Robinson should the Charlotte Bobcats select Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at No. 2, and the Washington Wizards take Beal at No. 3.
Because Waiters, a 6-foot-5 combo guard, had a promise later in the lottery, he stopped making visits to teams highest in the lottery. Nevertheless, Cleveland still believes it has strong intelligence on Waiters, an explosive scoring guard the Cavs can pair with Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving. Cleveland still has a strong desire to move to No. 2 to get Beal, but has resisted Charlotte’s attempts to attach Tyrus Thomas to a trade. Thomas has three years and $26 million left on his contract and has become unproductive and largely uncaring as a pro.
As one league source connected to the talks said, "The rest of the deal would have to be very strong for [the Cavs] to take on [Thomas]."
The Toronto Raptors have stayed aggressive in their pursuit to move past the Golden State Warriors at No. 7 and secure Waiters, league sources said. Multiple league executives believe Toronto (No. 8) and Phoenix (No. 13) made it clear to Waiters’ agent they wouldn’t let him slide past them. At the start of the process, Waiters was projected to go in the Nos. 15-25 range. He has rapidly ascended into the top half of the lottery.
There’s a small pocket of Golden State management that’s a proponent of drafting UConn center Andre Drummond with the seventh pick, but several Warriors officials are less enthusiastic about him. Waiters has strong support among the Warriors' front office and coaching staff, along with North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes. Waiters' ability to attack the basket and get to the foul line is appealing for a Golden State team that ranked among the league’s worst in free-throw attempts.
Golden State has also shown a willingness to trade the No. 7 pick and move back in the first-round if none of the team's desired targets are available. The Warriors also own the 30th pick.
Greek forward Kostas Papanikolaou has appeal to several teams in the back end of the first round – including Miami (27) and Oklahoma City (28), sources say – who aren’t eager to add payroll and want to store a player overseas for another year.
Papanikolau, a 6-foot-8 forward, could be gone early in the second round. His contract status with Olympiakos has two years left on it, but a reasonable buyout after next season means he’ll probably be in the NBA for the 2013-14 season. Papanikolau, 21, had a breakout performance in the Euroleague Final Four in Istanbul this spring. His shooting makes him intriguing to teams.
The Thunder have a desire to secure some shooting at No. 28, which is partly why they worked out Kentucky’s Doron Lamb this week in Oklahoma City, too.
St. Bonaventure forward Andrew Nicholson is unlikely to get past the Boston Celtics at Nos. 21 and 22, but the Houston Rockets (Nos. 12, 16 and 18) and Denver Nuggets (No. 20), also have interest in him sources said. … Milwaukee is giving serious consideration to Kentucky forward Terrence Jones at No. 14, sources said. … The Cavaliers have strong interest in using one of their picks at 33 and 34 on Florida State forward Bernard James, a 27-year-old military veteran. … Washington guard Tony Wroten is getting a long look from Memphis at No. 25.
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