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Jared Sullinger, Kyrie Irving: Who can save the Cleveland Cavaliers?

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been feeling the bad karma this season. LeBron James came into their house and destroyed them, Anderson Varejao suffered a season-ending ankle injury during a simple practice drill, and future building block J.J. Hickson has bounced in and out of the starting lineup. Meanwhile, the Cavs are 8-37, losing their 18th game in a row last night in Boston, and their 22nd straight on the road.

Head coach Byron Scott wants to put an up-tempo team on the floor, which means Cleveland may want to blow up the roster moving forward if they want to get close to the playoffs any time soon. What should the Cavs do first? They have plenty of nice trading pieces in Antawn Jamison, Mo Williams, Hickson and Varejao, and maybe even rookie Manny Harris with the way he’s played lately.

But what if trades don’t work out? Typically, building a team through free agency would be the next option, but there is one issue: Who wants to come to Cleveland? At this point, Minnesota looks more appealing. Rather than overpaying for a guy like Carmelo Anthony or Tony Parker, why not take the approach that the 2007 Seattle Supersonics took? They let Rashard Lewis walk in free agency, traded away Ray Allen, then landed one of our generation’s finest players in Kevin Durant and a solid starter in Jeff Green in the draft to rebuild their franchise on the fly. Of course the city of Seattle never got to see the results, but that’s not the point.

So after potentially trading away some of their nice bargaining chips for a few more first-round picks — and assuming Cleveland gets somewhere near the No. 1 pick in the Lottery — who could be the new savior of the Cavaliers in the 2011 NBA Draft?

The Joneses

At this point, if all goes as planned, the Cavaliers should get the first pick in the draft. If that is the case, it looks like Baylor freshman Perry Jones could be their best option. At 6-11, few frontcourt players are as skilled as Jones. When he wants to, he can be an unstoppable force. So far this season, he has shown improved consistency, but it will be interesting to see if that continues into February. He has put up decent numbers (13.9 points, 7.1 rebounds per game) but there are concerns about him projecting as more of a face-up power forward.

The other Jones, Kentucky freshman Terrence Jones, has the same issue. Unlike Perry, Terrence has put up great numbers (18.3 ppg, 8.9 rpg) against good competition. The only difference is that Terrence is three inches shorter than Perry. Both have great potential. It will be up to the Cavaliers to see how patient they can be if they draft either of these guys.

The Rivals

Few would have predicted before the collegiate season started that either Harrison Barnes or Kyrie Irving would be risky options in this year’s NBA Draft. With Barnes (North Carolina) having started his college career slowly, and Irving (Duke) out for a majority of the year with a foot injury, both of these freshmen have major question marks.

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