Which of the Cavs’ Draft Picks From the Past Five Years Have Shone Brightly?

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We are midway through the second month of 2024, which means only one thing: March Madness is on the horizon. It is an exciting time for people wanting to place a bet on March Madness online and basketball fans wanting to catch a glimpse of future NBA stars. 

March Madness is one of basketball fans’ final times to see future prospects take to the court in a high-pressure environment. Some of the up-and-coming players on show could be making their way to the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse when the 2024 NBA Draft takes place on June 27.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have selected nine youngsters from the previous five drafts, including a pair of first-round picks. How are those former college basketball stars’ NBA careers shaping up? Let’s find out.

Darius Garland – 5th overall in 2019

It’s safe to say Darius Garland hit the ground running in a Cavs uniform after being drafted fifth overall in 2019. The former Vanderbilt point guard is improving with every minute he enjoys on the court, and it looks like the Cavs have a superstar on their hands.

Garland became an NBA All-Star for the first time in his professional career in 2022 after finishing third in the NBA’s Most Improved Player award the same year. On July 9, 2022, Gardland signed a five-year, $231 million rookie extension. Only a few months later, Garland became only the fourth Cavaliers player in history to score at least 50 points, playing him in the company of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Walt Wesley.

Dylan Windler – 26th overall in 2019

Dylan Windler joined the Cavaliers during the same draft as Garland but has not reached the same dizzying heights. The former Belmont small forward/shooting guard played 84 games for the Cavaliers but never started one. 

In July 2023, Windler signed a two-way contract with the New York Knicks, but he only turned out three times, starting none. Windler is now on the books with the Los Angeles Lakers, signing a two-way contract in early January 2024.

Isaac Okoro – 5th overall in 2020

Small forward/shooting guard Isaac Okoro became a Cavaliers player after being selected as the fifth overall pick in 2020. Okoro was rated a five-star recruit by Rivals and a four-star recruit by 247Sports and ESPN. 

Okoro made 67 starts during his rookie season and 61 the following year but only 46 from 76 games in 2022-23. Through 44 appearances this season, Okoro is averaging career-high points (9.0), three-point percentage (39.3), rebounds (3.1), and assists (1.9).

Evan Mobley – 3rd overall in 2021

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The Cavaliers drafted Evan Mobley third overall in the 2021 NBA Draft and put him straight into the starting lineup during his rookie season. Mobley enjoyed some stand-out performances during his first season as a professional player and finished second to Scottie Barnes in the coveted NBA Rookie of the Year standings.

In 2023, the former USC power forward/center was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team following his 9.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 0.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks. Mobley also managed a career-high 16.2 points per game. 

A knee injury has limited Mobley’s game time to 30 appearances during the 2023-24 season, yet he still averages 10.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 15.8 points.

Luke Travers – 56th overall in 2022

Luke Travers was already a professional basketball player when the Cavaliers drafted him 56th overall in the 2022 NBA Draft, having played for the Rockingham Flame, Perth Wildcats, and Cockburn Cougars in his native Australia. The Cavaliers selected Travers, and although he played in the 2022 and  NBA Summer Leagues, it just didn’t work out for the Australian.

Travers joined Melbourne United in April 2023, putting pen to paper on a three-year deal.

Isiah Mobley – 49th overall in 2022

According to Rivals, 247Sports, and ESPN, Isiah Mobley was a five-star recruit, with the latter giving the power forward a 95 rating before the 2022 NBA Draft. Despite that high rating, the Cavaliers didn’t select Mobley until the 49th overall pick in the second round.

Evan Mobley’s brother made 13 appearances from the substitutes bench during his rookie season and has spent most of his time playing in the NBA G League for the Cleveland Charge.

Khalifa Diop – 39th overall in 2022

Khalifia Diop was set to become only the 14th Senegalese player in the NBA since records began after the Cavaliers selected him as the 39th overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft. Diop had been playing professionally for Gran Canaria in Spain, where he remained after Cavaliers GM Koby Altman revealed Diop was not joining the Cavs.

Diop now plays for Baskonia in the EuroLeague.

Ochai Agbaji – 14th overall in 2022

Ochai Agbaji was a part of the Cleveland Cavaliers roster for only two months despite being selected 14th overall in the 2022  NBA Draft. The former Kansas shooting guard was traded alongside Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, two pick swaps, and three first-round picks to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Donovan Mitchell.

After playing 110 games (32 starts) for the Utah Jazz, Agbaji was traded in another multi-player deal to the Toronto Raptors, where he is averaging 19.4 minutes per game over 54 appearances.

Emoni Bates – 49th overall in 2023

Emoni Bates joined the Cavs after being selected 49th overall in the 2023 NBA Draft, signing a two-way contract with the Cleveland Charge. Bates is still finding his feet, having only turned out ten times for the Cavs, averaging a mere 7.6 minutes. The fact Bates had a 97 ESPN rating in college means Bates could still come good.

Conclusion

The fact there are as many hits as misses shows that the NBA Draft, although a fantastic feature, is somewhat of a lottery when it comes to franchises signing basketball’s next superstar. That said, there is no denying Darius Garland is destined to go to the very top.

Garland has grabbed his opportunity with both hands and seemingly improves with every game he plays. He came under scrutiny during his rookie season following perceived disappointing play, but Garland has evidently worked hard off the court and is turning into the player Cavs fans thought he could be.

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