Déjà Déjà Vu: The Cavaliers are on the clock after winning the draft lottery again (and again)
Wait, didn’t we already do this? I remember being right here a year ago. And not far from here two years ago. And then right here three years ago. So excuse me if we get our years and our tenses and our timelines confused.
There has been a whole lotta Cavaliers in the Cavs Lottery – um, I mean – the Draft Lottery. And now, it has happened again. Even though they only had a 1.7 percent chance of jumping up from the ninth-best odds, the Cleveland Cavaliers continued their incredible lucky streak and won the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery.
Once again, Dan Gilbert’s side owns the rights to make the first pick in the NBA Draft, which will be held on June 26th this year. Incredibly, this will be the fifth time since the Draft Lottery began in 1986 that the Cavaliers will have the top pick, and the third time in the last four years, which coincides not surprisingly with the time that LeBron James spurred them for the Miami Heat.
The Cavaliers took Kyrie Irving with the top pick (from the Clippers) in 2011 and Anthony Bennett with the top pick in 2013. Additionally, they had two more top four picks in the same period: Tristan Thompson with the fourth pick in 2011 and Dion Waiters with the fourth pick in 2013.
Although Cavs fans can rejoice in this ‘victory’, the fact that they continue to end up in the top five is a sign of their continued haplessness. Since 2010, the Cavaliers fired Coach Mike Brown, hired Byron Scott, saw LeBron make his ‘Decision’ to leave them for the Heat, lost an NBA-record 26 consecutive games during the season, ended last in the Conference, won the Draft Lottery, and drafted Kyrie Irving.
They didn’t get much better, even with Kyrie and Thompson added to the squad, as they once again finished near the bottom of the East. They drafted Dion Waiters fourth next year, and again finished with the third-worst record in the league, and again won the top pick. They fired Scott and hired Mike Brown again. This time, they picked Anthony Bennett, who was a bust in his rookie season, and despite adding Luol Deng to the side, they still finished outside the playoff picture. Once again, they fired Brown.
Out of all their recent picks, only Irving has reached All Star level, and as time passes, the list of his admirers gets shorter, too (he has won just above 30 percent of his games in his last three years in the league). The Cavaliers are a living, present example of everything I dislike about the NBA Draft Lottery: bad teams getting annually rewarded for continuing to be bad.
The lottery had good intentions - to spread the talent equally around the league by giving bad teams a chance to draft good players, and at the same time, make the likelihood of a higher pick dependent on chance. Unfortunately, it has encouraged tanking around the league as GMs offer their fanbase a bad product in the hope of getting lucky with a good player in the future.
Too many franchises get stuck in the cycle of playing badly and then picking badly for years, and the fans suffer. Meanwhile, teams who built upon smart thinking win a lot and never get a chance at drafting a good player. The Spurs - easily the smartest team in the league and most-deserving of good karma – haven’t had a top 10 pick since Tim Duncan in 1997.
With the current lottery system, the best young players end up in losing teams with losing cultures. And the worst-sufferers are mid-tier teams who aren’t good enough to get past the First Round or bad enough to rebuild from the draft.
So here’s my wacky solution: change the lottery radically to give everyone - including playoff teams - an equal chance in the draft order. The Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers should have the same shot at the number one pick. This way, bad teams won’t always be rewarded, good teams won’t always be punished, and where a player ends up will depend on pure, equal luck.
But anyway, this might finally be the year that even the Cavs’ incompetent brain-trust might not be able to screw up their number one pick. That is because the 2014 draft class is touted to be one of the deepest in history. There might not be any clear cut superstars like Duncan, LeBron or Anthony Davis on the horizon, but there are enough players who could truly help change the fortunes of a franchise. Even if the Cavaliers don’t draft the best player, they will likely draft someone who won’t be a complete disaster.
Who will that someone be? Most mock drafts have either Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins (both Kansas) or Jabari Parker (Duke) going at number one. Draft fortune and ratings can change dramatically between now and Draft Day of course, depending on player workouts, trades and team needs, but it is unlikely that the Cavaliers will go for someone outside of these top three.
And even if they do, there is a long list of decent prospects down the wire. Australia’s Dante Exum, Kentucky’s Julius Randle, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, Arizona’s Aaron Gordon and Indiana’s Noah Vonleh will all be watched closely by the teams making lottery picks. With so much talent available, I would even go as far as saying that the top seven picks of this year will all be better than anyone picked in the 2013 draft. If there was ever a good year to be in the lottery, it was this one.
For Indian fans, there will be extra attention on the Draft this year on the tailend of the picks. New Mexico State's 7-foot-5 giant Sim Bhullar surprisingly declared for the draft last month. It seems unlikely that Bhullar will get drafted, but if he does, he could become the first player of Indian origin in the NBA.
Here are the full 2014 Draft Lottery results: 1. Cleveland Cavaliers 2. Milwaukee Bucks 3. Philadelphia 76ers 4. Orlando Magic 5. Utah Jazz 6. Boston Celtics 7. Los Angeles Lakers 8. Sacramento Kings 9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit Pistons). 10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans Pelicans 11. Denver Nuggets 12. Orlando (via Denver Nuggets). 13. Minnesota Timberwolves 14. Phoenix Suns
Teams picking in the top five after the Cavs – the Bucks, the 76ers, the Magic and the Jazz, won’t be too disappointed for not winning number one. Any of them could end up with the big franchise-changing star if they find the right fit.
The 76ers will be picking third and 10th, giving them a real chance to bounce back and boost their roster from the recently-concluded season’s miserable run. The Kings have already made intentions clear that they want to trade away their eighth pick for a veteran.
But the team facing the most scrutiny, yet again, will be the Cavaliers. They need to find the right fit to play next to Irving, Waiters, Thompson, Bennett and Anderson Varejao. They need to find a new coach, too. And they’ll be looking ahead, with hopes of tempting LeBron James back to Cleveland if they can finally have the pieces that will tempt their former superstar.
Once more, the Cavs are on the clock.