After LeBron James bolted for greener pastures in Miami, the Cleveland Cavaliers have received five lottery selections including this year’s draft:
- 2011: Kyrie Irving 1st. Tristan Thompson 4th
- 2012: Dion Waiters 4th
- 2013: Anthony Bennett 1st
- 2014: TBD 1st
That’s three No. 1 picks in four years. Aside from the fact that it’s almost comical any team is actually allowed to have so many No. 1 picks, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been the single luckiest team in the NBA Draft Lottery in recent years. They had the ninth worst record in the league this year, giving the Cavs a 1.7 percent chance of snatching the number on pick. Yet they did.
Chris Grant, the recently fired ex-GM of the Cavs, gets a lot of flack for numerous bad free agent signings and mediocre draft choices, but he did have one absolutely massive coup: Trading Mo Williams and Jamario Moon for Baron Davis and the lottery pick that turned turned into Kyrie Irving.
Even with all the lottery luck, unfortunately the post-LeBron era has been close to a fiasco. Since Irving was drafted, the Cavs have finished twice as the third worst team in the NBA record-wise and this year they missed the postseason for the fourth consecutive year. All the while, they traded away five draft picks, including a first rounder (that will likely be conveyed during 2015-16 or 2016-17 season to the Chicago Bulls) for Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes, who are both expiring contracts. There’s a high probability that at least one of them will leave in free agency.
Waiters and Irving haven’t really found a connection on the court. Both of them have needed the ball in their hands to succeed and add Jarrett Jack to that mix on a long-term deal and you’re running out of basketballs on the court. For now it looks they completely screwed up when they chose Bennett first overall in last year’s draft, and Thompson has stagnated pretty much at “maybe an average power forward”.
Righting the ship is closer than you would think though. The NBA is a weird game where superstars dominate, and there’s a group of about 8-12 players who are so good that they can instantly turn around the fortunes of a franchise. Hit on one of those and you might be set for the next 15 years(unless they bail on you, but the current CBA disincentivizes that quite a bit).
If Joel Embiid turns into the next Hakeem Olajuwon or Andrew Wiggins becomes Tracy McGrady 2.0, the Cavs will be in an amazing position (provided they go with a more consensus type of pick this time around). Despite a bit of a disappointing season, Irving is one of the most dynamic and talented offensive players in the league and Waiters should at the very least be an awesome sixth man when used correctly. One great draft selection and a good season from all the other young guys and you go from “depressing” to “up-and-coming” in the eyes of the world.
But the Cavs can thank the heavens for the NBA Lottery, which can give even the worst decision-making organizations a lucky second chance at redeeming themselves. The Cavs seriously need to send Adam Silver flowers or sponsor the team USA ping pong squad in the next olympics.
Initial Lottery Spot: 2nd -> picked at No. 4. 8th(Via LAC) -> Picked at No.1
Odds of having picks turning into what the Cavs got or better: 16.2%
Initial Lottery Spot: 3rd -> picked at No. 4.
Odds of having picks turning into what the Cavs got or better: 66.4%
Initial Lottery Spot: 3rd -> picked at No. 1.
Odds of No. 1 pick: 15.6%
Initial Lottery Spot: 9th -> will be picked at No. 1.
Odds of No. 1 pick: 1.7%
Add that all up and what you get is this fact: The Cavs picked in the 99.8 percentile of all possible outcomes. 2 in 1,000.
Performance of picks vs. Expectations
*In Win Shares/48. All numbers are percentages compared to average. Stats per Basketball-Reference.com from past 36 NBA Drafts.
Irving and Thompson are performing a bit above what you would expect from a first and fourth pick. They are young and should improve to be above average picks since these numbers are compared to full career archs. Bennett on the other hand is statistically the single worst first pick in NBA history right now. Waiters has been pretty bad so far but he’s talented and has a chance to make a real leap if he focuses on being more efficient, a more willing playmaker and defender.