While the NBA Title contenders battle to cement their legacies in basketball history every spring, the teams that don’t qualify for the playoffs hang their future hopes on the NBA Draft Lottery and subsequent Draft. The “annual rite of renewal” ranks among the most exciting events for struggling franchises and their fans, the number one pick being the ultimate beacon of hope. Some years the first overall pick lands its beneficiary a total game changer such as Magic Johnson, LeBron James or Derrick Rose. Other years a draft class can go a dozen deep, for example in 1996 when Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, Jermaine O’Neal and Kobe Bryant (who was picked 13th overall) entered the league. And many other top candidates who may never evolve into the face of a franchise will certainly be difference-makers for teams that are rebuilding from scratch or continuing to build on a young foundation.
Though the number one pick doesn’t come with any guarantees, it does represent a new beginning and a big step along the road to recovery. After finishing the 2009-10 season with the best regular season record in the league (61-21), the Cavaliers nose-dived to a 19-63 result (worst in the East) after losing their 2003 number one pick LeBron James to the Miami Heat. However a new door opened in poetic fashion for Dan Gilbert and the Cavs at the NBA’s 27th Draft Lottery on Tuesday. The Cavs took home the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the upcoming draft along with the much-needed belief that a new era is at hand.
As is often the case, luck beat the odds in this year’s lottery. The Cavs captured the winning combination with a pick they acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers that had a 2.8 percent chance of winning. Folklore will no doubt credit Gilbert’s 14-year-old son Nick, who stood at the podium as the Cavaliers’ representative during the televised ceremony, for having a lucky hand in the fortunate outcome. I feel so great for Dan Gilbert and his family, the Cleveland Cavaliers organization and the city of Cleveland. This win is terrific for morale, and it gives fans a chance to reaffirm their support for the Cavaliers and the commitment that Dan Gilbert has made to this city.
The Cavs now have a tremendous opportunity to take two of the top draft candidates. Or if they feel it’s in their best interest they can cash in these picks and fill out their roster with three or four other players depending on their needs. Normally if there’s a great big man coming out such as Shaquille O’Neil, Tim Duncan or Blake Griffin he’ll be the top choice. If there’s not a dominant big, then the tendency nowadays is to try and get a great point guard – someone who can run the show and direct traffic. If Baron Davis stays healthy he probably has a few good years remaining in his NBA career. So the Cavaliers may consider capturing a young point guard like Kyrie Irving from Duke while Davis is there to mentor him. But the Cavs also need some other positions filled out. So depending on how they rate the talent in this year’s draft pool they could go in a few different directions.
Whichever direction they decide to go, Cleveland has to feel optimistic about the future of the franchise as they approach the 2011 NBA Draft, which will be held in Newark, N.J. at Prudential Center on Thursday, June 23, 2011.