CLEVELAND: Hours before the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night in New York City, Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wrote on his Twitter account that this would be the last lottery he attends for quite a few years.
The end result might go a long way in proving that true.
The Cavs defied the odds for the second time in three years, winning the No. 1 pick again in the June 27 NBA Draft. They cashed in on a 15.6 percent chance at the top pick after finishing the season with the third-worst record. They passed the Charlotte Bobcats and the Orlando Magic, who had a 25 percent chance at lottery victory after finishing with the league’s worst record.
“We were hoping, regardless of what pick we got, that this would be our last lottery,” Gilbert said. “We thought originally after everything had to be reset that it would be a three-year process. You never know. It could be two or it could be four, but we thought three years. With the No. 1 pick this year … we think this will be the last lottery for a while here.”
It is the third time in 10 years the Cavs have won the lottery. The first brought LeBron James and the second secured Kyrie Irving two years ago. This lottery victory leaves the franchise in an enviable position — regardless of the strength of this draft.
Nerlens Noel is the projected top pick, but with two first-round selections (Nos. 1 and 19) and four of the top 33 picks, about $18 million in cap space and strong motivation to improve quickly, the Cavs are again in control of the draft season.
Noel averaged 10.5 points and 9.5 rebounds during his freshman season at Kentucky, but is raw offensively and won’t be ready for the start of the season. Noel played in 23 games before an ACL injury ended his season. He said at the combine last week he isn’t expected to play until December.
Other options for the Cavs, should they elect to keep the pick, are Kansas guard Ben McLemore, Georgetown small forward Otto Porter and UNLV forward Anthony Bennett.
General Manager Chris Grant watched the lottery from Cleveland Clinic Courts with the rest of the front office and new coach Mike Brown. As NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver pulled the Magic’s card for the second pick, leaving the Cavs No. 1 again, Grant said there was more disbelief in the room than anything else.
“It’s always a surprise, but you never expect to have two No. 1 picks in three years,” Grant said. “We’re all looking at each other like, ‘Is this happening? Do we have to push rewind?’ We’re excited for the city, for the fans and the organization. It’s a good day.”
It’s no guarantee the Cavs use this pick. The No. 1 pick in the draft hasn’t been traded in 20 years, when the Magic traded Chris Webber to the Golden State Warriors, but this could be the year that streak ends.
With no clear-cut consensus at the top of the board and the Cavs searching for a talented veteran this summer to add to their young nucleus, this could provide the perfect storm to get something done. Grant did not rule out trading the pick.
“We’re open,” he said. “We’re going to look at all our options.”
The Cavs’ winning number combination Tuesday was 8-3-6-7. In the lottery victory two years ago, the numbers were 14-3-7-8.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.