When the Cavaliers’ private jet returned to Cleveland early Wednesday morning carrying the No. 1 pick, Dan Gilbert and crew brought back something even more valuable: options.
By winning the NBA lottery Tuesday night and securing the top overall pick in next month’s draft, the opportunities available to the Cavs now are truly limitless and extend far beyond one pick at the top of a meager draft board.
The endgame in all of this has always been to make the organization as appealing as possible for a stellar free-agent class in 2014 — headlined, of course, by LeBron James. The Cavs needed to find a way to upgrade the talent on the roster this summer while still preserving enough cap space to take on a max contract next year. That’s no easy task, but falling into the No. 1 pick for the second time in three years is a great way to do it.
The Cavs will most certainly make and take phone calls for the top pick, but there are plenty of teams down on this draft and trying to get out of their draft spots, so how much the Cavs could command for the top pick right now is unclear.
They will be involved in countless trade rumors over the next month, and the names haven’t really changed: Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, among others.
Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies have advanced to the Western Conference finals, making a trade involving him this summer unlikely. Love’s biggest problem in Minnesota has been removed with the firing of David Kahn, so it’s unlikely the organization would agree to move him now.
The Cavs have been trying to pry Aldridge out of Portland for years, but the Trail Blazers have made it clear their No. 10 pick is available for a legitimate starting center. They obviously want to pair that center alongside Aldridge, not break apart a fairly promising nucleus that also includes unanimous Rookie of the Year choice Damian Lillard.
Aldridge has pouted and been moody at times, according to people in Portland, but it’s still hard to imagine the Blazers trading away one of the premier power forwards in the league who is under their control for two more years.
Still, General Manager Chris Grant and Blazers GM Neil Olshey agreed to the Mo Williams/Baron Davis trade that ultimately brought Kyrie Irving to Cleveland while Olshey was in charge of the Los Angeles Clippers, so there is some history. Olshey, meanwhile, remains close friends with Cavs assistant GM David Griffin, so the two sides clearly know each other.
Long before Tuesday’s lottery drawing, the Cavs began kicking the tires on ways to add a third pick to the first round of this draft. Yes, they already have the Nos. 1, 19, 31 and 33 selections, but why stop there? The Cavs could bundle 31 and 33 (the first and third picks of the second round) to move into the late first round or they could trade a player (Anderson Varejao?) for an outright first-round pick.
Remember how the Blazers are looking for a center? Varejao fits the criteria, although trading the No. 10 pick in the draft for a guy who has played the equivalent of one season in the past three is awfully risky and unwise.
Plenty of picks in this draft will be available, beginning with the Blazers’ pick and perhaps the Dallas Mavericks’ pick at No. 13.
ESPN reported the Mavericks don’t want their pick because they’re trying to save as much cap space as possible for a daring run at free-agent center Dwight Howard. If the Mavericks are serious about unloading the pick and the Cavs are serious about acquiring a third pick in the first round, there could be a match here. The two teams got together last year when the Cavs traded three picks to the cap-conscious Mavericks in order to move up seven spots and draft Tyler Zeller.
Grant has proven he isn’t scared off by bad drafts.
Remember the Irving draft of 2010, which was dismissed as awful? Grant feverishly worked the phones on draft day, trying desperately to add a third pick in the top 10. He couldn’t do it, but still left the night with Irving and Tristan Thompson as the first two pieces to this massive rebuild.
If the Cavs don’t like the offers and are forced to stay at No. 1 — the last time the No. 1 pick was traded was 20 years ago — Nerlens Noel is not the obvious choice. The Cavs’ front office is believed to be divided on Noel — which isn’t all that surprising, since executives rarely agree on all the picks.
The Cavs were equally divided on whether or not to take Irving two years ago because a faction of the organization wanted Derrick Williams instead. Likewise, the selection of Thompson over Jonas Valanciunas wasn’t unanimous, either.
As for Noel, he isn’t expected to play until Christmas and he’ll be a rookie with no real training camp. He is limited offensively, and if the Cavaliers are serious about winning next season, they’d have to do it without their top pick.
The good news is they have a little over a month to weigh trade offers and prospects at the top of the board. Regardless of how it ends, the Cavs are in control of the NBA Draft.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at email@example.com. 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.