When LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers in the summer of 2010, the Cavs owner Dan Gilbert promised in an open letter that Cleveland would win an NBA title before James did. While Gilbert has since had to eat his words, the Cavaliers' recent travails have not been down to an absence of luck.
Last night the Cavs won the NBA draft lottery for the second time in a row, meaning they will have the number one pick in the draft for the third time since LeBron left.
On top of their three number one picks we must also remember the two number four picks in the 2011 and 2012 drafts. And despite all this good fortune, the Cavs are still yet to make the play-offs in the post-LeBron era and have failed to build a team that has a distinct identity. One must ask how the Cavs have botched their rebuilding effort so badly?
The Cavs’ 2011 lottery win yielded All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. In Irving it seemed as though Cleveland’s dreams had come true and when he won the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 2012, averaging 18.5 points and 5.4 assists per game it looked as though the Cavs had managed to replace LeBron with another superstar.
And while Irving continued to improve in his second year, becoming an All-Star in the process, the Cavs failed to surround him with enough quality teammates and Cleveland finished the 2012/2013 season with a worse record than the previous year, ultimately costing head coach Byron Scott his job.
This season has been a difficult one for Irving. He’s seen his field goal percentage, 3 point percentage and points per game drop while still failing to lead his team to the play-offs. Irving’s personal struggle to step up as a leader combined with a fractious locker room atmosphere and a disastrous season for the Cavs 2013 number one pick Anthony Bennett has left the Cavs in an absolute mess.
However, if there was ever a quick fire solution to the Cavs’ troubles the 2014 draft is it. This years draft class is touted as one of the mots talented in NBA history and winning a top three pick was sure to give a team a shot at one of three potentially franchise changing players.
Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker all project as NBA superstars should they reach their full potential. In winning the number one pick the Cavs will be spoiled for choice come June 26th.
In terms of the Cavs best option, it seems as though all avenues are available to them. At center Embiid would probably offer Cleveland the most long-term upside.
His already developed post-game and shot-blocking instincts could transform into Hakeem Olajuwon type ability 5-6 years down the line, provided his back troubles prove not to be a chronic issue. Andrew Wiggins enters the draft as the premier athlete in the 2014 class. This athletic ability will translate instantly on the defensive end of the floor and while his offensive game will require some polishing, Wiggins could contribute to the Cavs right away were they to pick him.
Finally, the Cavs could go with the most polished player in the draft by taking Jabari Parker (pictured top). Parker is undoubtedly the most NBA ready player available and could provide Cleveland with an immediate boost to their offense. On the defensive end of the floor, however, Parker has proven to be somewhat of a liability.
He had to taken out of the game at crucial periods of the game during Duke’s NCAA championship bid and this may concern the Cavs if they want the immediate two-way production Wiggins and Embiid can offer.