Had the lottery worked itself out mathematically, the Cleveland Cavaliers would've had the third pick in the draft. It has been rumored they had their eyes on Georgetown forward Otto Porter, a smooth, ready-made pro at a position of need. Thanks to a bit of luck, they now have the top pick for the second time in three years, affording them the opportunity to take a thin 18-year-old coming off a torn ACL. Such is life in a draft without a sure thing.
The first pick in the draft has undeniable cache and it obviously provides options for whoever holds it, but the Cavs aren’t that much closer to becoming a good basketball team today than they were 24 hours ago. Their core is still very young and will get even younger if they take Nerlens Noel.
Time is still on their side and next year's draft figures to be much stronger. If ever there was a time to remain patient, it's now, but that's not always an easy sell. It didn’t take long for the first trade rumors to make the rounds, courtesy of ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who is as plugged into their situation as anyone.
All of which brings us to LeBron James. The notion that James could return to Cleveland to shepherd an emerging young team to the promised land in a few years is not a new one, but it’s hard to see how moving up a few spots in this draft has all that great an impact.
Two years is an awful long time in the NBA, and GM Chris Grant has his work cut out for him if the Cavs are going to move beyond the intriguing stage of their rebuild. The right trade could kickstart the process or prove to be a fatal error.
Nevertheless, this was obviously a good thing for Grant, who has revamped the roster from the ground up through the draft. There are no more bad contracts left on the books and the Cavs’ cap sheet is relatively clean with only Anderson Varejao commanding anything close to big money at $9 million a year for the next two seasons.
Playing alongside the rugged Varejao and emerging four man Tristan Thompson would be an ideal spot for Noel, who needs time to fill out and develop the rest of his game. In the interim, Kyrie Irving looks like a special talent and Thompson had a very encouraging second season. The jury is still out on Dion Waiters, who was chosen ahead of Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond last year, but the nucleus is starting to take shape.
Aside from the Cavs, the big winners on Tuesday were the Washington Wizards, who bumped up four spots and will have the enviable decision of choosing among a group of players that could include Porter, athletic four Anthony Bennett and defensive dynamo Victor Oladipo. For a team that played .500 ball over the last 50 games and already features John Wall and Bradley Beal, those four spots may be the difference between another losing season and a playoff run.
The Magic will have an interesting choice with the second pick. Not many teams would take Michigan point guard Trey Burke in that spot, but Orlando has stockpiled forwards and has improving center Nik Vucecic in place. Rob Hennigan can go a number of different ways here, and in a draft with this much uncertainty, the lottery results weren’t nearly as catastrophic as they have been in previous years.
The losers, so to speak, were the Bobcats, who moved down a few spots to four, but they need help everywhere. They will do well to get Kansas guard Ben McLemore, Bennett, Porter or Oladipo. Any of them can help and all of them would be an upgrade over what they had last year.
There is talent in every draft and while this one lacks a ready-made franchise player, the pool is just deep and unproven enough to provide a guessing game right up until June 26. So, congrats to the Cavs and their bowtie-wearing entourage. This wasn’t the lottery to win, but every little bit helps when you’re trying to build from scratch.