For the third time in four years, the Cleveland Cavaliers received a big stroke of luck. Only this time, there’s a new man in charge, a new man to decide what to do with the No. 1 overall draft pick.
That man is David Griffin, officially hired as the team’s general manager a little more than a week ago. On Tuesday night, he sat on a stage in New York, where it was revealed the Cavs had moved up to land the top spot via the NBA draft lottery.
The Cavs, who finished with the ninth-worst record and owned just a 1.7 percent chance of winning, hold the top selection for the second straight year.
"It’s a really defining moment for us," Griffin said.
Griffin was hired as the team’s acting GM in early February, following the dismissal of former GM Chris Grant. Griffin and the Cavs then fired coach Mike Brown after Brown’s first season of his second stint with the team.
So the Cavaliers have to hire a coach, and again, decide what to do with the No. 1 pick. Top prospects include Kansas center Joel Embiid, Kansas swingman Andrew Wiggins and Duke forward Jabari Parker. All three are expected to make an immediate impact in the NBA.
But Griffin cautioned not to get too fixated on any names just yet.
"I think it’s not necessarily limited to three names that are more highly hyped," he said. "We’ve got to do a more thorough evaluation of all of the guys to know that we’re not doing something too quickly. When you’re looking at the guys who have all the hype, they have that because of their upside and athleticism.
"There’s more to it than just those three guys that people talk about."
Griffin could also potentially use the pick as a major trade chip. There’s talk around the league that exploring a deal is exactly what Griffin may try to do — as the Cavs are looking to put a top-flight veteran next to star point guard Kyrie Irving in an effort to win big (or at least bigger) right away.
Sources said Grant offered the forward Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and the top pick for Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love last summer. The Wolves rejected the offer and the Cavs ended up drafting Anthony Bennett, the forward out of UNLV who struggled mightily in his first season.
But word around the league is Love has told the Wolves he won’t re-sign after next season. Therefore, league insiders believe, the Wolves may have softened their stance on trading him.
The No. 1 overall selection and coaching search are just two of the many things on Griffin’s plate. Irving is eligible to sign a maximum contract extension in July, when forward Luol Deng, center Spencer Hawes and swingman C.J. Miles all become unrestricted free agents, able to sign with any team.
And, of course, there’s the possibility that Miami Heat star LeBron James opts out of his current contract — which would only increase the buzz surrounding James’ former team in Cleveland.
The Cavs were hoping to avoid the lottery this year, the goal being to qualify for the playoffs. Instead, they were as disjointed as ever under Brown, with most players (Irving included) struggling to get into any sort of a rhythm offensively.
So the Cavs downplayed the event — with familiar faces such as owner Dan Gilbert and son Nick Gilbert staying home. But Griffin did reveal Nick Gilbert’s famous bowtie Tuesday night, then uttered Nick Gilbert’s famous line from the lottery that landed Irving: "What’s not to like?" Griffin asked, smiling.
Out of 1,000 possible combinations of four ping-pong balls, the Cavs owned just 17. The Milwaukee Bucks, owners of the league’s worst record, owned 250 combinations.
But the Bucks wound up with the No. 2 pick, followed by the Philadelphia 76ers, Orlando Magic, Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, respectively. The Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Hornets, Sixers, Denver Nuggets, Magic, Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns, respectively, round out the rest of the lottery.