The Cavaliers are the undisputed champion when it comes to the NBA Draft Lottery.
With just a 1.7 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the June 26 NBA Draft, Cleveland did exactly that Tuesday night in New York.
It was the second year in a row and third time in the last four years that the Cavs won the lottery. Nick Gilbert, the son of owner Dan Gilbert, represented the franchise onstage the first three years, but general manager David Griffin did the honors this time.
“In the words of the great Nick Gilbert, ‘What’s not to like?’” said Griffin, who had the teenager’s lucky bowtie in his pocket. Asked about the tie, the GM said, “I didn’t wear it because nobody else can swing Thor’s hammer.”
“Just got done w/ a speech & they told me we won when I sat down,” Dan Gilbert tweeted. “I said “that’s not a funny joke.” It’s true? I am speechless. I love Cleveland!”
Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins, who declared for the draft after his freshman season, is considered the likely No. 1 pick, but Duke small forward Jabari Parker and Jayhawks center Joel Embid, also freshmen, are possibilities as well.
“For several years, thinking anybody is a franchise player is a mistake,” Griffin said. “These kids are going to be as good as the environment you put them in. We need to raise these kids in the right soil. … To think there’s a savior in the draft is just not fair to those kids.
“If you look at the top picks, they’re all really young kids with a lot of upside,” he added. “But I don’t think any of them are finished products.”
Griffin, who last week had the interim tag removed from his GM title after taking over for the fired Chris Grant on Feb. 6, didn’t rule out trading the pick if a favorable offer were made to the Cavs. Cleveland also will have the third pick in the second round, which will be No. 33 overall.
“I think we’re very open-minded to a lot of things,” Griffin said. “I’d trade me if it made us better.”
Having the No. 1 pick for the third time in four years — Cleveland took Kyrie Irving in 2011 and Anthony Bennett in 2013 — creates a lot of intriguing possibilities for the Cavs, who are looking to piece together a roster that fits better and also searching for a coach to replace Mike Brown.
Bulls assistant Adrian Griffin, former Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins and Alvin Gentry, who has been a head coach with the Heat, Pistons, Clippers and Suns, have been among the most talked-about candidates, but the job could become more attractive now that the Cavs own the top pick.
Landing a player like Wiggins or Parker — or making a blockbuster trade — could also increase the chances of Irving signing a contract extension this summer.
“Luck of the Ping pong balls…Very exciting!!!” Irving tweeted.
Even given the coaching opening and Irving’s contract situation, the most discussed topic will be the possible free agency of LeBron James, drafted No. 1 when the Cavs won the lottery in 2003.
The small forward can elect to stay with Miami for another season, but the thought of playing with Irving, Wiggins, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anderson Varejao, Jarrett Jack and free agent Spencer Hawes could be tempting enough for him to opt out of his contract, especially because the Cavs will have more than enough salary cap space to offer him a max deal.
In addition, Minnesota power forward Kevin Love announced recently he will not re-sign with the Timberwolves when his contract expires in July 2015, so he’ll be the subject of a lot of trade rumors. The Cavs could put together an offer that includes Waiters and Thompson or Waiters and Varejao, but Chicago and Golden State were said to be Love’s top choices prior to the lottery.
“What we really need to do is get a better fit for our roster,” Griffin said. “We’ve got an awful lot of talent.”
The Cavs finished with the ninth-worst record in the league at 33-49 and could have wound up picking first, second (2.0 percent chance), third (2.4), ninth (81.3), 10th (12.2), 11th (0.4) or 12th (minuscule).
As soon as their logo wasn’t revealed at the ninth pick, they were guaranteed of being in the top three. Philadelphia, which had a 19.9 percent chance of picking first, wound up with the third pick and Milwaukee, which had a 25 percent chance of getting the top selection, got the No. 2 choice.
“When I saw our card wasn’t at nine, my first reaction was, ‘Oh, my God, we’ve moved up, that’s unbelievable,’” Griffin said. “When I saw the third card come up and it wasn’t us, I almost had to catch myself. I was ecstatic.”