Twice as Nice

May 21, 2013
Nick Gilbert + Dan Gilbert

When the Wine and Gold won the NBA Lottery in 2003, they had the greatest odds going in and it felt like the franchise’s destiny. When they won it in 2011, it seemed like justice after the previous season’s heartbreak and subsequent struggles. But when Nick Gilbert and the Cavaliers won it Tuesday night – bypassing the Wizards and Magic in what felt like a late rally – it came as a complete shocker.

For the second time in the past three seasons, the Wine and Gold won the rights to the top pick in the NBA Draft. And again, they defied the odds to do it.

Cleveland went into the evening with a 15.6 percent chance – or 1-in-66 – of winning the Lottery. (They had just a 2.8 percent chance of taking the top pick in 2011, utilizing the L.A. Clippers’ pick acquired in the Mo Williams-Baron Davis deal.)

But when Washington’s pick vaulted from eighth into the top five, Cleveland knew it’d be getting a top 3 pick. It turned out much better than that.

After finishing with the league’s worst mark, Orlando had the best chance to win, 25 percent. The Cavs finished with the third-worst record at 24-58, but for the sixth time under the modern Lottery format, a team in that spot took the Draft’s top prize. Unfortunately for the Magic, the team with the best odds didn’t win it – and hasn’t since 2004.

The Cavs’ dragon-slayer once again was Nick Gilbert – who, like his 10-man entourage that included his dad and several local celebrities – was clad in his now-iconic wine-colored bowtie. Nick was born with Neurofibromatosis (NF), a nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow anywhere in the body at any time, and his first win back in 2011 came on NF Awareness Day.

“I think we’re all going to ask Nick Gilbert to buy lottery tickets for us, moving forward,” joked Chris Grant, who watched the Lottery at Cleveland Clinic Courts with his front office staff as well as new head coach Mike Brown. “Fantastic job by Nick. I’m really excited for him. But I’m most excited for our fans.”

After winning the 2013 Lottery, Dan Gilbert was asked what the victory means to the Cavaliers franchise.

“It means a lot,” quipped Gilbert. “It means thank God that none of us are Chris Grant right now. He’s got a tough decision. As everybody knows this year is a little bit different than most years where there’s a clear No. 1 pick. This year can go several ways, so Chris and the staff have got a tough job in front of them, but they’ve been doing a lot of research and working hard all year to figure it out.”

The Cavaliers were the night’s big winners, as were the Wizards, who leapfrogged to the third spot in the 2013 Draft. The Bobcats – who recently applied to change their team’s name – couldn’t change their team’s luck. Last year, Charlotte had the best chance to land the top pick but finished second. On Tuesday night, they had the second-best odds to win, but instead finished fourth.

“This is another valuable asset that we can add to the group – whether it be in a trade or (we) keep it and add a player – and that goes for this pick or the No. 19 pick,” said Grant. “And we have a lot picks moving forward, which is the position we wanted to put the team in. It doesn’t guarantee success on the court, but it gives you an amazing about of opportunity and flexibility, which we think, in this business, is pretty important.”

At this point, a consensus No. 1 overall pick hasn’t emerged. Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, Kansas two-guard Ben McLemore and Georgetown small forward Otto Porter, Jr. are some of the names mentioned early in the process. But so many things can change between Tuesday night’s drawing and Draft night on June 27.

The Cavaliers head into that that big Thursday night with four picks in the top 33 – now including the No. 1 overall choice.

Despite his incredible run of good luck, Dan Gilbert asserted that he and his contingent don’t have any intention of returning to Times Square any time soon. And securing the top pick on Tuesday could mean the franchise is testing its luck in the playoffs instead of the Lottery.

“We were hoping, regardless of what pick we got, that this would be our last Lottery,” concluded the Cavaliers owner. “We thought originally, after everything had to be reset, that it would be a three-year process. You never know. It could be two or it could be four. But we thought three years. With the No. 1 pick this year, and we also have No. 19, we think this will be the last Lottery for a while.”