Lottery Luck Continues for Cavaliers

Cavs Defy Odds, Land Top Pick for Third Time in Past Four Years
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
by Joe Gabriele Managing Editor

Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert and the team’s new general manager, David Griffin, made no bones about not wanting to be back in the Lottery this year. Tuesday night’s results should soften the blow ….

When the Wine and Gold beat the odds in 2011 – jumping up from the No. 8 spot with the Clipper’s pick and a 2.8 percent chance to win the Lottery – it was a great stroke of luck. When the Basketball Gods smiled again in 2013, defying their 15.6 percent chance, it was pretty amazing. But winning it again on Tuesday night – coming up from the No. 9 slot with a 1.7 percent chance – things just seem downright crazy.

There’s probably a more scientific, statistically-appropriate word for it. But when your odds of doing something are as astronomical as Cleveland’s four-year run, you’re talking Carl Sagan-sized numbers. And they add up to the Cavaliers winning the right to the Draft’s top pick for the third time in the past four years – and the sixth time in franchise history.

Nick Gilbert had famously represented the Cavaliers when they won it in 2011 and ’13. On Tuesday night in New York, it was Griffin, with Nick’s signature bowtie in his pocket for good luck. On the lapel of his coat, the new GM wore the angel pin of his grandmother, who passed away this past February.

It was an incredible start for the man who was officially hired to be at the helm of the front office just eight days ago. In one month, he’ll hold the No. 1 and No. 33 overall picks in the 2014 Draft.

“When Cleveland didn’t’ pop up at nine, I knew obviously we had moved up and I had to gather myself for a second,” said Griffin. “It’s just a remarkable feeling.”

From Phoenix through Philadelphia, the first five picks of the drawing went according to script. But when Detroit fell to the No. 9 (a pick owed to Charlotte) the Cavaliers knew it would be a top three selection. At that point, it was between Milwaukee – which had a 1-in-4 shot to win the No. 1, and Philadelphia, which had a 1-in-5 shot.

The Cavaliers – who tabbed Kyrie Irving and Anthony Bennett with their two most recent top selections – will go down in Lottery history for their run of good luck, joining the Magic, who won it in back-to-back seasons in 1992 and ’93 and the 2008 Bulls, the only other team to make the climb from No. 9.

But the Wine and Gold weren’t looking to make history on Tuesday. They were hoping for the best outcome to improve a young-and-improving roster (and another visit from Lady Luck) – and got both.

“We will try to get radically better, much quicker,” explained Griffin. “We really feel like there’s a sense of urgency in improving our team as a whole and we’re going to look for the right fit and we’re very open-minded to what that really means.”

Cleveland has had six first-rounders in the previous three Drafts, including Irving and Bennett. Tristan Thompson joined Kyrie in 2011 and Cleveland selected Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller the following year. Last season, Sergey Karasev was drafted 18 picks after Bennett.

Three of the biggest names to emerge from this year’s pool include Kansas’ seven-footer, Joel Embiid, Duke forward Jabari Parker and Jayhawks forward, Andrew Wiggins. All three declared after their freshman season.

The Cavaliers are more than happy to have the top pick in this June’s draft, whether they choose from the projected top three players or go in a different direction. Griffin certainly didn’t tip his hand on Tuesday.

“I think it’s beyond the No. 1 pick,” said Griffin. “We’ve talked a lot about improving our floor spacing and our basketball IQ, we need to improve our toughness, we’re a team with several needs quite frankly, and we need to address our fit as much as anything else.

”Big-picture-wise is where our focus is, and the first pick is just a piece of that puzzle. It doesn’t answer anything for us, there’s no savior here. It’s all just about putting the pieces together in one puzzle.”

The top pick in the 2014 Draft is just one piece of the Wine and Gold’s puzzle. But it’s nice to have the piece of their choosing in 38 days to try and solve it.

The Cavaliers have been pretty good at winning this Lottery thing. But they really don’t want to try it again next year.

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