Commentary: Cleveland Cavs Must Make This No. 1 Pick Work

Franchise won’t find a LeBron, but it can pluck solid gold from NBA Draft.

Posted: 05/21/2014 11:52 AM EDT
Anthony Bennett

No. 1 with an asterisk — that might be the best way to describe the good fortune the Cleveland Cavaliers and their faithful experienced Tuesday night. In an NBA Draft lottery that was not leaning heavily in their favor, the Cavaliers came away with the No. 1 overall pick.

Haven’t they been here before?

Yes!

Just a year ago, lottery-watchers saw the Cavaliers grab the No. 1 overall pick as well. And two seasons before that, the team also had the No. 1 overall pick, a pick its front office used to draft Kyrie Irving, the best player to wear a Cavs uniform whose name wasn’t LeBron James.

In a luckless city like Cleveland, the Cavaliers didn’t have the same fortune when they used that pick last June. They came away with some no-talent, undersized forward from UNLV named Anthony Bennett.

He couldn’t play defense; he couldn’t play offense; he just couldn’t play — period. The Cavs would have loved a do-over, because a couple of names that followed Bennett’s would have been nice complements to Irving and might have saved coach Mike Brown’s job.

But even the inept front office of the Cavaliers and their petulant owner, Dan Gilbert, can’t mess up this No. 1 pick. The June draft is so deep in talent that Gilbert can close his eyes and end up with someone better than Bennett.

Will Gilbert find the next LeBron?

No, because a LeBron James comes around as often as an unbeaten team in men’s college basketball. But a LaMarcus Aldridge, an Anthony Davis or a Chris Paul, though the Cavaliers don’t need a point guard, is there for the picking.

Want a big name?

He’s there in 7-foot Joel Embiid of Kansas, whom scouts compare to Tim Duncan and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Want a difference-maker at shooting guard?

Here comes Andrew Wiggins, all 6-8 of him. Scouts see a bit of a young Vince Carter and Rudy Gay in Wiggins.

And if Gilbert has tired of Tristan Thompson, an above-average but frustrated power forward, he can find Thompson’s replacement in Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh or Aaron Gordon.

But Gilbert won’t have to weigh whether to cast his lot with another Bennett-like reach or kick around the idea of an injured Nerlens Noel or a limited Otto Porter Jr.

Gilbert and his front office will just have to stay out of the way and figure out which talent fits their need best. Now, that’s not as easy as it might seem, because Irving might be a reluctant returnee. The Cavaliers do have leverage here, but if they’re building for the long haul, they need to get Irving all-in or let him go now.

For whatever he’s inclined to do will make it easier on the Cavaliers to use the No. 1 overall pick wisely.

But wisdom and Cleveland sports make odd bedfellows. The city hasn’t seen a title since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House, and even with the No. 1 pick, the city isn’t getting LeBron-era redux.

What the city and its sports fans can get is a down payment on better days, and a luckless city like Cleveland could use better days. Or its sports fans, if Gilbert does something utterly senseless, will be looking at more and more seasons of mediocrity.

’Cause do they really want to sit and wait one day longer for LeBron to return?

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images)


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