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Cavs first-overall pick provides hope, options

June 5, 2014

By Kevin Liszka

The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA's draft lottery for an unprecedented third time in four years on Tuesday, May 20.
It was a stroke of good fortune that energized the franchise after what had otherwise proved to be a deflating season of poor basketball and organizational turnover.


Prior to this, dark clouds were looming over the team's headquarters in Independence. After posting another sub-.500 record, the team fired its general manager and head coach, infighting left the team's all-star trade acquisition Loul Deng — an unrestricted free-agent this offseason — disgusted and unlikely to return.All indications were that for a variety of reasons the Cavs’ budding star point guard Kyrie Irving was not long for all the dysfunction in Cleveland, and that is without even mentioning the disaster that has been the Anthony Bennett experience.

Anthony Bennett in a brighter moment this past season

Now that ping pong ball won't crack like an Easter egg, revealing a magic pill inside that new Cavaliers general manager David Griffin can ingest to give him all of the answers; the Cavs still have to find the right head coach. Deng is just as unlikely to return. To the dismay of Irving and fellow guard Dion Waiters, the game of basketball is still only played with one ball.However, the development of the Cavaliers defying the odds and landing the No. 1 pick does significantly change the team's outlook for this summer.


The Cavs hold the top pick in what is being widely declared as the strongest draft class since 2003 including LeBron, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade) to add to an already decent stockpile of athletes. They have the cap flexibility and assets to go and get more veteran players too. Considering this, the Cavs job looks all the more appealing to potential head coaches.


Over the weekend on WKRK-FM Sam Amico, Cavs beat reporter for Fox Sports Ohio reported that the team is going to go with a highly offensive-minded head coach as opposed to a defensive specialist the likes of former head coach Mike Brown. "The old defense grind it out ugly game that's the NBA of five, six, seven years ago," Amico said. He said he expects the Cavaliers to take their time interviewing candidates to find the right fit. “I don't think they're going to make a decision before June 15 or so," Amico said.


In theory, a coaching change and retooled supporting cast also looks better to Kyrie Irving, due to opt into a max extension, to entice him to stay around a little longer. Back in April, at the conclusion of the Cavs season, Bob Finnan of the News-Herald wrote that the Cavs are indeed expected to offer Irving a five-year, $80 million contract extension July 1st. Whether or not Irving accepts is still up for debate.

Potentially, the roster also looks more appealing for one LeBron James’ potential return, whose shadowy omnipresence still looms large over the franchise much like Sauron's eye in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

The thesis is simple and reads like script from Disney; after assessing his options, James, who can opt out of his contract at season's end, compares the young collection of talent being amassed in Cleveland to an increasingly geriatric Miami Heat squad and decides to come home to right the wrongs of "The Decision" and win multiple titles for the moribund sports city.
There are a number of flaws to that logic, but getting James back would represent the ultimate coup for the Cavaliers.

Cleveland.com's Chris Fedor caught that former Cavs head coach Mike Brown said as much in an interview two weeks ago on Dan LeBatard's ESPN radio show. "I think they will definitely try and make a run at him," Brown said. "With him being from this area it makes more sense for Cleveland to go after him than any other team besides the Miami Heat."


Of course, none of this matters if the Cavaliers do not make the right pick come June 26th.


So who do they take? Do the Cavs take the seven-foot center that runs the floor like a guard in Joel Embiid? Perhaps they bank on the potential of Andrew Wiggins, who can jump out of the gym. Or, the Cavs could buy into the on-court production of a player like Duke's Jabari Parker, who many scouts believe could average 15-and-10 his rookie year.

The leader in the clubhouse at this point seems to be Embiid, with most mock drafts listing him atop their boards. Amico endorses the selection saying, "I'm gonna go with Joel Embiid right now," when asked who he thought the Cavs would take if the draft were held today.

The concern with him is that he has only played three years of organized basketball and is coming off a back injury suffered this past season. Also, the list of big man draft busts through NBA history - Sam Bowie, Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown, Hasheem Thabeet and Greg Oden, just to name a few, - reads about as long as that of Cleveland Browns quarterbacks of the past 15 years.

The Cavaliers gaining the number one overall pick provides hope and options moving forward. In the four years since LeBron James left, Cavalier fans have kept the franchise among the upper half of the league in attendance, averaging about 85 percent capacity per game, according to ESPN's Stats and Information department.

That goodwill will wane the longer the losing continues. Look no further than across the street at the empty seats at Progressive Field for an example of what can happen when the fans turn.
The NBA has the least documented parity of the four major sports - only eight different teams have won an NBA title in the past 30 years. With all the chips seemingly falling into place for the Cavaliers in a cold weather, mid-major market, it seems to be win now or forever hold your place in NBA no-man's land.