Lady Luck might not have been on the Cleveland Cavaliers' side throughout the 2010-11 NBA season, as the team struggled early and often after losing LeBron James(notes) to the Miami Heat last summer. But she donned the wine and gold on Tuesday night at the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery in Secaucus, N.J., where the Cavaliers came away with two of the top four picks in this June's draft, including the top overall selection.
How lucky did Cleveland get on Tuesday? While the Cavaliers owned the lottery's second-highest odds of winning the top pick after finishing the year with the league's second-worst record (19-63), it was actually a ping-pong ball they'd received in a mid-season trade with the Los Angeles Clippers for beleaguered point guard Baron Davis(notes) that netted them No. 1 — a scenario that only had a 2.8 percent chance of coming to fruition. Their own entry, which had a 19.9 percent shot at the top slot, wound up drawing No. 4.
After finishing the season with an NBA-worst 17-65 record, the Minnesota Timberwolves entered Tuesday night with a 25 percent chance of leaving with the No. 1 draft pick. Instead, David Kahn and company came away with No. 2, continuing what Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press fairly deemed "their unbelievable lottery losing streak." The franchise has failed to come away with the top spot in 14 consecutive drawings, dropping below their ping-pong-ball-predicted draft position in eight lotteries.
While the Clippers were happy to shed Davis' contract and the Nets were thrilled to import Williams to run the point, I'm sure neither team is especially thrilled to have traded away a top-three draft pick right about now. The "moral of the story," according to draftnik Jonathan Givony of Draft Express? "[D]on't trade your picks unprotected!"
The Toronto Raptors, who came into the lottery with the third-best odds of taking the top spot (a 15.6 percent chance) will pick fifth, rounding out the top five.
Here's the rest of the lottery order:
10. Milwaukee Bucks
12. Utah Jazz
13. Phoenix Suns
14. Houston Rockets
After the jump: Video of NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver announcing Cleveland's lottery win, the story of the Cavs' good-luck charm, and more.
The Cavs were represented at Tuesday night's lottery drawing by Nick Gilbert, the 14-year-old son of team owner Dan Gilbert (and the young man pictured above in glasses and bowtie), who was sent by his father as a good-luck charm.
The 14-year-old Gilbert, who was born with Neurofibromatosis (NF), a nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow anywhere in the body, will be on stage in New Jersey [...]
Dan Gilbert, the Cavs' energetic owner, feels there's no one better suited to represent his team for the big occasion than his son.
"Despite enduring brain surgery, the loss of vision in one of his eyes, four long rounds of chemotherapy and countless visits and time in doctor's offices and hospitals, he has emerged as the happiest and most optimistic person I know," Gilbert said.
Gilbert said his son has never complained about "the bad card he was dealt."
"He is an example of perseverance, determination and life the way it should be lived," Gilbert said. "Nick is my personal hero."
After the Cavs came away with the No. 1 selection, Nick Gilbert, who is the 2011 National Children's Tumor Foundation Ambassador, turned to Twitter to celebrate the Cavs' good fortune. "Yeahhhhhhh! #1 and #4, baby!!!!!!!" he wrote.
Cleveland is rumored to be enamored of explosive former Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, considered by many a strong candidate for the top pick. Derrick Williams, the dynamic forward who starred for the University of Arizona in this spring's NCAA Tournament, could also draw consideration. Any number of players could slot in with the fourth pick; the name of Turkish big man and one-time University of Kentucky commit Enes Kanter has been raised quite a bit this evening.
While we certainly don't want to rain on the parade of Cavaliers fans, who have had about as dreary a year as a fanbase can have and still show up for their team, it's worth noting that draft and college basketball experts — and I am so, so not in either category — have tabbed this year's draft crop as among the worst in quite some time, with few (if any) star-level talents to be had. That said, as a 19-win team, the Cavs need help, if not outright upgrades, just about everywhere you look, with the possible exceptions of the center and power forward positions, if you're in love with J.J. Hickson's(notes) still developing game (and there are arguments for that) and you think Anderson Varejao(notes) will return to form after suffering a season-ending ankle injury back in January.
Being able to make two of the top five selections should, in theory, help the Cavaliers add young, low-priced talent that can raise the team's ceiling and add depth to its bench. Perhaps more important even than jump-starting a sorely needed post-LeBron rebuilding process on the court, however, adding two smartly chosen new faces for the franchise could help turn the page from the well-worn, now-sad story of what the Cleveland Cavaliers were toward the hopeful tale of what they could one day be again.
After the highly public and much-derided fashion in which James left Cleveland last offseason, most NBA fans and observers outside of Miami found themselves rooting for the Cavs to avoid the seemingly inevitable crash to Earth that tends to accompany losing a superstar of his caliber; there was something akin to a league-wide support system aimed at shepherding the wounded franchise and its fans through a difficult transitional phase. And to be sure, 19 wins and a league-record losing streak was a pretty damned difficult transitional phase. But after the weeping, cursing and gnashing of teeth runs its course, eventually, a new day must dawn. It'd be neat if this lottery wound up being that sunrise for the fans of Cleveland.