The Cavaliers continued their remarkable run Tuesday, winning the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft for the second straight year and third time in the last four. They moved up from the ninth spot, when they had just a 1.7-percent chance of winning the top selection.
“It seems surreal,” Cavs vice chairman Jeff Cohen said. “This is three out of four years and we had a 1.7 percent chance of coming up with the first pick and we pulled it off again.”
They drafted Kyrie Irving first in 2011 and will hope to do better with this win than last year, when they took Anthony Bennett, who had a forgettable rookie season.
Nick Gilbert, the son of Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert, was on the podium for the previous two wins, but general manager David Griffin was there this time.
Griffin had a pin on his lapel from his late grandmother and was carrying one of Nick Gilbert’s bowties, which was as lucky in his breast pocket as it was with Nick wearing it.
The Cavs can now choose among the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid of Kansas, Duke’s Jabari Parker, or another player from what’s considered a deep draft.
“This means everything,” Cohen said. “This is the deepest draft arguably since LeBron (James) and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony came out.”
The Cavs won that one, too, in 2003, when they picked James. But they have been lottery regulars since he bolted for Miami in 2010, and they want that to stop.
“Rebuilding is a process and we lost a player a number of years back that it was going (to take) some time. Quite frankly it’s taken a little bit longer then we’d like, but we’ve been patient,” Cohen said.
“I think now is the time we’re going to reap the rewards of our patience.”
The Milwaukee Bucks fell one spot to second and the Philadelphia 76ers will draft third. The Bucks had a 25 percent chance of winning after a league-worst 15-67 record, but the team with the best odds hasn’t won since 2004.
The expected strength of the class led to speculation that teams were tanking in hopes of getting a high pick. But the Cavs had playoff expectations, hoping a strong season could make them attractive to James if he was interested in returning home as a free agent.
Nick Gilbert said last year he expected the Cavs to be done with the lottery, but they were right back in Times Square after a disappointing season that resulted in them firing Mike Brown after just one year and a 33-49 record in his second stint with the team. Another top selection surely will make Cleveland more attractive to prospective coaches.
The city of Cleveland may be on a 50-year championship drought, but sure does have this lottery thing figured out.
The 2011 win was also a stunner, when the Cavs moved up from the No. 8 spot with a pick they had acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers.
And by moving up this year, they hurt the Detroit Pistons, who started eighth but by falling back, had to trade the pick to Charlotte as part of a deal for Ben Gordon.
Orlando dropped a spot to fourth and also will have the No. 12 pick from Denver. Utah is No. 5 and the Lakers and Boston Celtics couldn’t make the most of rare lottery appearances, with Los Angeles at No. 7 and Boston at No. 6.
The 76ers couldn’t move up even with Hall of Famer Julius Erving representing them, but they will have two top-10 picks: their own and New Orleans’ at No. 10 from last year’s trade that sent Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans.
“If we had No. 3 alone, I would be a little disappointed and so would our group. But the fact that we also have the 10th pick, we may have done better than anyone else,” Erving said. “We can get two players out of this draft or leverage those two picks.”
Still, the big winners — again — were the Cavs.
Nick Gilbert was the hit of the 2011 lottery, his big glasses and bowtie charming viewers. This time it was Mallory Edens, the 18-year-old daughter of incoming Bucks co-owner Wes Edens. She gained thousands of Twitter followers after her brief on-camera interview.
But her Bucks pin wasn’t lucky enough to end the run of back luck for the worst teams.
“I was really nervous, but I’m really happy we got the second pick,” Mallory Edens said.
Things kept rolling for the Cavs, who duplicated the feat of Orlando, which went back-to-back at No. 1 in 1992-93. The latter win, after the Magic had gone 41-41 in Shaquille O’Neal’s rookie season, caused the league to change the lottery to a weighted format that gave the worst teams the most chances.
The tanking talk has led to discussions to change it again, something commissioner Adam Silver has said will be discussed this summer. But he has also said that if there was an ideal solution, the league would have implemented it by now.
The Cavs like it just as it is.