July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Good luck: Cavs hope draft pays off again, but contention likely a ways off

INDEPENDENCE — Nick Gilbert brought the Cavaliers good luck again Friday.

The popular 15-year-old son of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert represented the team at a drawing in New York to break a draft order tie between Cleveland and New Orleans, who finished with identical 21-45 records.

The Cavs won and would pick one spot ahead of the Hornets in the June 28 draft if neither team moves up in the May 30 lottery. If the lottery goes true to form, which it rarely does, Cleveland would pick third and New Orleans fourth.

“Sent #cavsnick to NYC for coin flip. Cavs won the flip! What’s not to like?!!” Dan Gilbert tweeted in the early afternoon, hours before the NBA officially announced the results.

Nick Gilbert, who suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on the body, became an instant celebrity at the draft lottery last year.

Wearing thick glasses and a bow tie, his “What’s not to like?” statement in a live national interview became a local rallying cry when the Cavs won the lottery with a 2.8 percent chance they acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers.

What happened Friday wasn’t nearly as significant, but the Cavs will take it after two seasons that have featured a combined record of 40-108.

The drawing was only to determine draft order if neither Cleveland nor New Orleans moves up in the lottery, in which both teams will have a decent chance of improving their standing.

The Cavs will have a 13.8 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick, while the Hornets will be at 13.7 after losing the drawing. Both teams will have a 27.9 percent chance of getting one of the top two picks, while the Cavs will have a slightly better chance of landing one of the top three (42.4 to 42.3).

Charlotte, which went 7-59 to set a record for lowest winning percentage in NBA history (.106), will have a 25 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick, which is widely expected to be Kentucky big man Anthony Davis.

Also Friday, the Cavs won a drawing to break a tie between the Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis for the 24th and 25th picks. Cleveland got the Lakers’ first-round pick as part of the trade that sent Ramon Sessions to Los Angeles.

That means if the lottery goes true to form, the Cavs will have the Nos. 3, 24, 33 and 34 picks, the Hornets’ second-round choice having come to Cleveland through a trade with Miami. The 2012 draft is expected to be one of the deepest in recent years.

“We love the draft,” general manager Chris Grant said at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “We love every draft. The more picks we have, the better.”

Already very young, the Cavs are unlikely to want four rookies on their roster next season, but they could package a couple picks in an attempt to move up. They could also draft a young foreign player with one of their later picks and let him play overseas for a few years.

Getting draft choices, especially early in the first round, was the building method used by the now highly successful Oklahoma City Thunder, which got Kevin Durant with the second pick in 2007, Russell Westbrook with the fourth pick in 2008 and James Harden with the third choice in 2009.

The Cavs got soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving at No. 1 and Tristan Thompson at No. 4 last year. Though the lottery hasn’t even been held, they’re hopeful of adding more young talent this summer.

“We’re positioned in a good place,” Grant said. “Now we have to do the work, be methodical and be disciplined.”

Some fans might not want to hear it, but what the Cavs don’t appear likely to do is break the bank for a high-priced free agent.

Grant estimates his team will be about $20 million under the $58 million salary cap this summer — it could actually be several million dollars more under the cap — but it doesn’t sound like he’s eager to spend a huge chunk of that money.

“We have a lot of cap space,” he said. “Cap space doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go spend it. If we’re going to spend, we’re going to spend wisely.”

They didn’t come right out and say it, but Grant and coach Byron Scott sounded like guys who were ready to play next season with a roster dominated by young players, perhaps get another high draft pick and then look to make a significant jump in 2013-14.

“We’re going to stay methodical in our process,” Grant said. “We don’t want to overpay guys.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.