July 23, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
72°F

Cavs: Cleveland beats the odds, wins top pick at lottery

CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers’ luck with ping-pong balls continues to be much better than their play on the court.

For the second time in three years, Cleveland won the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night, granting it the No. 1 pick for the June 27 event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Nick Gilbert

The Cavs (24-58) had the third-worst record in the league last season, which gave them a 15.6 percent chance at the top pick, but hopped over Orlando (20-62) and Charlotte (21-61) in the drawing at the ABC Disney’s Times Square Studios.

“It’s been a long three years, but we went through it and we hope it’s our last trip to the lottery in New York for a long time,” Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert said. “This is extremely exciting not only for the franchise, but for the fans of Cleveland.

“Cleveland, in general, is a great place for any player to play because the fans are probably the greatest anywhere. We also have a great facility and a franchise that wants to win, so hopefully this is the next step in building something big for us.”

The Magic wound up with the No. 2 selection, while the Wizards hopped from eighth to No. 3 and the Bobcats fell from No. 2 to No. 4.

Kentucky center Nerlens Noel and Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore are considered the top two available players, but there is no consensus over the projected top pick.

“We’re going to look at all of our options,” Cavs general manager Chris Grant said, adding trading the No. 1 choice is one of them.

When Cleveland struck gold in the 2011 lottery, Duke point guard Kyrie Irving was the cream of his draft class. The same was true when the Cavs won the star-studded 2003 lottery, which netted them St. Vincent-St. Mary High phenom LeBron James.

“It would be a great thing to be picked first, but I’m not assuming anything,” Noel said in an interview with ESPN. “Cleveland is a great place to play with an All-Star point guard in Kyrie Irving.”

The Cavs also have the Nos. 19, 31, and 33 selections in what is considered one of the weakest drafts in NBA history.

Cleveland has made the top overall pick four times in its 44-year history, with Austin Carr (1971) and Brad Daugherty (1986) preceding James and Irving in the pre-lottery era.

“We’re going to be open minded and, hopefully, we make the right pick for the team,” Gilbert said. “We said all along after we had to reset things three years ago (following the July 2010 free-agent defection of James to the Miami Heat) that we’re going to build this thing primarily through the draft.

“Adding the No. 1 pick — and we’re going to have a choice of some very good options at the top — should allow us to move even closer toward returning to where we want to be.”

Gilbert’s bow-tie adorned son, Nick, represented the franchise on stage for the third year in a row, while Rock Companies CEO and Cavs vice chairman Jeff Cohen witnessed the actual drawing behind closed doors.

“I credit Nick Gilbert for us winning the draft lottery again,” his father said. “I know he was really disappointed not to bring home No. 1 last year, but we’ll take two out of three.”

Grant agreed, saying with a chuckle, “I think we’re going to ask Nick Gilbert to buy us lottery tickets going forward.”

In 2011-12, the Cavs tied for the third-worst record in the NBA at 21-45, but dropped to the No. 4 pick, which they used on Syracuse shooting guard Dion Waiters.

Cleveland also owned the fourth selection following its dismal 19-63 season in 2010-11. That pick became Texas power forward Tristan Thompson.

Gilbert referred to Waiters and Thompson as “emerging stars” during his post-lottery conference call. He also vowed great improvement in the upcoming season under coach Mike Brown, who was rehired after the Cavs fired Byron Scott on April 18.

Grant hinted Cleveland would be much more aggressive this summer in free agency after winning the lottery, but Gilbert downplayed that possibility, saying the organization’s strategy is to build through the draft.

“That’s our plan and that’s Chris Grant’s plan,” the owner said. “Trades are always an option, but free agency is the third option.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.