The Cavaliers have won the NBA Draft lottery and secured the first overall pick for the third time in four seasons. The team finished with a record of 33-49 and jumped over eight other teams to secure the top selection. Cleveland possessed only a 1.7 percent chance of landing the first pick and only a 6.1 percent chance of landing in the top three, but still took home the prize.
Winning the draft lottery is hardly a guarantee of future success, as no team with the No. 1 overall pick has won the NBA title since 1998, per Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight. But if the pick is used wisely, it certainly won’t be a detriment to the Cavs rebuilding efforts.
The team has met with mixed results the last two times it has selected a player with the first overall pick. In 2011 the team chose Kyrie Irving. Irving has had his share of locker room issues. The team isn’t sure if they will be able to sign Irving to an extension when he is eligible this summer, and they risk losing him after next season. But his on court numbers have been excellent. This season, in 71 games, Irving averaged 20.8 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 6.1 APG. Last season’s number one overall selection, Anthony Bennett hasn’t fared as well thus far. In his rookie year, Bennett averaged 4.2 PPG, 3.0 RPG, and 0.3 APG.
Who the team selects this year will have a major impact on the future of the franchise. Here are the top possibilities:
- Joel Embiid (C): With Spencer Hawes set to become an unrestricted free agent, the only other centers on the roster are currently Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller. Embiid averaged 11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, and 2.6 BPG in 23.1 minutes per game during his freshman year. The seven-footer out of Kansas would normally be a lock for the top selection, but worries about the lingering effects of a stress fracture in his back have raised concerns. These are understandable when considering the short shelf life and injury woes that have struck big men in recent years. If healthy though, Embiid has the potential to be a star at a position lacking top shelf talent. You can check out our full prospect profile for Embiid here.
- Andrew Wiggins (SF/SG): The Cavs have Dion Waiters already at shooting guard, so taking Wiggins would push Waiters to the bench, allow the team to move him in a trade, or Wiggins could slot in at small forward where there should be an opening with Luol Deng unlikely to re-sign with the team. In his freshman season at Kansas, Wiggins averaged 17.4 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, and 1.2 SPG in 32.6 minutes per contest. He is a gifted athlete and has a wealth of potential, but Wiggins has also shown a tendency to disappear in games. That’s not a desirable trait from the first overall pick, but Wiggins’ upside might be higher than any in the draft. You can read our full profile of Wiggins here.
- Jabari Parker (SF/PF): Perhaps the most polished and NBA-ready player in the entire draft. Parker led the Blue Devils in scoring and rebounding, averaging 19.1 PPG and 8.7 RPG while shooting 47.3% from the floor. Parker’s NBA position has been questioned, which is his biggest negative. He has the offensive game to be a small forward, but defensively he may not be quick enough to guard NBA threes, and is too small to be a full time power forward. He also might not have as much upside as the other players on this list, but he also carries the lowest risk. Parker’s full prospect profile can be viewed here.
- Dante Exum (PG): Exum is a long shot to go as the top pick, but I mention him because he has the potential to rise up draft boards quickly as more teams get a look at him in pre-draft workouts. His potential may just be intriguing enough for Cleveland to take a risk. If the Cavs were looking to trade Irving, then Exum would certainly be discussed. Exum could also slot in as a shooting guard, which could aid the team in moving Waiters, or Exum could begin his career as a backup for both guard positions as he learns the game. Our full profile on Exum can be seen here.