David Stern walks to the podium, card in hand, boos raining down, to announce the first selection of his final Draft as NBA commissioner. He begins, “With the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft the Cleveland Cavaliers select…” The short portly man with the silver hair pauses for dramatic effect.
This is his last draft after all, he might as well relish the moment. He opens his mouth to speak, his lips clearly about pronounce an “A” before he appeals to the crowd for louder boos. Everyone is thinking at this point the “A” will be followed by “lex Len”, the hotly debated center from Maryland. It was down to him or Nerlens Noel. Everyone said so. Stern holds the form of the “A” for what feels like an eternity before continuing… “Anthony Bennet of Toronto, Canada and the University of Nevada Las Vegas.” On the ESPN telecast Bill Simmons lets out the reaction that everyone at home was feeling: “WHOAH!!!” It was a shocking selection by Chris Grant and the Cavs.
But really, it shouldn’t have been that surprising at all. You see, that’s what the Cavs do these days: they’re always full of surprises.
When they won the Draft Lottery only a year after losing LeBron (with a pick they got for the right to amnesty Baron Davis, no less) it was surprising. When they took Dion Waiters fourth overall over Harrison Barnes in 2012 it was shocking. When the won the Lottery again in 2013 it was unthinkable. When they subsequently selected Bennett, rendering months of blog debates utterly useless, it was drop-your-jaw stunning.
When they re-hired Mike Brown it was puzzling. When they fired Chris Grant and said that they liked the team he built it was puzzling still. When they waited almost a month after the season to fire Mike Brown (again) it was kinda odd. And then only a week later when they (and I still kinda can’t believe it actually happened to be honest) won the Lottery for the third time in four years it was poop-your-pants unbelievable.
So it should come as no surprise to anyone that a month and a half long coaching search concludes with the Cavs hiring a man that has only coached overseas and most people had never even heard of. And it shouldn’t have been all that shocking either when the general consensus top overall player in this year’s draft, Joel Embiid, came down with a broken foot.
For normal teams these events happening essentially on back-to-back days would have been unconscionable. But for the Cavs? Shock and surprise is our normal. At this point the most surprising thing to happen would be if something normal and predictive might happen. So as we lead into the draft this week, with the Cavs holding the No. 1 overall pick, we should all expect the unexpected.
If it was up to me I’d take Andrew Wiggins. At the end of the day I err on the side of betting on potential and Wiggins has the potential to be a great player. Every ability you want out of a top pick is there, he’s just got to put it together. That’s not to say, however, that I wouldn’t be more than happy with Jabari Parker. He’s the surest thing in this draft, a guy that could contribute in the starting lineup from day one with the Cavs. David Griffin won’t get fired for picking Jabari Parker. He could, however, lose his job if he takes the chance on Joel Embiid and it doesn’t work out. Through most of this process my draft top three went 1a) Embiid, 1b) Wiggins, 2) Parker. The raw abilities combined with the size and athleticism of Embiid are truly enticing…even enticing enough to take him in spite of his back issue. But when you add in a broken foot? That makes it a little more dicey. One is a fluke…two is a trend. And the NBA has a long history of big men losing injury battles.
Taking Embiid first overall at this point moves beyond “risky” to “reckless.” Griffin would be putting his job on the line with that decision. The good news is that the Cavs doctors have had a chance to get a look at Embiid and weigh the risk versus reward. If they determine that Embiid will be fine then they could play this situation perfectly. They could trade back to No. 3 and pick up some extra assets and still get the guy they want. And that is ultimately the beauty of where the Cavs are: they control the situation. Oddly, this year’s draft is exactly like last year’s…only the exact opposite in a way. Last year there were about six guys who were the consensus top players in the draft. The Cavs held the first pick and their choice of the lot of them. They really coudn’t screw it up. Some would argue that they did anyways but not me. The fortunes of the 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers would not have changed one bit if they would have taken Victor Oladipo, Ben MacLemore, or any of the lot over Bennett. Go look at their stats…they were all terrible. And I still think Bennett has as much, if not more, upside than any of them. [Editor’s Note: The guy with the MOST upside is the Greek Freak who was not a “top guy”] But we digress…the point is that last year there really was no wrong decision.
The same holds true for this year. There really isn’t a wrong decision. Smart minds differ on who is better: Parker or Wiggins? If the Cavs stay put and take one of those two guys they can’t be wrong. The other guy could turn out better but when it’s a 50-50 shot and you take it…the results shouldn’t color the decision. I almost expect nothing exciting to happen. I sorta feel like the Cavs are just going to sit pat and take Parker (if you believe the rumors these days…which you shouldn’t of course).
But it’s when you get lulled into that false sense of normalcy that the unpredictability of the Cavs hits you again. So I expect the unexpected. And nothing will surprise me.
In the end I wouldn’t be surprised if the Cavs traded back, drafted Dante Exum, traded Kyrie for Kevin Love, and brought back LeBron. [Editor’s Note: Lebron has opted out] Ok, I lied…that would surprise me.
But only a little. Because while the Cavs never actually win anything, they’re always interesting.