CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Cavaliers struck NBA gold Tuesday night and won the NBA Draft Lottery.
The Cavaliers, who now own the No. 1 overall pick for the 2nd time in 3 years, finished the season with the 3rd worst overall record at 24-58 which gave them a 15.6 percent chance of actually winning the lottery.
But their lucky charm came through again.
Nick Gilbert, the son of owner Dan Gilbert who was born with neurofibromatosis – a nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow in the body, once again represented the Cavaliers on stage and declared on ESPN before the envelopes were pulled, “I feel like this is the last year we’re going to be here.”
His father sure hopes so.
“We were hoping, regardless of what pick we got, that this would be our last lottery,” Gilbert said. “We thought originally after everything had to be reset that it would be a three-year process. You never know. It could be two or it could be four, but we thought three years. With the No. 1 pick this year, and we also have No. 19, we think this will be the last lottery for a while here.”
If Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant makes the right selection at the end of June, it very well could be.
“I think we’re going to ask Nick Gilbert to buy lottery tickets for us going forward,” Grant said. “Fantastic job by Nick and really excited for him; most importantly [I’m] excited for our fans. They’re the best fans in the NBA.”
Fans erupted in jubilation at the team’s official draft party downtown and chants of “let’s go Cavs” rang out when the Magic’s card was pulled from the envelope for the 2nd overall pick.
Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden was among those in attendance and he reveled in the excitement.
“It’s special for the city of Cleveland,” Haden said. “I’m happy for Cavs Dan, Cavs Nick, all of them that were there to see them get 1st pick. It’s crazy man. You can’t put anything past the Cavs. When we were out there (in 2011) we weren’t expecting to get the 1st pick and we got it so it’s meant to be.
“And it’s meant for this city to finally get a winner for the Cavs again and for the Browns to start winning again and the Indians to start winning.”
The scene at Cleveland Clinic Courts where Grant watched the lottery along with head coach Mike Brown was a tad more subdued.
“When we saw Washington go and Orlando go we were like, ‘Wow,'” Grant said. “We were more blown away than anything and just really excited. Excited for our fans, excited for the franchise, excited for the rest of our guys because we have another chance to add another good young player to the group of players we have.”
Gilbert recognizes just how much winning the lottery for the 2nd time in 3 years and the 3rd time 11 years means.
“It means a lot,” Gilbert said. “It means thank God that none of us are Chris Grant right now. He’s got a tough decision. As everybody knows this year is a little bit different than most years where there’s a clear No. 1 pick. This year can go several ways, so Chris and the staff have got a tough job in front of them, but they’ve been doing a lot of research and working hard all year to figure it out.
“I think for Cleveland it means a lot, because if we pick the right guy that fits into the young core that we’ve got right now, we can be a very good team for many years.”
This year there’s no consensus no brainer, No. 1 player to pick from. There are plenty of options – and questions with many of the draft prospects – especially medically.
“For us it’s wide open,” Grant said. “A number of these guys are injured so there is an enormous amount of due diligence that’s got to be done.”
There’s also a chance Grant could trade the pick.
“You want to look at all of your options and make the best decision for the team,” Grant said. “this is another valuable asset that we can add to the group whether it be a trade or keep it and add a player.
“We’re open. We’re going to look at all our options.”
Orlando finished with the worst record at 20-62 and had the best odds of winning the top spot.
Charlotte had a 19.9 percent chance to win but the Bobcats ended up with the 4th pick.
Cleveland won the No. 4 pick in each of the last 2 lotteries resulting in the selections of forward Tristan Thompson and shooting guard Dion Waiters respectively.
Thanks to a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, the Cavaliers received the No. 1 overall selection in 2011 allowing the team to select Kyrie Irving.
The Cavaliers enter this year’s draft with a total of 4 selections – No.’s 1, 19 (from the Los Angeles Lakers), 31 and 33 overall.
“We set out a few years back when we were transitioning at a pretty high level with this organization that we wanted to gather as many assets as we could and deploy them appropriately,” Grant said. “So far, our young guys have done a really good job. In 2 years Kyrie has become an all star, Tristan’s grown immensely and been on the all-rookie team and the same with Tyler (Zeller) and the same with Dion.”
Grant has had plenty of assets and ammunition to rebuild the franchise since the departure of LeBron James in the summer of 2010 and with a 2nd No. 1 overall draft pick at his disposal, the excuses for not returning to contention soon are gone.