Even in a draft perceived as weak, winning the first and fourth selections is a great step forward for the Cavaliers. Duke’s Kyrie Irving, almost assuredly the team’s first pick, will give Cleveland its first legitimate point guard since Andre Miller. Paired with either a developmental, high upside big man (Enes Kanter) or a slashing 2/3 (Kawhi Leonard), you suddenly can see the beginning of the, well, beginning. Even better, the team likely won’t have to suffer the embarrassment of trotting out Luke Harangody for significant minutes.
But if Cavs fans are to take one lesson away from Tuesday night’s lottery, it should be this: When it comes to rebuilding, patience is not a virtue…it is the central, indispensable tenet.
If not by divine intervention, then certainly by statistically unlikely irony, the Cavs netted the first pick in this year’s draft from a team that tried to rush their rebuilding. The LA Clippers essentially dealt their first round pick (projected to be the 8th selection prior to the lottery) for an aging combo guard and $30 million in cap relief. That the selection wound up being first (there was only a 2.8% chance of this happening) was besides the point. Even if luck played out as it should have, trading away a lottery pick for cap space and a decent player constituted immense shortsightedness on the Clippers’ part. Mo Williams, Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, and whatever free agents they sign with their new found cap room are not going to win a title. They may not even crack the top four in the Western Conference. LAC jumped the gun.
Clevelanders should take note. (I assume Cavs GM Chris Grant is smart enough to have already done so.) This team is not two years away from contention. Assuming both of this year’s first rounders pay off, the Cavs will only have four or five true assets for the future (Irving, Hickson, Varejao, this year’s #4 selection, and Eyenga). Hickson and Eyenga are bench players for a championship team, and Varejao will be well into his thirties by the time the team makes its run. Maybe the team can net a decent swingman for the suddenly expendable Ramon Sessions, and there should be enough dollars to go after some solid role players. This is not, however, a completed project. There is still much work to be done.
Consider also that Miami has three superstars with a half decade of elite play still left, and that neither Derrick Rose nor the Bulls’ suffocating defense are going anywhere in the near future. The next three years are off limits for all but the most idealistic of Cavs fans. Not to get all Schumpeter here, but the Cavs need to embrace creative destruction. And when they do make a push, make it count.