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(From May 15, 2019)
It has been that kind of year — a lost one — for the Cavaliers.
They lost LeBron James in free agency. They lost Kevin Love to injury. They lost two coaches and 63 games.
And when the Cavs exited Tuesday’s NBA lottery, they basically had lost again.
Say goodbye to Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett or Ja Morant. Those are about the only three prospects anyone really wanted. The Cavs won’t be getting any of them. Instead, old friend David Griffin and his New Orleans Pelicans will select first. The Memphis Grizzlies finished second, the New York Knicks third and the Los Angeles Lakers fourth.
Yeah, Griffin and LeBron beat the Cavs. Darn the lottery luck.
Now the Cavs will likely have to choose from a list that includes Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter, Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland and Duke wing Cam Reddish, the Blue Devils’ third wheel behind Williamson and Barrett.
Oh, other prospects will move up and some will slide down. And we may even hear rumors of general manager Koby Altman trying to package the Cavs’ two first-rounders (they also own No. 26) for a younger veteran who can help right away.
But those are hypotheticals. History tells us the Cavs will most likely stay right where they are today.
But where they are isn’t awful. Plenty of really good players have been selected at No. 5, from Dwyane Wade to DeMarcus Cousins to Vince Carter to Mr. Love himself. Of course, there have been plenty of lousy ones, too … but let’s save those for a rainier day.
All that matters for the Cavs is what they do this year. They already hired a coach in John Beilein, the former Michigan man who has built his reputation on team-first basketball. With Beilein, there has never been a need for a super-duper star. He runs an equal opportunity offense.
That’s good, because the Cavs will need to be an equal-opportunity outfit.
ALL NOT LOST
Now, before you scream to the heavens and demand some answers, know that the Cavs don’t consider any of this awful news. They just don’t consider it the best-case scenario.
But at least now, Altman has a chance to build a plan. At least now, he knows where the Cavs will be selecting. And at least now, the Cavs have a better grasp of their options — and can try to devise several more. Let’s face it, there’s a long way to go between now and next season, and even now and the June 20 draft.
The Cavs will draft a couple prospects, sign a few more for summer league, try to trade J.R. Smith (yes, that’s still a priority) and listen to offers for several others. Trades may provide them with a quick way to improve, to get really excited again.
And while the lottery failed to generate some needed buzz, there are other reasons for hope. Collin Sexton’s second half of the season. The arrival of Beilein. Assets in the form of Smith’s contract, Tristan Thompson, and yes, Love.
While Altman isn’t likely to gut the roster, it’s safe to say that everything is in play. You don’t finish 19-63 and stay the course.
The Cavs know that. They also know they have more work to do than if they had lucked into The Rights to Zion. But this is almost what they expected. They actually finished where they were supposed to under the NBA’s new anti-tanking lottery odds. They actually had a better shot to finish fifth than they did to finish first.
So the Cavs can only march on, make the best of the hand they’ve been dealt and control what’s in their control. The lottery did them no favors, but that’s all blind luck anyway.
The bottom line is Altman and the Cavs were not lucky in the least — so now, they’ll just have to be good.