The Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2014 NBA draft lottery on Tuesday night, beating the odds once again to lock up the first overall selection in the NBA draft for the second straight year and for the third time in four years.
The Cavaliers entered Tuesday night with the ninth-best odds of coming away with the No. 1 pick — only 1.7 percent of the 1,001 possible four-ping-pong-ball combinations would have vaulted Cleveland up to the top of the board. But against (nearly) all odds, one of those sequences popped out, moving Cleveland up above the two teams with the highest odds of picking first overall — the Milwaukee Bucks (25 percent) and Philadelphia 76ers (19.9 percent) — and knocking the Orlando Magic out of the top three.
It became clear the Cavs had moved into the top three when the envelope that NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum opened for the No. 9 pick revealed the logo of the Charlotte Hornets rather than Cleveland's own; the only question was how high they'd risen. The answer came when Tatum revealed the Bucks' logo at pick No. 2, prompting newly hired Cavaliers general manager David Griffin to begin clapping and smiling broadly. Sixers special adviser and lottery representatives Julius Erving could only offer a wry smile and shake both his head and Griffin's hand as Tatum announced the Cavs had moved up to No. 1 yet again, after having won the right to select point guard Kyrie Irving in 2011 and forward Anthony Bennett in 2013.
The Cavaliers are still without a head coach, having fired Mike Brown eight days ago just one year after rehiring him on a five-year deal. A season that began with playoff aspirations tumbled to a 33-49 conclusion, with poor performance (most notably from top pick Bennett), abysmal team defense, on- and off-court chemistry issues, a bizarre (and unsuccessful) cameo by Andrew Bynum and a host of other dysfunctions leading to the firing of general manager Chris Grant and, ultimately, Brown.
There is talent on board, however — top picks Irving and Bennett, top-five choices Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, first-round choices Tyler Zeller and Sergey Karasev — and, Griffin hopes, the chance to pull it all together into something substantial with the promise of yet another top-flight talent that could make the Cleveland job a more attractive opportunity for prospective coaching hires.
"I think [winning this lottery is] just a really defining moment for us. We hope it certainly becomes one," Griffin told ESPN's Heather Cox before revealing the lucky bowtie given to him by Nick Gilbert, the son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who represented the Cavs at their lottery wins in 2011 and 2013. "In the words of Nick Gilbert, what's not to like?"
The million-dollar question, of course, is which prospect the Cavaliers will select now that they've struck gold once again. On that score, as you might expect, Griffin didn't offer much.
"I think what we really need to do is get a better fit for our roster," he said. "We've got an awful lot of talent, and we just need to find the pieces that sort of serve as the conduit to make it all jell for us."
In our BDL draft lottery shopping list, Eric Freeman identified "athletic big man" as a prospective path for Cleveland. Seven-foot Kansas center Joel Embiid, considered by some to be the best overall two-way prospect in the draft, would certainly seem to fit that bill. Then again, with midseason trade acquisition Luol Deng about to hit free agency, it could be awfully tempting for the Cavs to use the top overall pick on either Embiid's fellow JayhawkAndrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker — a Duke Blue Devil, like Irving — to fill the gaping hole they've had at small forward ever since LeBron James left in free agency in the summer of 2010.
The full first-round order is now set:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Milwaukee Bucks
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. Orlando Magic
5. Utah Jazz
7. Los Angeles Lakers
9. Charlotte Hornets (via Detroit Pistons)
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans Pelicans)
11. Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks)
12. Orlando Magic (via Denver Nuggets)
14. Phoenix Suns
15. Atlanta Hawks
16. Chicago Bulls
17. Boston Celtics
18. Phoenix Suns
19. Chicago Bulls
20. Toronto Raptors
23. Utah Jazz
24. Charlotte Hornets
25. Houston Rockets
26. Miami Heat
27. Phoenix Suns
29. Oklahoma City Thunder
The 2014 NBA draft will be held June 26 in New York.