The Cleveland Cavalier organization and fan base were very disappointed with Tuesday night’s draft lottery results; picking fifth in this year’s draft despite having been tied for the best odds to win the number one pick with the Knicks and the Suns. The extra salt in the wound is that the Lakers whom Lebron James departed Cleveland to play for, will be picking one slot above the Cavs. However, missing out on the Zion Williamson sweepstakes may benefit the Cavaliers more than you think.
The last number one pick with as much hype and expectations as Zion was none other than the savior of Cleveland basketball: Lebron James. Though James’ two tenures in Cleveland brought the organization 9 playoff appearances and one unforgettable title run, it caused the organization to rely on solely one man for 11 seasons. Both times when James departed from Cleveland, the Cavaliers went for an atrocious record of 19-63. This was because the Cavaliers failed to build a team that could play up to a playoff caliber level without their one superstar. Take the Oklahoma City Thunder for example, when their franchise player Kevin Durant departed in 2016 to play for the Warriors, the team still made the playoffs the following season due to the solid structure they built outside of Durant. This is the challenge that lies ahead of General Manager Koby Altman and Owner Dan Gilbert, build a winning culture and organization that doesn’t revolve around one single guy. If the ping pong balls bounced the Cavaliers’ way they would not have been able to do this.
The first step in the right direction for the Cavs was hiring John Beilein as head coach. Beilein is a proven winner, having an all time record of 278-150, and leading Michigan to two big ten titles and national championship games during his tenure. Beilein also coached nine eventual NBA draft picks during his time at Michigan showing he can develop talent. This will be important in developing Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, and the other talented young players on the roster. Additionally, this hire is also important to this year’s draft. The Cavaliers have two first round picks, and have the benefit of having a coach who had to prepare to coach against the majority of the players in the draft.The Cavaliers need to land bonafide NBA talent at both selections. Just look at the teams still left in the playoffs. The Raptors drafted Pascal Siakam at 27th, Draymond Green was picked 35th by Golden State, and Portland didn’t draft McCollum until 10th overall. This shows how value can be found anywhere from picks 1-60. Altman and Gilbert need to change the culture, and not rely on LeBron or the lottery any longer. And the first step towards bringing a winning culture back to Believeland is getting it right at picks 5 and 26.