Posted May 22, 2013

Cavs, Wizards poised to make big strides after lottery luck

2013 NBA draft, 2013 NBA Draft Lottery, Cleveland Cavaliers, Rob Mahoney, Washington Wizards
Nerlens Noel would help jump-start the Cavs' effort to improve one of the NBA's worst defenses. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Nerlens Noel would help jump-start the Cavs’ effort to improve one of the NBA’s worst defenses. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

In Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, fortune favored teams building on sturdy foundations rather than those looking to start completely anew. While the Magic, Bobcats and Suns could surely have used the freedom and benefit of the No. 1 pick in order to jump-start their respective rebuilds, that privilege fell to the Cavaliers — who have now won two of the last three lotteries despite unfavorable odds.

Cleveland this year held just a 15.6 percent chance of scoring the top pick — third in probability to the Magic and Bobcats. That’s an incredible break for a team that already benefited from an even more amazing turn of fortune two years ago, when the Cavaliers were awarded No. 1 (Kyrie Irving) with a first-round pick acquired from the Clippers that had a 2.8 percent chance of ending up in the top spot. As lucky as that result was in itself, the combination of the two fortuitous bounces of the lottery ping-pong balls is even more unbelievable. By draft probabilities alone, the likelihood that those two specific picks would produce the No. 1 selections in these particular drafts is just 0.4 percent. If I may borrow an exercise of probability from Ian Levy of Hickory High, that’s just slightly more likely than Cleveland’s Alonzo Gee connecting on five consecutive three-pointers last season.

And with this latest draft selection, the Cavs — if they keep the pick — will likely select Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel in a move that will begin their defensive improvement in earnest. Cleveland struggled mightily to guard its opponents in each of the last three seasons under Byron Scott, during which the Cavs never escaped the bottom five in defensive efficiency. Scott’s dismissal and Mike Brown’s subsequent hiring indicate a top-down acknowledgement of the team’s lasting defensive woes and serve to highlight the complete lack of growth in defensive comprehension and execution over the course of that time frame. Young teams can be expected to defend poorly, but when three seasons come and go without any demonstrable gains, the problems would seem to go well beyond inexperience.

Brown will demand more of these Cavs than Scott ever did, and in Noel he’ll have a fine, intuitive interior defender to mold into a defensive pillar. Noel’s season will be abbreviated and complicated by his ongoing recovery from ACL surgery, but the lessons will come early and often from Brown as he attempts to pull his team into finer defensive form. It’s a tough task, yet one that would seem well-suited to Brown’s skill set. He’s far from a perfect coach (as has been aptly demonstrated in his last two head-coaching stops), but clearly more qualified to nurture this kind of budding roster — fit with Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and potentially Noel — than the ego-driven mess he encountered with the Lakers. That his team caught a big break in the lottery should only make him look that much better in the short term, as Noel’s athleticism and defensive instincts should register some immediate dividends whenever he does make his NBA debut.

Of slightly similar standing are the Wizards, who vaulted from the eighth position in the lottery odds to the No. 3 pick in the June 27 draft. Making good on a 4.8 percent chance of securing the third pick is a nice stroke of luck for a team that already has John Wall (the No. 1 pick in 2010) and Bradley Beal (the No. 3 pick in 2012) as its present-and-future backcourt, not to mention a fantastic finish to the 2012-13 season from which to extend momentum. Neither Wall nor Beal is of Irving’s caliber as a franchise centerpiece, but between them Washington has — at the very least — some tremendous talent worth investing in and building around. That’s much more than can be said of several of the teams that the Wizards leapfrogged.

The Magic are enough of an unknown at the No. 2 spot that it’s difficult to project what might be available with the ensuing pick, but at least two of UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Georgetown’s Otto Porter are sure to be on the board for Washington. Each of those players would contribute nicely to a Wizards rotation gunning for the postseason in 2014 while banking on more substantial improvement in the long term — a luxury born of bucking the odds with a selection in the top three. By comparison, if we slide down to the draft range (8-10) in which the Wizards’ were very likely (an 87.8-percent likelihood!) to land, they’d be looking at the far more underwhelming Shabazz Muhammad or the notably more limited Cody Zeller. Both may well turn out to be fine pros, but with a favorable bounce Washington has an opportunity to acquire a significantly more talented prospect who fits its needs better.

14 comments
JeremyWesterwiller
JeremyWesterwiller

Irving doesnt have a choice but to be a score 1st pg in cleveland. That acknowledgement is why the cavs reached on picking waiters last year. With both of them and thompson coming on very strong last season they have the flexibility to get the most out of this pick whether its trading it for a veteran for an immediate impact or to draft noel to start building the defensive side of the ball. The signing of coach mike brown says where the cavs are now focused on going.

Dont be surprised if they trade down a couple picks, draft olandipo and trade waiters.

JeremyWesterwiller
JeremyWesterwiller

Irving doesnt have a choice but to be a score 1st pg in cleveland. That acknowledgement is why the cavs reached on picking waiters last year. Now with both of them and thompson coming on very strong last season gives the cavs the flexibility to get the most out of this pick whether its trading it for a veteran for an immediate impact or to draft noel to start building the defensive side of the ball. The sighing of coach mike brown says where the cavs are now focused on going.

Dont be surprised if they trade down a couple picks, draft olandipo and trade waiters.

RPH
RPH

Am I the only one who finds this format very hard to read?  No space between paragraphs and no indentation.  Always looks like a mess.

RomarioDelLago
RomarioDelLago

Crappy lottery system is broken.  When a team like my Timberwolves gets dinked on winning after so many attempts, it needs to just be a rule that they automatically get the top pick.  Broken system. 

MEOWFACTORY
MEOWFACTORY

"Neither Wall nor Beal is of Irving’s caliber as a franchise centerpiece"

Wall was the best PG in the league during the latter part of the season after he added a reliable jumper to his game. His PER, WS and stats per 36 eclipsed Irving's pretty soundly. On top of that, Wall is a much better defender (with lockdown potential) AND physical specimen. All Kyrie has over Wall is scoring and ball handling...

Kyrie is a stud but know what you're talking about...

RomarioDelLago
RomarioDelLago

It's disastrous and super disheartening to any team that's done poorly over the years to not get picks commensurate with how poorly they finished.  This lottery crap is ridiculous.

NileMania
NileMania

@MEOWFACTORY My thoughts exactly! Thanks for being first to call it out! The only thing Kyrie has on John Wall is a Jumper. Other than that John is a better defender passer shot blocker and overall better athlete. Its sad that so many people put all focus on the offensive game of players...

DavidosaurusCawston
DavidosaurusCawston

@RomarioDelLago Weren't Derick Williams, Luke Ridnour and Johnny Flyn all pretty much right at the top of their drafts?
Anyway, Timberwolves have an awesome future so I wouldn't get too worried about it. Without injuries they would have been top 4-5 in west easy

John4
John4

@RomarioDelLago Romario - you replied to yourself,which is odd.  The Lottery system is set up so a team cannot intentionally lose AND be guaranteed of the top pick.  But, to keep things fair for the worst teams, only the top three draft positions are in a lottery.  This way, the worst team statistically is guaranteed no worse than the fourth overall pick.  

When you say the T-Wolves "get dinked on winning after so many attempts" note that you should be far more clear in what you are trying to say or mean.  I have no idea what this comment of yours means.  

Do you think a team could intentionally lose enough in order to get the worst record, and thus automatically get the top pick?  Why?

If you want to compare to the NFL, please note that the bottom teams in the NFL are not being accused of losing intentionally.  That accusation had gone on in the NBA for a while, thus the change to the lottery system, so NO team is guaranteed the top pick.  

newshamg
newshamg

@NileMania @MEOWFACTORY No - Irving does not only have a better jump shot than Wall - he is a better ball handler and he has more court awareness as well. And out of a point guard I will take that over defence and shot blocking. Who the hell cares how much a point guard shot blocks? Answer - no one.

NateP
NateP

Thanks for the reminder on chauncey/parker. Just those guys were more team oriented than say irving/westbrook/rose. I disagree with Isiah. He' was a point who could score but lloked to dish more often than a Westbrook/Irving. I think of Irving in the Westbrook/rRose mode. It's much harder when your primary ball handler is score 1st. N

BryanKautzman
BryanKautzman

Chauncy billups, tony parker, isaiah Thomas. Westbrook and drose on the cusp also. John Wall is a good pointguard but id be willing to bet almost every gm in the league would take Irving before wall when building a team. I think in this league to hace a chance to win it all you need at least 2 probably 3 guys who can impose their will offensively and get theirs every night

NateP
NateP

Irving is score 1st. Wall is pass 1st. Irving is slicker with the bounce but looks for his own shot 1st. So although he may be a better ball handler, he is not the better facilitator/defender. Honestly they are as different as two players could be.

I think folks may want to pump the 'Kyrie is Next' brakes a little as I honestly can't remember the last score 1st point to win a title.