For the Cavaliers, last decade provided a nice run of luck in the draft lottery, serving up three No. 1 overall picks in four years.
But this year, that’s expected to change. The top prize is Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham. The Cavs have an 11.5 percent chance to land him.
They are actually tied with the Thunder for fourth-best odds to win next week’s bonanza. But they have much a better shot to finish seventh (25.5 percent) or sixth (18.2) than they do to win the thing.
And lately, the lottery has done the Cavs no favors. Over the past three seasons, they’ve finished eighth, fifth and fifth, respectively. GM Koby Altman has made the most of those selections, landing Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Isaac Okoro. All three were immediate starters and held their respective positions at the end of this season.
Granted, part of that was because the Cavs finished 22-50, and none of those players have proven that they’re ready to win. But Altman could have done a lot worse.
Either way, the small Cavs contingent traveling to Brooklyn next week will look to break the string of so-so lottery finishes and strike gold. Of course, the Cavs will have nothing to do with any of it. Like the other 13 lottery teams, all they can do is watch, wait, maybe pray, maybe light some holy candles.
Cunningham is expected to be an immediate difference-maker, a power forward in size with the skills of a point guard. ESPN analyst Mike Schmitz called him a “jumbo shot creator.”
But all is not lost if the Cavs don’t land at No. 1. Should they even move up a couple spots, there will be plenty of appealing options anywhere from No. 2 to No. 4.
G League Ignite shooting guard Jalen Green is an outstanding athlete who looks like he is fairly ready to put up lots of points at the next level. USC’s Evan Mobley is considered the most intriguing center prospect this side of Joel Embiid. And Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs is a do-it-all combo guard and proven winner.
But let’s say the Cavs stay where they are, or even drop. After all, those are the most likely scenarios. That will still be OK. There are several players in the Nos. 5-7 range who are also expected to make an impact. The list includes G League Ignite forward Jonathan Kuminga, Florida State forward Scottie Barnes, Duke forward Jalen Johnson, Baylor combo guard Davion Mitchell and Tennessee shooting guard Keon Johnson.
It’s true that many of the aforementioned play the same position as either Sexton or Garland or Okoro. But it’s become pretty clear that, these days, you take the best player available and let it sort itself out in training camp.
And yes, while Altman isn’t making any early determinations to trade the pick, that always remains a possibility. When a major part of your offseason is based on lottery luck, nothing is off the table.
The Cavs will start making those decisions once they find out where they are picking. Really, the only thing they know for sure is they would love to land a guy who will do something special — and keep them from having to come back again next year.
The 2021 NBA Draft Lottery is scheduled for Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. EST. You can find complete odds here.