Mark Price Dishes on Cavs’ Famed 1986 Draft

Now that the 2023 NBA Draft is behind us, it’s time to talk about one of the most historic drafts in league history. It took place in 1986, and the Cavaliers were a mess. After many years of bad overall decisions and poor personnel choices, they entered the 1986 draft with no head coach, no GM and no assets.

Other than that, Cleveland was in great shape.

But everything changed on Tuesday, June 17 of that year. No matter your age, you have likely heard the names Brad Daugherty, Ron Harper, Mark Price, Hot Rod Williams and Johnny Newman. Yes, Hot Rod was already in the fold, but he had never played a single game for the Cavs. So let’s look first at how Cleveland landed the No. 1 overall pick from Philadelphia, via

The 76ers wHere in a bit of quandary with how to deal with their options before the draft.  At the time, the 76ers had a good team (54-28) built around young Charles Barkley and the aging vets from the 1982-83 title team (Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, Julius Erving, and Moses Malone).  Barkley was already on his way to stardom but the Celtics (and Bucks) were clearly better teams. 

The 76ers had the top pick in the draft by virtue of a great 1979 trade where Philly sent backup Joe Bryant (yup, Kobe’s dad) to the Clippers for an unprotected pick in 1986.  Well, the Clipps were awful and Philly got the top pick and chance to reload a good team.  Ultimately, the 76ers punted, trading the pick to Cleveland for veteran Roy Hinson.  Cleveland drafted UNC center Brad Daugherty and Boston took Bias second overall. 

The Cavaliers were coming off of a terrible stretch both on and off of the court. They needed to make a splash. So this draft had to count. I am not sure if the Cavs even knew that what they did on June 17, 1986 would forever change the course of the franchise. 

“With the First Pick in the 1986 NBA Draft…..”

The first pick was important. This pick would be the centerpiece of the future. The Cavaliers selected Daugherty, a 7-foot center from the University of North Carolina, who had a nice shooting touch,  size, and could become the anchor for this new team. 

With the No. 8 pick, the Cavaliers selected an in-state player from Miami University in Ohio. And Harper would provide defense, athleticism, and the kind of game-changing plays that would show up on the local and national sports highlight shows. 

With a shooting guard and center already in place, the Cavs needed a new leader. They needed a winning point guard that could not only run the offense, but also score at will. When the Dallas Mavericks selected such a point guard from Georgia Tech at No. 25 to start the second round, new Cavs GM Wayne Embry saw an opportunity. So the Cavs quickly made a trade for Price — who represented a new brand of point guard. Not only could be run the offense and feed other players, he could score the basketball, especially via with the newer 3-point line. 

To close out the 1986 draft, the Cavs selected Newman from Richmond University. With four draft picks, the Cavs filled four-fifths of the starting lineup. Waiting in the wings was Hot Rod, who would be eligible to play the next season. Veteran forward Phil Hubbard completed the starting unit with Hot Rod coming off of the bench. It took some time for Price to take over the starting role, but clearly this was the nucleus of the future. 

Due an injury to Price, the Cavs would eventually add Craig Ehlo as a free agent to further strengthen the team and bench. 

Today, many see the Cavaliers logo and think immediately of LeBron James. With all due respect to LeBron, many believe all of that would not have happened without the historic draft in 1986. 

Price discussed this draft and more in the latest Mark Price For 3 podcast. Listen here on iTunes or in the player directly below.

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