Breaking Down Why the No. 1 Pick of 2013 NBA Draft Is on Trade Block
Top picks are supposed to be coveted. Atop the draft board is where franchise-altering players are selected, where saviors lie. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard, among others, were taken with a No. 1 selection, and look where they are now.
LeBron is on the precipice of immortality with the Miami Heat, Irving has restored hope to what was a mangled Cavaliers organization following the King's departure, Rose is important enough to the Chicago Bulls that he was reviled for a season-long absence and the ever-smirking Howard has positioned himself as the league's most important free agent.
Drafting a bust at No. 1 is always a possibility, of course. Kwame Brown and Greg Oden are some of the more recent opening selections who never lived up to the hype. Yet that risk is supposed to be trounced by the potential to procure a Rose or Howard or Irving or, in the case of Andrew Wiggins next year, LeBron.
Still, the Cavs want no part of it this year. None whatsoever, and don't be tricked into thinking they do or that those of us who submit to the truth are sensationalizing what is really a non-issue.
The Cavs aren't enamored by the idea of using their top pick to select whom they hope is a future star. If they were, they wouldn't have made it so readily available. Nor would they be actively seeking a taker for it.
To date, Cleveland has offered its No. 1 pick to the Portland Trail Blazers in a potential package for LaMarcus Aldridge, according to ESPN.com's Chad Ford and Marc Stein. Per Andy Katz, also of ESPN.com, they've even attempted to use it as a means to acquire Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Finally, the Cavs have tried to foist the top selection on the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for this year's No. 6 pick, Greivis Vasquez and a future first-round selection, according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld. In other words, Cleveland is looking everywhere.
The method to Cleveland's madness isn't inexplicable. The Cavs are attempting to acquire a star, which comes as no surprise. Any team with a budding young talent like Irving and playoff ambitions would consider doing the same.
Normally, however, if and when those trade efforts don't pan out, the team in question has the No. 1 pick to fall back on. And that's a pretty damn good contingency plan. Or rather, it was.
Failing to parlay their draft pick into a marquee name or proven player will be just that for the Cavs: a failure. Cushioning themselves with the actual use of it isn't a realistic option for what they're trying to build or with whom they're trying to keep pace.
This aversion has nothing to do with an innate fear of selecting a player who will inevitably abandon the team like LeBron did in 2010. Cleveland pounced on Irving in 2011 without breaking a sweat. The talent was there, so the Cavaliers took it.
Admittedly, their distaste for retaining the No. 1 this year doesn't have everything to do with the talent not being there, either.
Everyone and their mother has been linked to the pick, and the Cavs apparently still have no idea whom they'll select if it gets that far, but that's not the lone driving force behind their attempt to ditch what is supposed to be a coveted draft position.
Spoke to lots of GMs last night. No agreement on who Cavs take at 1. Some convinced Noel. Others insist it's Len, Bennett, McLemore, Porter— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 26, 2013
Today's NBA is.
Rebuilding and restructuring isn't done through the draft anymore. Not exclusively. The Oklahoma City Thunder's core are the modern-day poster boys for homegrown contenders, and even they've had to stray away from the traditional schematics along the way (see James Harden's departure). Blueprints like the San Antonio Spurs' are rarely followed anymore.
Established superstars drive the league, and they're acquired via free agency and trades, not the draft.
Trades and free-agency signings put a vast majority of the league's championship threats in a position of power. Superstars have put them on top, where the Cavaliers want to be.
Since LeBron left for South Beach, the Cavs have been desperate for a superstar. Once they found one in Irving, they wanted another. They still do, hence their willingness (preference) to trade out of the top spot in the draft.
A reunion between Cleveland and LeBron was envisioned almost immediately upon learning he could opt out of his deal with the Heat after four years. The summer of 2014 was going to change things. LeBron or not, they would get their superteam.
Patience doesn't always pay off, though. Biding one's time and not-so-privately lusting after prospective free agents isn't foolproof. Superteams cannot just be willed into existence (see the Dallas Mavericks).
You need superstars to get superstars. There is no LeBron and Chris Bosh in Miami without Dwyane Wade's foot already in the door. No Carmelo Anthony in New York without Amar'e Stoudemire (oddly enough). No Chris Paul in Los Angeles without Blake Griffin (initially). No Deron Williams (still) in Brooklyn without Joe Johnson.
And the list goes on and on and on like the song that never ends.
This is what the NBA has become. Stars playing alongside stars is the standard, the expectation. And plotting and scheming only gets you so far. Teams have to go out and, sometimes, force the inception of superstar pairings.
That's what the Cavs are trying to do now with their No. 1 pick. The one they don't want.
Continuing to draft top-five talent and hoping they eventually catch up with the outfits bringing in superstars in their prime like a revolving door isn't going to cut it. Chasing a reunion with The Chosen One is the equivalent of cupping water in one's hands. Relying on Irving to reel in fellow stars next summer won't do much, either.
LeBron himself wasn't enough to sell Amar'e on Cleveland in 2010. Nor Bosh. Consider that for a second: The best player in the NBA, one of the most sought-after free agents of all time, couldn't convince another star to join him in Cleveland—most likely because Ohio isn't a flashy basketball market, but also because the Quicken Loans Arena doesn't come complete with beachfront property and nightlife that would make the New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski jealous.
Cleveland will face the same limitations in 2014 as it did four years prior. One docketed star won't necessarily translate to two or more. The Cavaliers have to make it happen for themselves, and they have to attach themselves to that second star as soon as possible.
Come 2014, they're in a unique position. They can literally enter the offseason with a clean financial slate if they want to. They won't, obviously, because they'll retain Irving (duh). Even then, they may have spending power that exceeds $50 million annually. Think about the possibilities.
Better yet, think about the possibilities if they were to acquire a partner for Irving now. Landing a max-money superstar now won't derail their 2014 aspirations; it furthers them.
The Cavs would still have enough money to sign one (two?) more top-tier talents, and they'd have two A-list players already in place to sell them on. For a small market, that's huge.
What should the Cavs do with the No. 1 draft pick?
LeBron alone couldn't bring another equal via free agency, and Irving is no different. For the sole reason that he isn't LeBron (no one is), the Cavs are actually at a disadvantage. And nearly three years removed from a debilitating decision, the Cavs know this. They understand that the answer to their questions, and to their prayers, cannot be found in Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter, Ben McLemore, Alex Len or anyone else they can select.
Searching for instant gratification and immediate relevance, the Cavaliers know their hopes rest on their ability to acquire another star now. Not down the road or eventually, but now. Later is their enemy.
Waiting, remaining idle and hoping for the best perhaps cost them LeBron. Engaging in the same behavior now will have similar repercussions, potentially destroying all that the Cavs have aspired to in one year's time.
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