For the past few years, the Cavs have turned their trip into a celebration. Not because of the record that landed them there, but more so recognizing the opportunity to make a significant addition to the team.
Nick Gilbert, son of majority owner Dan Gilbert, won over viewers with his 2011 "What's not to like?" catchphrase. Bow ties were worn proudly by the Cavs crowd in attendance every year, with notable Cleveland figures like Joe Haden, Josh Cribbs, Bernie Kosar, Tony Rizzo and Machine Gun Kelly showing up to offer their support.
While it stands to be another important draft for the Cavaliers, the fanfare will be greatly reduced.
For the first time in four years, neither Gilbert will be attending the event. No Cleveland Browns players, local radio personalities or rappers are expected to attend either. According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, the Cavs will be sending only general manager David Griffin and vice chairman Jeff Cohen.
While this is a far cry from previous years, it doesn't diminish the importance that this draft carries for Cleveland.
The Cavs will have much at stake in the 2014 NBA draft and the lottery that proceeds it.
Chances at No. 1 Pick
Unlike previous years, the Cavs weren't one of the NBA's worst teams, and they should see their pick fall in the eight to 10 range.
Cleveland holds the ninth-best odds at winning the lottery at just 1.7 percent (via NBA.com). They have a 6.1 percent chance at a top-three pick that would conceivably land them Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Joel Embiid.
Now, crazy things have happened on lottery night, so the Cavs have a shot at landing a top pick. They won the 2011 lottery thanks to a trade for the Los Angeles Clippers' unprotected first-rounder, a pick that was supposed to fall eighth overall. The Chicago Bulls won the right to the first overall pick and selected Derrick Rose in 2008 despite sitting where the Cavs currently are with the ninth-best odds.
Even if the percentages hold true and the Cavs stay around pick No. 9, there is talent to be had in this deep draft. Much more so than the 2013 version that Cleveland won, anyways.
Speaking of which…
Opportunity to Make Up for 2013
I'm not ready to call Anthony Bennett a bust yet, but the 2013 first overall pick had a rough year. It was a shock when the Cavs took him last season, as they already had a solid starter in Tristan Thompson at power forward, where Bennett plays. Their second first-rounder, Sergey Karasev, played in just 22 total games this season while registering 156 minutes. Even late in the season, Cleveland failed to give him any regular playing time.
Right now, the Cavs appear to have struck out big time with their 2013 picks.
2014 is Cleveland's chance at redemption. David Griffin has taken over general manager duties from Chris Grant, and he should be well prepared to handle his first draft after spending the past 21 years working behind the scenes with the Cavs and Phoenix Suns.
Despite the previous parties thrown to celebrate the draft lottery and fanfare that went along with it, Griffin is taking a more realistic approach to the evening.
“Nobody wants to be a Lottery team,” Griffin told Cavs.com. “We'll know we're succeeding when we're winning and playing this time of year, and that's our attention.”
One thing Griffin should do better than Grant is draft for team fit instead of just overall talent. Three years ago, when they began the rebuild process, drafting best available talent was the way to go (seriously, some thought it wise to pass on Kyrie Irving because Baron Davis and Ramon Sessions were under contract).
Now, building blocks have already begun to take their place. Point guard should be out of the equation, as should power forward. It would be a surprise to see Cleveland draft a shooting guard with Dion Waiters' late-season surge, and center may not be a real need depending on the futures of Spencer Hawes and Anderson Varejao. Indeed, Griffin should have his eye on the best available small forward.
While Grant missed on his picks, and then subsequently tried trading them for superstars, Griffin has a chance to correct his mistakes.
If the Cavaliers even land a top-three pick, this will be a bigger victory for them than winning the 2013 lottery.
Wiggins, Parker or Embiid could all come in and start right away for the Cavs. They all have franchise-player potential, something the 2013 version sorely lacked.
Coming away with any of those three would immediately give the Cavs two stars (possibly three with Waiters) along with a solid cast of role players. Cleveland could also try to package some of its existing young talent (Thompson, Karasev, Tyler Zeller) in a deal to add some veteran talent to complement Irving and whomever they landed in the draft if they truly wanted to win now.
Of course, Cleveland, like nearly every other NBA team, could use its pick to try and lure Kevin Love away from the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Cavs tried to deal for Love last offseason by offering Waiters, Thompson and the 2013 first overall pick, which the Timberwolves politely declined (via the Cleveland Plain Dealer).
If the Cavs can come away with a top-three pick, it would be a franchise-changing moment with all the opportunities to dramatically improve that would arise.
According to NBA.com, the Cavs' pick can fall no further than 11th overall, and even that isn't likely at just 0.4 percent.
Who's the best choice for the Cavs if they pick at No. 9?
Still, one has to prepare for every scenario. If Cleveland would fall this far back, it would likely miss out on the second wave of talent after the big three. Players like Julius Randle, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott, Noah Vonleh and Dante Exum will likely be picked in the four to 10 range before Cleveland's on the clock.
The Cavs don't necessarily need a star out of this draft, but they do need a quality contributor to help them with a playoff push.
If Cleveland falls back toward pick No. 11, it may have to choose between guys like James Young or Dario Saric. Do they really have the patience to completely develop another prospect?
A lot is riding on the draft lottery for the Cavs.
They don't necessarily need to hit a home run to consider it a success, but a solid double would be nice.
Griffin and the rest of the Cavaliers certainly hope their recent lottery luck will continue on, if just for one more year.