It’s not hyperbole to say that May 15th is the most pivotal date for the Cavaliers this season. Down 1-0 to the Celtics, they absolutely cannot lose Game 2 tonight. But even more importantly than the game, there’s the NBA Draft lottery.
The Cavs own the Brooklyn Nets #1 draft pick, and they have a 2.8% chance of getting the top pick in the loaded 2018 draft. (It’s loaded, but not 2017-Draft loaded.) The Cavs have a 9.9 percent chance to get a Top 3 pick. Their recent history in the lottery has been unbelievable, winning it in back-to-back years (2013, 2014) despite only have a 15% chance and then a 1.7% chance. In 2013 they foolishly took Anthony Bennett, who is already out of the NBA; in 2014, they drafted Andrew Wiggins #1 and traded him to Minnesota in return for Kevin Love.
(The Cavs also won the draft lottery in 2011, a pick they had from the Clippers, and drafted Kyrie Irving.)
Regardless of what happens against Boston and/or Golden State, the Cavs best chance to keep LeBron heavily hinges upon the draft lottery. Adrian Wojnarowski came on my radio show Saturday and had this to say (draft talks starts at the 8:15 mark):
I think Cleveland is really interesting … they have had great fortune in the lottery. they always expect to move way up, I think they’re at a 2% chance, with them it always feels like 22% because they’d moved up …
The one chance that Cleveland has to make a case to Lebron James, or one of the cases, is getting a high pick … or is there a trade to use that pick on around draft time … without Lebron giving them a sense of how he wants to go forward … he has never shown them inclination to engage with the team and work with them around the draft and going into free agency … he sort of shuts it down.
It may be harder for them to know what he wants to do … Cleveland wouldn’t trade the pick because that was their insurance policy if Lebron left or its part of the case they could make, ‘hey, we could have a good young core to go forward with you if want to stay with us.’
LeBron has no use for rookies. Not at 33, with hopes of more championships. But Cleveland will have to make a decision, too: Do we roll the dice and package, say, DeAndre Ayton and Kevin Love together in an effort to rent Kawhi Leonard for a year? LeBron opts-in, and they give it another shot?
Big night, Cleveland.