Cavaliers land 'tremendously valuable' third pick in draft lottery, opens up trade options

by 24USATVJune 23, 2021, 10 a.m. 19

General Manager Koby Altman doesn’t know if the Cavaliers will keep or trade the third overall pick they drew in Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery.

But he knows the position is “tremendously valuable” as the Cavs try to speed up the franchise rebuild and he thanked Nick Gilbert, son of owner Dan Gilbert, for playing a part.

Gilbert was overseas on a family vacation, but a package arrived at Altman’s Chicago hotel room Tuesday morning. Inside were two of the younger Gilbert’s lucky ties, one a piece of the 2016 NBA championship court and another Gilbert wore to represent the Cavs when they got the No. 1 pick.

Gilbert played a part in three of the five times the Cavs won the lottery. He attended in 2011 (Kyrie Irving) and 2013 (Anthony Bennett). In 2014 (Andrew Wiggins), then-general manager David Griffin wore Gilbert’s bow tie as a handkerchief in his suit jacket.

“I was doing my best to channel my inner Nick Gilbert tonight,” Altman said. “I couldn’t figure out which one to wear, so I figured ‘Let’s put ‘em right by my side,’ and it worked out, so thank you, Nick.”

Entering the night fifth in the order, the Cavs had an 11.2% percent chance of getting No. 3. When the Oklahoma City Thunder, which won a coin flip with the Cavs for the fourth position, drew No. 6, that assured the Cavs of a top four slot.

The Cavs had drawn the fifth, fifth and eighth picks in the past three drafts, which resulted in them selecting Isaac Okoro, Darius Garland and Collin Sexton. Those three are considered part of the core four the Cavs can build around, but the team still sought its centerpiece.

After what happened on the fifth anniversary of the franchise's unforgettable NBA championship parade, it has a chance of getting that franchise-changing talent in the July 29 draft.

“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity. I think it really positions us well,” Altman said. “When we started this a few years back we talked about building through the draft and creating sustainable success. There’s some real game-changers at the top of this draft, but also it puts us in a position to capitalize on different opportunities throughout the landscape of the NBA with this position.

“We’re fortunate to be able to have this pick, add another talented young man to this roster. But when you look at our young core, we’re in good shape from a talent perspective and we’re going to have another large injection of talent coming soon.”

This draft has five players considered possible franchise-changers. Oklahoma State 6-foot-8 guard Cade Cunningham seems a lock to be the top choice.

Guard Jalen Suggs of Gonzaga, guard Jalen Green and forward Jonathan Kuminga of G League Ignite and Southern California center Evan Mobley are also considered elite prospects. Analysts disagree about the possible order, though, most put those four somewhere in the top five. Florida State guard Scottie Barnes and Baylor guard Davion Mitchell, considered the top defender in the draft, also drew praise from ESPN analysts Jay Bilas and Mike Schmitz during the broadcast.

Bilas called the 2021 draft “one of the deepest drafts since I’ve been doing this,” and Altman agreed.

“Why people are so excited about this draft, even beyond the top five, there could be potential All-Stars,” Altman said.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said the Cavs had been exploring moving the pick if it was high enough, and Altman said there have already been phone calls based on hypotheticals.

“Now it’s concrete, we know what pick we have and we know what calls we’ll probably get on it and we’ll figure out what we can potentially do with it,” Altman said. “At the top of this draft there’s size, there’s athleticism, there’s talent, so we’re really happy.

“We’re going to take the night, decompress, get our thoughts in order. The landscape currently in the league, I know this pick is tremendously valuable. If that’s the direction that we want to go with that ammunition, we can certainly get in some conversations. But we really do like this draft.”

Asked about setting up workouts with draft prospects, Altman said, “Having the third pick really helps, because we'll have more opportunity to talk to the top tier. But our Assistant General Manager Mike Gansey will start that process. He might be doing it tonight. As soon as I get off this call, I'm going to talk to him and see what we’ve got going.”

Altman hesitated to reveal who would represent the Cavs and try to change their lottery luck during his season ending press conference on May 28.

“It’s like you know when you catch a wish, you’ve got to blow it, you can’t tell the person what the wish is,” Altman said then.

Asked why he decided on himself, he joked, “I was probably 12th on the depth chart. Important year. It was a lot of pressure. But I wanted to step up and do it.”

Altman revealed that second-year point guard Darius Garland, 21, was invited Tuesday to join USA Basketball’s Select Team.

“Darius getting to go against that caliber of player every day in practice, at his age, is tremendous,” Altman said. “I think people are taking note nationally of how good Darius has become and his talent level and him to get that, for us to get that call about Darius today, we're thrilled.”

Also on Tuesday, Cavs forward Kevin Love committed to playing for Team USA in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics July 23-Aug. 8. Love played in only 25 games for the Cavs (22-50) due to a strained right calf suffered in preseason.

“We're thrilled about Kevin participating in the Olympics,” said Altman, a former intern for Team USA. “It's an honor. The experience you get with USA Basketball is unlike anything else I can describe, especially when you win gold. He has a chance to add another gold medal to his resume, Olympic gold medal.

“More personally for us as a franchise and for him, he gets to play five-on-five against the best players in the world every day, and then go on and play meaningful games. That's going to be great for him. He knows he needs to have a big offseason and this is the perfect place for him to do that.”

More:How much longer?: Cavaliers GM sees 'really bright' future in seemingly slow rebuild

When is the 2021 NBA draft?

The Cavs have used the past three drafts to add three guards — Sexton (2018), Garland (2019) and Okoro (2020), but they are still seeking a potential superstar to build around.

In 2020, the Cavs had the second-worst record (19-46) in the league and picked fifth, tabbing Auburn guard Isaac Okoro.

In 2019, they were tied with the Phoenix Suns (19-63) for the third-worst record, won that coin flip and picked fifth.

In 2018 with the coveted “Brooklyn pick” acquired in Kyrie Irving trade with the Boston Celtics, the Cavs went into lottery night in the eighth spot and ended up eighth.

Before Tuesday, the previous three years didn't come close to what happened after James left Cleveland for the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010.

In 2011, the Cavs got the No. 1 lottery pick with the Los Angeles Clippers’ pick, which carried odds of 2.8%.

In 2013, they landed No. 1 with a 15.6% chance.

In 2014, their luck reached its peak, getting No. 1 with a 1.7% chance.

The Cavs have won the lottery five times since the format was introduced in 1985. Selected were Daugherty (1986), James (2003), Irving (2011), Anthony Bennett (2013) and Anthony Wiggins (2014). They also picked first in 1971 (Austin Carr).

From 2011-13 and in 2018-19, the Cavs were represented by their good luck charm, Nick Gilbert, son of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Nick Gilbert did not attend in 2014, but then-general manager David Griffin wore Gilbert’s bow tie as a handkerchief in his suit jacket.

Marla Ridenour can be reached at [email protected] Read more about the Cavs at Follow her on Twitter at

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