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What Odds Do the Cavs Have for the NBA Draft Lottery?
The Cleveland Cavaliers saw their breakthrough season end with a Play-In Round loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Now, they’ll turn their attention to the 2022 NBA Draft, beginning with Tuesday night’s lottery.
Over the years, the lottery has been good to Cleveland, resulting in four No. 1 picks, including LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Will the magic continue for the much-improved Cavs? Or will they have to settle for a lower-than-usual selection?
Cavaliers Lottery Odds Explained
Before the Play-In Round was introduced, the Cavaliers would have been a playoff team. Despite numerous injuries to key players, including Collin Sexton and Jarrett Allen, the Cavs finished with a 44-38 record. Not only was it their first winning season without LeBron since 1997-98, but it would have secured the eighth seed in the East.
However, since the Play-In Round’s introduction in 2020-21, only the top-six seeds earn a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. This meant Cleveland had to beat the Brooklyn Nets or, if not, the winner of the Hawks-Hornets game. The young Cavs could not do either, losing 115-108 at Brooklyn and falling 107-101 in a home elimination game versus Atlanta.
All of this is to say that the Cavs are technically a lottery team, but one that is far more likely to make the playoffs in 2022-23 than secure a top-four pick in next month’s draft.
What Odds Do the Cavs Have?
The Cavaliers have a 0.5 percent chance of winning their fifth lottery in 20 years, with the lowest odds among all 14 non-playoff teams. They also boast a 0.6% shot to secure the second- or third-overall pick and 0.7% odds at No. 4. Meanwhile, they have a 97.6% shot at picking 14th overall.
While their odds seem low, there was a chance for no first-round pick. Cleveland sent its 2022 first-round pick to the Indiana Pacers in February’s Caris LeVert trade. However, the selection was lottery-protected, meaning the Pacers would only land the pick if the Cavs missed the postseason.
The traded pick will now carry over to 2023, with Indiana securing Cleveland’s first-round pick if it falls outside the lottery.
Has Any Team Won the Lottery With Such Low Odds?
One of the beautiful things about the draft lottery is that all 14 teams have a chance. Cleveland can conceivably win the drawings for any of the top-four slots, unlike the NHL, which recently revamped its lottery to prevent teams from climbing more than ten spots.
Now it should be mentioned that no team has pulled off a lottery upset with odds of less than 1.0%. But a few teams in years past have had a dance with Lady Luck despite minuscule percentages.
The “unlikeliest” winner in NBA draft lottery history was the Orlando Magic. After winning the 1992 lottery and picking Shaquille O’Neal, Orlando went back-to-back in ‘93 despite a 1.52% chance. The Magic took Chris Webber, immediately flipping him for Penny Hardaway and picks.
Two teams won the lottery with 1.7% odds: the Chicago Bulls and Cavaliers. In 2008, Chicago landed the hometown prospect Derrick Rose despite having the ninth-best odds.
Six years later, Cleveland followed up its 2011 and ‘13 lottery luck with yet another top pick. The Cavs jumped from No. 9 to No. 1 and selected Andrew Wiggins, who became the key piece in the Kevin Love trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Even though the odds favor the worse teams, there is still the possibility of surprises. Take the 2019 lottery, for example. Out of the four teams with the highest lottery odds, only one (New York Knicks) stayed inside the top four.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies went from seven and eight to one and two, respectively, while the Los Angeles Lakers jumped from No. 11 to No. 4.
Possible Picks for the Cavaliers
The good thing about the Cavs’ projected draft slot is that, even though it possesses unlikely odds of moving up, it’s guaranteed to be no lower than No. 14. That means Cleveland will still have a shot to land an excellent player in what many experts view as a strong draft class.
Assuming they stay at 14, the Cavs would likely target one of several wings. Ochai Ogbaji could be one option, as the 6-foot-5 forward was a four-year starter at Kansas and projects as an NBA-ready 3-and-D player. Ohio State freshman Malaki Branham would be another solid scorer. Not to mention, Branham was Ohio’s Mr. Basketball at St. Vincent-St. Mary, LeBron’s famous alma mater.
However, if Cleveland cashes in on its 2.4% odds at a top-four pick, an interesting dilemma awaits. 2022 is a big-man-dominated draft class, with 7-foot-1 Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga), 6-foot-10 Paolo Banchero (Duke), and 6-foot-10 Jabari Smith Jr. (Auburn) projected 1-2-3 in no particular order.
While each prospect has enormous potential, the Cavaliers already have a loaded frontcourt with Allen, Rookie of the Year runner-up Evan Mobley, plus veterans Lauri Markkanen and Kevin Love.
Cleveland could take Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, a 6-foot-4 guard, and use him as the sixth man or as a replacement for Collin Sexton, a restricted free agent.
But perhaps the Cavaliers would consider using a lucky top-four pick as trade ammunition in the hopes of landing a win-now veteran that puts them over the edge in a tough Eastern Conference.
President of Basketball Operations Koby Altman will watch Tuesday’s lottery with great interest. The results could determine whether his team adds another young prospect or goes all-in for a big-name star.
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