May 17, 2011, 10:44 PM EDT
This is a night to celebrate if you’re a Cleveland Cavaliers fan.
After a rough summer and a record losing streak this season, the Ping-Pong balls bounced your way. You won the draft lottery, so pop open a Great Lakes Brewing Company Edmond Fitzgerald porter and celebrate.
Rebuilding can be a long, slow painful process and the chance to get the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in one draft is a jumpstart in the process.
The question is just how much of a jumpstart for Cleveland. Because this is a down draft.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was high on winning the lottery and was not trying to tamp down expectations.
“We do happen to think there is significant talent at the top of this draft…” Gilbert said half an hour after finding out he would have two of the top four picks. “We do think we’re going to get two excellent players who will be building blocks.”
Building blocks? Yes. Franchise cornerstones? Probably not. If you are thinking a Derrick Rose or John Wall or a man-whose-name-shall-not-be-mentioned-in-Cleveland, then this draft is going to disappoint. There’s talent, but there is not that kind of talent.
The top pick is going to be Duke’s Kyrie Irving. Gilbert danced around the “who are you going to draft?” question after that lottery and Cleveland’s front office will do the same for weeks. But short of injury or him wearing an “I love the Taliban” T-shirt to his team interview, Irving is a lock. Coach Byron Scott has had success with Chris Paul and Jason Kidd and he needs a strong point guard to run his system.
While some scouts think Irving is a franchise changer, a majority tend to think he is a future borderline All-Star — a good player but a guy you are going to need more people around of quality. Basically, rather than Chris Paul think Stephen Curry or Chauncey Billups in terms of impact.
Then at No. 4 the Cavs will likely end up with one of the European big men, either Enes Kanter, Jan Vesely or Jonas Valanciunas (here is our man Steve Alexander’s mock draft at Rotoworld). All quality future rotation players, maybe eventually starters in the NBA. But not dominant big men inside. Kanter has shown real upside (which is why he may not fall to the four slot) but there are questions about a guy who basically has not played organized ball in two years.
Combine these to picks with the athletic J.J. Hickson and a returned Anderson Varejao and there are a few nice building blocks. That’s a team likely on its way to being something like the Indiana Pacers — good but lacking the one superstar player the team needs.
So celebrate Cleveland, winning the lottery is a big help in rebuilding. But there are a lot more steps to take.
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