It's time for the Cavaliers to build a winner

Good organizations don't depend on luck in the lottery

James Rapien
May 15, 2019 - 9:33 pm
Jul 26, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman (L) and owner Dan Gilbert (R) speak during a press conference at Cleveland Clinic Courts. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

© David Richard-USA TODAY Sports


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Cavaliers fans left disappointed on Tuesday night when the team was awarded the fifth pick in the NBA Draft Lottery. They had a 14 percent chance at winning the first overall pick, which was tied with the Knicks and Suns for the best odds in the lottery.

The Cavaliers were blessed with the last player who entered the NBA with the hype that surrounds former Duke star Zion Williamson.

LeBron James saved the Cavs when he was drafted in 2003. He saved basketball in Cleveland again when he returned in 2014.

The Cavaliers relied on one man to carry the franchise for more than a decade. Landing Williamson would’ve been great, but great organizations are bigger than one player.

Small market teams like Oklahoma City and Portland lost stars in free agency in recent years. Both teams made the playoffs the very next season. Their success continued because they were built the right way. Their organizations didn’t revolve around one guy. Both franchises built a winning culture.

Building a solid foundation takes time. The Cavaliers adding Williamson would’ve been great, but it could’ve resulted in the organization revolving around one star player. That shouldn’t be the goal for the post-LeBron Cavaliers.

Their success depends on general manager Koby Altman and owner Dan Gilbert. They need to build this organization from the ground up. They’ve already torn it down. They’ve added future assets. The key is landing the right players in the draft. 

For so many years with James on the roster, the Cavaliers were in ‘championship or bust’ mode, which prevented them from building a sustainable product. A well-run organization could’ve survived James’ departure.

Cleveland is a great city, but it isn’t going to attract the NBA’s biggest stars. The Cavaliers can’t rely on free agency or the draft lottery to land top talent. They need to be capable of finding a future All-Star with the fifth pick in the draft.

Altman and Gilbert knocked it out of the park when they hired John Beilein. He’s a proven head coach and one of the best basketball minds on the planet. Beilein hasn’t coached in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean he won’t have success. He’s much more proven than an unknown assistant who happens to be on a playoff staff.

Beilein gives the Cavaliers an advantage in this years’ draft. He coached against and prepared for a lot of these players who will be selected on June 20.

The Cavaliers have the No. 5 pick and the No. 26 pick. The Cavaliers need to find legitimate NBA players with both picks. Great organizations land talent throughout the draft.

Look at the teams that are still playing in the playoffs. The Warriors drafted Draymond Green with the No. 35 pick. The Raptors drafted Pascal Siakam with the No. 27 pick. The Bucks landed Malcolm Brogdon with the No. 36 pick.

Portland drafted Damian Lillard (sixth) and CJ McCollum (tenth) overall.

If the Cavaliers want to return to the playoffs and become a legitimate NBA franchise that isn’t known for being carried by the kid from Akron, then the next few drafts are critical. Of course Williamson would’ve given them a huge boost, but none of the top stars remaining in the playoffs were selected first overall.

Kevin Durant is the closest thing to that and he was drafted with the No. 2 pick. The Warriors signed him in free agency and look like a title team without him. Golden State is a well-run organization. They took Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson with the seventh and the eleventh picks, respectively.

If Altman is a quality general manager, then he’ll be able to find talent in this draft and in the future.

Good organizations hope for some luck in the lottery, but they don’t depend on it. The Cavaliers have relied on lottery luck and LeBron for far too long.

It’s time for Altman, Gilbert and company to prove they can build a winner.