Cleveland Cavaliers Obtain First Pick In 2011 At Clippers' Expense

May 17, 2011

Just when things seem to be turning around in Clipperland, the curse upon owner Donald Sterling once again unleashes more bad luck on the franchise.

The NBA's 2011 Draft Lottery was conducted this evening, and Cleveland was awarded the first overall selection.  The Draft itself will be held later on June 23, 2011, in Newark, New Jersey.

The magic ping pong ball which netted the Cavs the grand prize had only a 2.80 percent chance of winning because it actually was acquired via a midseason trade with the Clippers.

In that deal, Los Angeles traded point guard Baron Davis and an unprotected first rounder for journeyman 3 Jamario Moon and point guard Mo Williams.

At the time, the Clips justified the move by noting the savings in salary and cap room gained by exchanging Davis' $14 million annual salary for Williams' $8 million price tag.  Of course, in order to make such a move, LA had to dangle a very enticing carrot -- their first round pick with zero protections.

Many pundits universally applauded the deal, noting that the 2011 draft class was weaker-than-normal, and that the odds of the pick landing in the top 3 slots were slim. Well, so much for those prognostications.

The truth is that by inexcusably failing to give the pick "top three" protection, this deal has become yet another bad move in a long series of historical screw-ups by Clippers' management.  And in the end, the responsibility for such failure falls upon the head of Sterling, the very same man who stated in a jury trial earlier this year that he knew nothing about basketball.

On the flipside, this could very well be viewed by Cavs fans as the move which turned their franchise around in the aftermath of "The Decision."

At the time of the trade, rookie star Blake Griffin and Davis had established a genuine chemistry with one another on the floor, as Davis' open court creativity generated numerous scoring opportunities and monster dunks for Griffin.

More importantly, Davis, despite his gimpy knees, still remained a more talented, superior playmaker to the more jump shot-oriented Williams.

Ultimately, for the sake of saving a few bucks and escaping from Davis' contract, the Clippers lost out on a quality prospect at the top of the draft, while simultaneously failing to improve on the court with the parts they received in return.

As for talk of 2011 being a weak draft, that might be true in terms of its overall depth, but not when considering the top five selections.  Included among those top prospects are point guards Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, and Brandon Knight; big man Enes Kanter; and forward Derrick Williams.

For the Clips, any one of those three lead guards would have been a nice fit opposite 2 guard Eric Gordon, regardless of whether it was the quick Irving, the clutch-shooting Walker, or the tall Knight.

Alternatively, Williams -- with his three point range, athleticism, long arms, ballhandling, and refined post game -- would have been an excellent complement to Griffin if LA wanted to put a smaller frontline on the court.

At the very least, the pick would have given LA tremendous value in a trade for a more veteran player to put alongside Griffin at the 3.  Because that is the real nightmare scenario for LA: free agency.

In other words, Griffin is closely watching the direction of the franchise, and already has hinted of a temporary future in LA. The truth is that as long as Sterling is captain of the ship, elite free agents will be reluctant to join the team.  And without upgrades to the roster or improvements among the current nucleus, Griffin will eventually tire of losing and bolt for greener pastures.

Meanwhile, LA's loss has become the Cavs' gain.  With two selections in the top four picks, Cleveland can address multiple needs and build a talented nucleus for the future.

Of course, they can also end up drafting a player, watch him develop before their eyes, and then have him decide on national television . . . nevermind.

Here is the current selection order of the 2011 NBA Draft:

1.    Cleveland (From LA Clippers)
2.    Minnesota
3.    Utah (From New Jersey)
4.    Cleveland
5.    Toronto
6.    Washington
7.    Sacramento
8.    Detroit
9.    Charlotte
10.    Milwaukee
11.    Golden State
12.    Utah
13.    Phoenix
14.    Houston
15.    Indiana
16.    Philadelphia
17.    New York
18.    Washington (From Atlanta)
19.    Charlotte (From New Orleans via Portland)
20.    Minnesota (From Memphis via Utah)
21.    Portland
22.    Denver
23.    Houston (From Orlando via Phoenix)
24.    Oklahoma City
25.    Boston
26.    Dallas
27.    New Jersey (from LA Lakers)
28.    Chicago (From Miami via Toronto)
29.    San Antonio
30.    Chicago


31.    Miami (From Minnesota)
32.    Cleveland
33.    Detroit (From Toronto)
34.    Washington
35.    Sacramento
36.    New Jersey
37.    LA Clippers (From Detroit)
38.    Houston (From LA Clippers)
39.    Charlotte
40.    Milwaukee
41.    LA Lakers (From Golden State via New Jersey)
42.    Indiana
43.    Chicago (From Utah)
44.    Golden State (From Phoenix via Chicago)
45.    New Orleans (From Philadelphia)
46.    LA Lakers (From New York)
47.    LA Clippers (From Houston)
48.    Atlanta
49.    Memphis
50.    Philadelphia (From New Orleans)
51.    Portland (1)
52.    Denver (2)
53.    Orlando
54.    Cleveland (From Oklahoma City via Miami)
55.    Boston
56.    LA Lakers
57.    Dallas
58.    LA Lakers (From Miami)
59.    San Antonio
60.    Sacramento (From Chicago via Milwaukee)             

(1) -  This pick may be conveyed to Detroit via Denver.
(2) -  This pick may be conveyed to Portland or to Detroit.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

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