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Cavaliers Next Top Player Won't Come through NBA Draft

If the season ended today, the Cavaliers would have the third highest chance at winning the NBA Draft lottery, and would pick no lower than 6th. The Lakers would miss the playoffs and the Cavs would be left with Miami's pick, somewhere around 25th. Kind of exciting, right? Another opportunity to find the mythical second star to pair with Kyrie Irving. Please, allow me to throw some cold water on that proposition.

Want another star for Kyrie? Don't hold your breath on it coming from the Draft.
Want another star for Kyrie? Don't hold your breath on it coming from the Draft.

It is highly unlikely that that the Cavaliers get a star from this draft. Part of the problem is the weakness of this draft in general, but that isn't really affecting my thinking too much. The simple fact of the matter is that there aren't many stars in the NBA, and there is an even smaller number of superstars in the NBA. Historically, you aren't guaranteed to get a star even if you have the first pick of the draft. Ask Milwaukee, who shipped away Andrew Bogut for an inefficient scorer. Ask Toronto, who may be in the process of shipping away Andrea Bargnani for a pack of Skittles. Ask Portland, who must watch Kevin Durant battle LeBron James in the NBA Finals while they read tell-all interviews from their top pick about his struggles with alcohol, and his struggles with their team doctors and medical staff.

If the top pick in the draft doesn't guarantee you a star, having a top pick in the draft guarantees you even less. To pick on David Kahn, because, well, who doesn't like to pick on David Kahn, we can take a look at Minnesota's picks over the last few years. Kahn took the reins in 2009. He had the 5th and 6th picks in the draft that year, and selected Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. Rubio has yet to play 50 full games for Minnesota, and Wolves fans probably wish Flynn hadn't played 50 full games for the team. Rubio may yet make it; he had a fun rookie year before a devastating injury cut short his season. In 2010, Kahn selected Wesley Johnson 4th overall. He really should just stay away from the Syracuse players. In 2011, he took Derrick Williams 2nd overall. In 2012, he made the safe play and traded his pick away. Enough damage had been done.

But the point of this isn't to say that David Kahn is the worst General Manager in the league. He has made many head-scratching moves, but Alexey Shved, Andrei Kirilenko, and Nikola Pekovic are guys he has brought in that have helped make Minnesota relevant. There were a lot of people who thought Flynn, Johnson, and Williams were worthy of being taken where they were, or even higher. The talent evaluators can be wrong, and if you think a 6th overall choice is going to be a solid NBA player, you will probably be wrong as often as you are right.

Take a look at the 2008 draft. The top pick was Derrick Rose, who is a superstar. He has won an MVP, although you can spend a long time wondering about how that could happen. Michael Beasley was taken second. That didn't work out. This ended up being a historically strong draft. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, Joe Alexander (wait, what?), Nicolas Batum, Danilo Galinari, Eric Gordon, Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert came out of this class. And yet, only 3 of the top 10 picks remain with the team that drafted them. From the draft 4 years ago! And there were still plenty of ways that the picks could go wrong; Charlotte took D.J. Augustin with several impressive players on the board.

Of course, if you want me to I could even look at the Cavaliers roster for confirmation of this. Kyrie Irving is a star who plays like a superstar on a lot of nights. Tristan Thompson, taken 4th overall, is a project that looks like a project most nights. Dion Waiters, taken 4th overall, does just enough things to make you happy they drafted him to offset the horrendous shot selection he all too often exhibits. I am fine with all of the picks the Cavs have made the last two years. But if you find yourself in the group saying "Tank for a better lottery pick!" and "Tristan should be traded for Bargnani or anything because he is a bust" at the same time, just note that there is a contradiction there. Maybe you think there isn't, because Thompson was a reach. Would Kenneth Faried or Kawhi Leonard have been reaches? The answer is yes.

Last season there were a lot of Cavaliers fans who thought it was a shame the team was going to have a low pick because the team really needed a guy like Harrison Barnes. Kyrie and Anderson Varejao got hurt, and all of a sudden the Cavs were in a position to take Barnes. But they didn't. By then, he had failed to show up against the Ohio Bobcats and others in a Sophomore season he was supposed to dominate, and his stock had fallen. The lesson is that we simply don't know who will be good, or who will be a star. We all have our thoughts and our eyes and can read about players and talk ourselves into or out of them, and that is part of the fun. But don't think the savior is coming from the draft. It is probably too much to ask. And don't risk the growth of the young talent we already have in Cleveland by tanking in hopes that we hit a home run come June.

So what does this mean? Are the Cavaliers just out of luck? Do I think their draft picks are worthless? I am not sure, no, and absolutely not. The Cavaliers have a young group of players that range from very fun, to sometimes frustrating. Either way, they all get to play! Draft picks are not the only way the team can get better. The team was close to adding one of the top centers in basketball, Andrew Bynum over the summer. The team was in all likelihood the top bidder on Nic Batum this summer. Neither worked out, but that doesn't mean it always won't work out. The draft will continue to be an excellent way for the team to get better. They will do better with some picks than they do with others. But signing veterans, and trading for stars is possible and Chris Grant and the fans should be open to it.