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ESPN's Chad Ford rips Cleveland's lottery picks, says LeBron James isn't coming back

Without prompting, ESPN's draft guru brushes back Chris Grant and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Chad Ford works for ESPN covering the NBA draft. He has a really hard job. He constantly has agents and league executives giving him information, good and bad, fully formed and not fully formed. There is almost always an agenda. Agents want to promote their players, executives don't have much interest in the public knowing exactly what their plan is. Sifting through all the misinformation is really difficult, and few do this better than Chad Ford.

As an example, remember the day of the draft this past June when certain media outlets were reporting that Alex Len was a done-deal selection with the first pick overall? Ford never attached his name to this or put his credibility on the line. Sometimes you show journalistic credibility for the things you don't report on, and this was just such a case.

But that isn't all Ford does. He also watches countless hours of college basketball and talks to pro scouts and college coaches. While most of his Big Board rankings are based on conversations with scouts and other talent-evaluators, Ford makes his own calls as well. And I am less certain Ford is as skilled at this part of his job. Which leaves us with this answer, that he gave in one of his entertaining and usually informative chats, yesterday:

john (jacksonville)

What should miami heat do if big 3 leaves in free agency?

Chad Ford
(1:22 PM)

I don't think they're going anywhere ... I love the idea of LeBron returning to Cleveland ... but as long as Dan Gilbert is the owner, I don't see it happening. Besides ... I'm not sure the Cavs have drafted well enough to make it compelling for LeBron. Had they chosen differently on Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett? Maybe ... but they've clearly missed a few times on players that could've been more helpful to their cause. Thank goodness for Kyrie Irving.

Now, there are a lot of things going on in this response, almost all of which bother me in varying degrees. While it's a little lazy, I am going to do bullet points.

  • The question wasn't about Cleveland. At all. It was a question about Miami, a team that has nothing to do with Cleveland. Once again, the national media goes out of its way to tell Cavs fans that LeBron isn't coming back. They create the narrative, then look for ways to make it clear the narrative is silly. How fun for us.
  • LeBron isn't going to come back because of Dan Gilbert, but if the Cavs had drafted differently he might have? This makes no sense. I don't think LeBron is coming back this summer, and it would be kind of weird for LeBron James to play for Gilbert again. But the logic here is just off. The first part about Gilbert precludes the second part about draft picks meaning anything at all.
  • The Cavs have "clearly missed a few times" in the lottery. Again, I have been pretty vocal in doubting Bennett and Waiters. You know who wasn't though? Chad Ford. In this chat he described Bennett as more of a sure thing than McLemore or Noel. Leading up to the selection of Waiters, Ford consistently talked about the Syracuse guard as a potential star, and I remember him being asked in another chat if he would rather build around Wall and Beal or Irving and Waiters. He chose the latter.
  • Now, Ford is entitled to change his mind. And he might be right. Sam broke things down pretty well in his last mailbag. I would rather have Jeremy Lamb and Nerlens Noel right now. And I might be wrong. In fact, it's likely that I am. But Ford thinks the Cavs missed a few times. Has seven games changed his view on Bennett? That seems silly. I question Bennett because I didn't like him as a prospect coming out. Most of my criticisms haven't involved his play in 70 minutes or whatever this season. But Ford liked him. He should calm down a little.
  • And while Waiters doesn't have many friends in the national media (though Zach Lowe gave him a vote-ish of confidence in his last BS report with Bill Simmons!) it's probably too early to write him off as well. He has put together a couple games and seems to be listening to Mike Brown.
  • Which brings us back to LeBron. I have no idea what his plan is. I care to the extent that I love the NBA and I hate the Heat and what happens to them has pretty serious implications. Long term, the Pacers and Thunder look really good. Perhaps the Rockets, too. LeBron can change things this summer. I don't believe the Cavs selection of Dion Waiters changes the equation, and it's way too early to think Anthony Bennett does either.