When it comes to bucking the odds and winning the NBA Draft Lottery, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a pretty good track record.
Four years ago, the Cavaliers had less than a three percent chance of winning, but did, and used the pick to select NBA All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving. Fast forward four years, and the Cavaliers had a 1.7 percent chance of winning the NBA Draft Lottery and getting the first pick in next month's NBA Draft, but again, they defied the odds and earned the first overall selection.
"Obviously, it's just been an amazing evening here, and just continuing the momentum in Believeland," Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said on a conference call with the Cleveland media. "We couldn't be more excited about the opportunity this poses for us."
Griffin brought a few good luck charms to the NBA Draft Lottery, as he used the bowtie worn by Nick Gilbert, son of Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert, as a pocket square, and his late grandmother Dana's angel pin on his lapel. The bowtie has become somewhat of a legend in Cleveland sports, as Gilbert has worn it on stage when the Cavaliers won a previous NBA Draft Lottery.
If they did not win the lottery, the Cavaliers would have been picking ninth based upon their record during the regular season. At the point where the Cavaliers did not have their card revealed at No. 9, Griffin knew the team could have a special night.
"When I saw our card wasn't at nine, my first reaction was, 'Oh, my God. I guess we've moved up. That's unbelievable,'" Griffin recalled. "When I saw the third card revealed and it wasn't us, I almost had to pinch myself. I was ecstatic. I couldn't even begin to describe the emotion that I felt.
"It was a 1.7 percent chance. Since we got the first pick with Kyrie, which was a 2.8 percent chance, anytime you want to say something, 'you'd say 2.8 percent chance,' everybody knows that you think it can happen. I guess '1.7 percent chance' is going to become that buzz theme now."
Now that the Cavaliers know they own the No. 1 overall pick, which, in previous years, has led to the drafting of small forward LeBron James (2003), Irving (2011) and power forward Anthony Bennett (2013), the question becomes whether they will stay at No. 1 or elect to trade the selection for more assets.
"We're very open-minded to a lot of things," Griffin said. "I've said, 'Trade me if it makes us better.' I'm not going to turn a blind eye to anything. As much as I appreciate Nick Gilbert's bowtie bringing us the luck, I feel it puts us in a position to have more opportunities in front of us. I don't want to limit our thinking right now.
"We've got to do a really thorough evaluation of the guys to know that we're not doing something too quickly. When you look at the guys that get the most hype, obviously, they get that because of their athleticism and their upside. I think we're really open-minded to doing a lot of different things relative to that pick."
No matter when the Cavaliers elect to make their selection in next month's NBA Draft, they will be looking to add players who represent the core values Griffin laid out to the media at the end of the season.
"Just beyond the No. 1 pick, we're a team that's talked a lot about the need to improve our floor spacing and our basketball IQ," Gilbert said. "We need to improve our basketball toughness. We're a team with several needs, quite frankly, and we need to address our fit as much as anything else, and that, big-picture wise, is where our focus is. The first pick is just a piece to that puzzle. It doesn't answer anything for us, and there's no savior here. This is all just about putting the pieces together in one puzzle.
"Relative to who helps you more right away, some of the older players that end up getting picked at 33, the seniors that have played four or five years in school, end up being immediate helps to you, and we've got the 33rd pick as well, so that will be a big part of the puzzle. Maybe somebody there helps us more immediately even more than the first pick."
While there are quality players at the top of most mock draft boards in the former Kansas tandem of center Joel Embiid and forward Andrew Wiggins and Duke small forward Jabari Parker, Griffin was quick to say drafting the best college players does not guarantee immediate success.
"For several drafts now, thinking anybody is a franchise player is a mistake," Griffin said. "These kids are going to be as good as the environment you put them in. We need to raise these kids in the right soil. We need to put them in a situation where, culturally, they're a part of the team from the beginning. The thing that San Antonio's done unbelievably well is they've introduced everybody into a system, and everybody knows it's 'We not I. We not me.' That's really important.
"To think there's a savior in the draft, it's just not fair to those kids. You can't look at these kids as they're the answer. They're really young in most cases, and they're really inexperienced. You have to raise them the right way. I don't think this class is any different. If you look at the top picks, they're all really young kids with a lot of upside, but none of them are finished products. I don't think you just roll the ball out there and think you've done your job."