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2022 NBA Draft Lottery: Cleveland Cavaliers' best possible pick at each spot

The Cleveland Cavaliers enter the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery with the lowest odds of moving up in the draft order.

CLEVELAND — Editor's note: the video in the player above is from the Thursday, May 12, 2022 episode of The Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show.

The 2022 NBA Draft Lottery takes place on Tuesday night in Chicago and the Cleveland Cavaliers have the slightest of chances to come out of the night with the No. 1 overall selection in the draft next month.

Cleveland finished the year with a 44-38 record, the best of any team that failed to qualify for the playoffs this season. Because the Cavaliers missed the playoffs, they retain their first-round draft pick that had previously been promised to the Indiana Pacers in the Caris LeVert trade. Had the Cavs won one of their play-in games against the Brooklyn Nets or Atlanta Hawks, the pick would have been sent to the Pacers and would have been 16th overall.

With the Cavs in the lottery, there are five possible outcomes for the team’s pick tonight. One of them, the Cavs not seeing their lottery combination pulled and remaining at 14th, is the overwhelming favorite to happen at a probability of 97.59 percent. The other four possible outcomes are selecting first, second, third, or fourth. 

As one could guess, none of those outcomes have a very strong chance of happening. There is a 0.5 percent chance the Cavaliers win the lottery and own the first pick, followed by a 0.56 percent chance of selecting second, a 0.63 percent chance at third and a 0.72 percent chance at fourth.

One of the questions that will be asked after the lottery on Tuesday will immediately shift to, “who will the best player on the board at pick X be?”

Let’s answer that now.

No. 1 overall – Jabari Smith Jr.

The Cavaliers winning the lottery would be such a momentous occasion for the team that ultimately could help to speed up the team’s timeline of returning to a championship contender. Adding Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. to the Cavs would give the Cavaliers the ability to continue to play three big men at once with Smith listed at 6-foot-10. That said, his skillset is more that of a small forward and he’s a much better athlete than incumbent Lauri Markkanen. Should the Cavaliers happen to win the lottery, they’re not too many years away from potentially having the best triumvirate in the NBA.

No 2 overall – Paolo Banchero

Finishing second overall would be a tremendous win for the Cavaliers, and much of what was said about the first slot remains true here -- although Banchero may have just a slightly lower ceiling than Smith does. He’s still a jumbo forward that would be able to play both the small and power forward positions, but he more so projects to the latter than the former, and that could mean the Cavaliers have some tough decisions to make personnel-wise in the not so distant future.

No. 3 overall – Chet Holmgren

Holmgren is the truest boom-or-bust prospect in this top group. 

If he turns out to be a future NBA MVP candidate, looking back at his skillset in high school and college it will appear obvious as to why his NBA was a success. If he isn’t able to gain enough muscle and strength to survive in the NBA and ends up being nothing special, that too would have been obvious.

Like Banchero and Smith, Holmgren profiles as a bigger wing, although he’s the tallest of the three and could play more center should he gain the more than 30 pounds he’ll likely need to add at the NBA level.

No. 4 overall – Jaden Ivey

There’s a strong chance that each of the top three selections in this draft is a big man/frontcourt player. The first guard to go off the board will likely be Purdue’s Jaden Ivey. 

Ivey is an extremely quick guard with great bloodlines (his father played football at Notre Dame and in the NFL and his mother starred on the women’s basketball team at Notre Dame and in the WNBA). 

Should he be available where the Cavs are selecting, it would make for an interesting proposition as the pick would be incredibly valuable via trade, or he could be a cheaper, potentially better Collin Sexton replacement as Darius Garland’s backcourt mate.

No. 14 overall – Ochai Agbaji

This would be the pick that makes the most sense for the Cavaliers should the most likely outcome occur at the draft lottery. Agbaji brings strong defense and perimeter shooting out on the wing. Two things the Wine and Gold very badly need.

Part of the reason the Cavaliers employed the three-big lineups as often as they did this past season was due to their lack out trustworthy talent available to play at small forward. Agbaji could change that.

Trading the pick

The other outcome, no matter where the Cavaliers land in the lottery, is a draft-day trade involving their first-round pick. The Cavaliers have a very clear need on the wing and may feel that the best way to fill that void is by trading this pick, and other pieces from the current roster, to add a proven veteran capable of defending on the wing at a high level while knocking down open 3-pointers.


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