SEACAUCUS, New Jersey May 18 – The Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost 2003 NBA Draft top pick LeBron James to free agency 10 months ago, have won the NBA Draft Lottery to claim the top selection in next month's draft.With a pick obtained from the Los Angeles Clippers that had only a 2.8 percent chance of landing the top spot, the struggling Cavaliers claimed the top pick and will make their own choice fourth overall.
"I am very excited for the fans of Cleveland, who have been through a very, very rough year," Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said. "They deserve it more than anybody and they have some good hope now."
The Cavaliers faded from a 61-21 title contender to a 19-63 season after James, who played seven seasons near his Ohio hometown of Akron, departed for the Miami Heat to unite with fellow stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.
Gilbert vowed after James made his departure that the Cavaliers would win a title before the NBA Most Valuable Player who turned his back on Cleveland.
"We’ll be right back there and be competitive and build this franchise going forward," Gilbert said.
While Miami is playing Chicago for a berth in the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers can only hope to rebuild quickly and having two of the first four selections of the available unclaimed talent next month can only help.
The only cautionary note is that the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement between players and club owners expires one week after the June 23 draft, setting up the possibility of an uncertain off-season without a new deal.
Cleveland, which had not won the lottery since 2003 when they claimed James out of high school, swung a deal with the Clippers for Baron Davis in exchange for the draft pick that turned out to be the No. 1 selection.
Nick Gilbert, the 14-year-old owner’s son who was born with the tumor-producing nerve disorder Neurofibromatosis, represented the Cavaliers at the draft lottery ceremony where the team beat the odds.
"It’s sort of Nick fashion. He has been doing it his whole life to some degree," the elder Gilbert said. "I’m proud of him."
The Minnesota Timberwolves, who had the NBA’s worst record at 17-65, took the second overall pick. They had a 25 percent chance of winning the top spot but fell to 0-14 in lottery attempts.
Not since Orlando in 2004 has the team with the worst record the season before won the lottery for the top pick in the folowing draft. The Magic used the top spot seven years ago to select All-Star center Dwight Howard.
Utah took the third overall selection with a selection obtained from New Jersey in a trade that brought Deron Williams from the Jazz to the Nets.
Toronto will select fifth followed in order by Washington, Sacramento, Detroit, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Golden State, Utah, Phoenix and Houston.
Lottery teams were those that failed to make this season’s NBA playoffs.
College stars Kyrie Irving, a guard from Duke, and Derrick Williams, a forward from Arizona, figure to be the top players taken in the draft.