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How Many Number One Picks Does It Take to Get to the Center of an NBA Playoff Race?

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The Cavs have a miserable drafting history. Will this year be the pick that gets them into the playoffs?

If you read my article yesterday detailing the NBA Draft odds and team needs, you know how improbable it was for the Cleveland Cavaliers to obtain the number one pick in the draft. They only had a 6.11% chance of scoring a top three pick, and the odds of grabbing the first one was at low number of 1.7%. So of course they would get it. Of course.

Their draft lottery luck is now at a ridiculous three number-one picks in a span of four years. According to Grantland's Bill Barnwell, the chances of that happening are 13,467 to 1. The LeBron James post-decision karma is really working for them, huh?

The question will be: What will they make of their continued good fortune? Their first number one pick, Kyrie Irving, has loads of potential, but hasn't seen the type of increase in efficiency since his rookie year we expected, as numberFire's Brandon Gdula points out. Their second top pick, Anthony Bennett, surely seems like a bust if there ever was one.

What will they do this year?

Honestly, who really knows? It seems that there are three or four elite guys at the top of the draft - Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, and Dante Exum - which is a bit different than last year. The Cavs surprised everyone in taking Bennett instead of Victor Oladipo or Nerlens Noel. I don't think the Cavs fan base will be very tolerant of another surprise this year if they don't take one of those four guys.

The following table breaks down the Cavs current roster (in alphabetical order), where they were drafted, and how they've done in the league so far. For a read up on our nERD statistic, go here. Kyrie has a good pretty PER so far in his short career, but the nERD isn't as kind to him. Bennett, Thompson, Waiters, and Zeller - the four most recent Cavs lottery picks - have not even been able to hit the positive mark in terms of nERD.

Current RosterDraft PickDrafted ByCareer PERCareer nERD
Anthony Bennett1Cavaliers (2013)6.9-3.8
Matthew DellavedovaUndraftedUndrafted (2013)10.7-1.2
Luol Deng7Bulls (2004)15.82.5
Carrick Felix33Cavaliers (2013)13.3-0.1
Alonzo GeeUndraftedUndrafted (2009)11.2-3.2
Spencer Hawes10Kings (2010)14.4-2.5
Kyrie Irving1Cavaliers (2011)20.91.9
Jarrett Jack22Trail Blazers (2005)14.2-1.9
Sergey Karasev19Cavaliers (2013)2.3-0.9
CJ Miles34Jazz (2005)13.0-1.1
Tristan Thompson4Cavaliers (2011)15.0-1.5
Anderson Varejao30Magic (2004)15.73.1
Dion Waiters4Cavaliers (2012)13.9-5.8
Tyler Zeller17Cavaliers (2012)12.5-1.8

I'll leave the Kyrie pick alone. But with the Cavs taking Bennett at number one and both Thompson and Waiters at four, here is a list of players they passed on: Jonas Valanciunas, Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic, Kenneth Faried, Jimmy Butler, Chandler Parsons, Damian Lillard, Andre Drummond, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Michael Carter-Williams, and Victor Oladipo. Even with taking Karasev at 19th, they passed on Gorgui Dieng, Mason Plumlee, and Tim Hardaway Jr. Pick any player out of that first list and they would have been the best player on the Cavs this season, other than Kyrie.

The Cavs have been the luckiest team in the league the last four seasons. Normally that would mean a return to prominence - I mean, it's not like the Eastern Conference has been a bloodbath recently. But the Cavs main problem is having perhaps the most incompetent front office and owner in the league.

The Cavs gave up a combined five draft picks for Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes in order to make a playoff push, just to appease moronic owner Dan Gilbert. Even doing that, they missed the playoffs in the pathetic East this year, but still ended up with the first overall pick after having 1.7% odds. I can understand why Milwaukee and Philly fans would be angry.

It will be interesting to see how the Cavs handle their draft pick this year. Will they take Wiggins, who is growing each day to be considered the consensus first selection? Or will they select Embiid and take a chance on his back? That would be especially ironic, since the Cavs are just one year removed from moving away from consensus top pick Nerlens Noel because of an injury during his one year in college.

Or does Kyrie push Gilbert to select fellow one-and-done Dukie Jabari Parker? If so, that would definitely mean the end of the Luol Deng era, despite giving up a whole lot for him mid-season. Or do they surprise everyone and take a point guard like Dante Exum? After last year, I wouldn't put anything past this management group and ownership.

So how many top-five picks does it take to make the playoffs? Well, it sure isn't four in the last three years, as shown by their putrid 33-49 record this season. Maybe the number is five? I guess we will see.

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In This Article

Spencer Hawes
FC, Los Angeles Clippers

Kyrie Irving
G, Cleveland Cavaliers

Tristan Thompson
FC, Cleveland Cavaliers

Luol Deng
F, Miami Heat

LeBron James
F, Cleveland Cavaliers

Dion Waiters
GF, Oklahoma City Thunder

Tyler Zeller
FC, Boston Celtics

Anthony Bennett
F, Minnesota Timberwolves

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