Secaucus, N.J. The Cleveland Cavaliers got a huge jump on their post-LeBron James rebuilding process Tuesday night, winning the lottery and the No. 1 selection in next month’s NBA Draft.
Turning a pick they acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers into the No. 1 selection, the Cavs will pick first for the first time since 2003, when they drafted James out of high school.
He left for Miami last summer and the Cavs tumbled to the second-worst record in the league, but they will have two top-four picks next month as they try to back owner Dan Gilbert's boast that they would win a title before James. They already had their own pick and acquired another at the trade deadline from the Clippers in the deal for Baron Davis.
Gilbert sent his son and “hero,” 14-year-old Nick Gilbert, to the podium and the kid came up with a stunning victory, as the Clippers’ pick, originally No. 8, had only a 2.8 percent chance of landing at the top.
Nick Gilbert was born with Neurofibromatosis (NF), a nerve disorder that causes tumors to grow anywhere in the body at any time. He was wearing black-rimmed glasses and a bow tie and looked serious until he showed a keen sense of humor in a television interview. His father called him his “hero” for the way he has fought the disease.
“It’s sort of Nick fashion. He has been doing it his whole life to some degree. I’m proud of him. I proud of the way he carried himself and I am very excited for the fans of Cleveland, Ohio, who have been through a very, very rough year,” Dan Gilbert said. “They deserve it more than anybody.”
Minnesota will select second and Utah turned New Jersey’s pick from the Deron Williams trade into the No. 3 selection.
The Timberwolves continued their unbelievable lottery losing streak, falling to 0-for-14 and dropping for the eighth time. They had a 25 percent chance of winning after finishing with a league-worst 17-65 record.
The Cavs will likely decide between point guard Kyrie Irving of Duke or Arizona forward Derrick Williams as the top pick.
With the NBA down to its final four teams, 14 at the bottom of the standings made the trip to NBA Entertainment studios in northern New Jersey for what Commissioner David Stern called the league’s “annual rite of renewal.”
“There are a lot of teams who think they are one player away and this may be the player,” Stern said during a news conference before the lottery.
And it was an important year to finish near the top. In part because of the league’s uncertain labor situation, the draft is not considered particularly deep. North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger were among the expected lottery picks who decided to return to school.
Toronto and Washington dropped to Nos. 5 and 6 and Sacramento, represented by Mayor Kevin Johnson, fell to No. 7.