The Draft Lottery Has Only Increased the Drama Between LeBron and the Cavs

Jennifer Pottheiser-NBAE via Getty Images

It’s official. We finally have clarity on the biggest return the Cleveland Cavaliers received when trading Kyrie Irving last summer. With the unprotected Brooklyn Nets‘ selection received in said deal, the Cavs landed the eighth pick in the upcoming draft.

Unfortunately, that’s about as much clarity as we’re going to get with the future of this team for a while now. Fans hoping for a better idea on what Cleveland will do with its draft pick, as well as how it affects the future of LeBron James, won’t be getting anything like this anytime soon. In fact, tonight’s result only further increases the drama surrounding the Cavs’ upcoming summer plans.

All we truly learned tonight is where Cleveland will be picking. It certainly wasn’t the result fans were praying for, however the team at least finally knows what kind of asset it has. Unfortunately, there’s still a ton left to deal with.

Honestly, finding out where they’re picking only adds more stress for the Cavs. This is what happens when your summer agenda includes “figure out what to do with your pick” and “get LeBron James to stay in Cleveland.” That these two items go hand-in-hand is what’s causing the increased complications.

Remember, the Cavs angled for the Brooklyn pick when trading Irving to the Boston Celtics solely to give themselves “LeBron insurance.” On the chance James fled again, Cleveland didn’t want to be stuck without something to build on.

At the same time, the eighth pick also gives the Cavs some assistance in their attempt to keep him from leaving. The problem, though, is how they go about using it.

One option off the bat would be to trade the pick. Granted, the No.8 selection doesn’t have the same appeal as a top three selection. Still, Cleveland has a lottery pick on its hands, and will undoubtedly receive calls from interested teams.

With that said, who would the Cavs would target in trade talks?

A popular name in the rumor mill lately is disgruntled San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard. While there remain serious questions in a trade like this – his overall health, whether the Spurs would consider dealing him – Leonard at full strength would be a huge addition to Cleveland.

This of course brings up a key question the Cavs must ask when considering a trade. Leonard only has two more years on his current contract. When Cleveland dealt first overall pick Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love in 2014, the latter arrived with just one year remaining on his deal.

Knowing James won’t make his decision until after the draft, would Cleveland be willing to trade away a potential piece of its future in exchange for one or two years of veteran help? What happens if we go through this dance again next summer, once again wondering if James is leaving, only the Cavs no longer have the luxury of a lottery pick? What happens if he still leaves this year, forcing Cleveland to reconsider if trading the pick was even worth it?

The other option, of course, is drafting a rookie.

While many wonder if James would be opposed to spending the last years of his career mentoring a young player, he opened this season claiming he was preparing to “hand the keys” to Irving. This implies he could be interested in having an heir apparent on hand. Sure, the odds of Cleveland getting such an instant-impact rookie are lower when picking eighth overall. Still, look no further than how last year’s No.13 overall pick — Donovan Mitchell — panned out with the Utah Jazz as proof talent can be found outside the top of the order.

What I find humorous is people suggesting the Cavs solve this by talking to James to determine next steps with the draft pick. This is funny because that’s not going to happen whatsoever.

There’s a 0% chance James will offer insight to help Cleveland make its decision. He won’t tell the team who he’d love to trade for. He won’t send a list of incoming rookies he’s most intrigued by. He won’t provide even the slightest hint on whether he’s planning to stay or go. The Cavs will find out his plans the same day we do, and this occurs well after the draft.

This is the final layer of drama Cleveland will deal with when figuring out next steps. The team essentially has to pick between planning for the future (and with which rookie) or potentially trading for a star (who may or may not leave whenever his contract is up). It has to do this without the slightest clue as to whether either decision will affect what James decides to do.

Let the fun begin.

Casey Drottar is an independent sports writer. Subscribe to his podcast, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook


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