Dan Gilbert said his 16-year old son, Nick, texted Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant, telling him, “I did my job, now it is time for you to do yours.” For the second time in three years, Nick represented the Cavs as the flying ping-pong balls gave the team the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft.
As a result, Grant has some choices. He can take the player that he thinks is going to be a standout performer for the next decade, or he can include the pick as part of a package deal. Grant’s job for the next month is to convince the rest of the NBA that he might pick any one of the top five players, so that teams that need those players will start putting together an offer.
The Cavs were on the other side of the line in 1986 when they were interested in the top player in the draft, although it was unsure at the time whether that player was North Carolina’s Brad Daugherty or Maryland’s Len Bias. Somehow the Cavaliers convinced the Philadelphia 76ers to give up the top pick in exchange for Roy Hinson, a third-year player coming in with a 19.8 season scoring average. The Cavs used that pick on Daugherty, whose injury-shortened career lasted eight years. Over those eight years, Daugherty averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds, and had his No. 43 retired, and it is now hanging in the rafters. He was an NBA All-Star five times.
The Boston Celtics took the incredibly athletic Bias, who tragically died of a drug overdose the night after the draft.
While the No. 1 pick of LeBron James in 2003 gave the Cavs its greatest player in history, the 1986 draft clearly was the best. In addition to Daugherty, the Cavs took Miami of Ohio’s Ron Harper with the eighth pick. They weren’t done yet. With No. 25, the first pick in the second round, they took Mark Price, whose No. 25, ironically, is also retired by the team. That’s not all. The year before, GM Harry Weltman took a chance on John “Hot Rod” Williams, who had been arrested on suspicions of point-shaving while at Tulane. Williams was not guilty on all five counts, and was able to begin his NBA career.
The team, with a core of Daugherty, Harper, Price and Williams, went on to success, although they came up empty as far as NBA titles are concerned. Unfortunately, while they were running a lot of wins, their timing wasn’t very good. Michael Jordan was coming into his own at the same time.
The Cavaliers brain trust will decide between a group of five or six players who will be chosen No. 1, or they will trade that pick to a team that feels it has to have one of them. Either way, it is doubtful the Cavs will be able to top what they did in 1986.
Les Levine can be seen statewide on “More Sports and Les Levine” on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel (1311 or 311) from 6 to 7 p.m. weekdays, with replays at 10 p.m. and 7 to 8 a.m. the next day. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, on Facebook at ClevelandJewishNews, or on Twitter @LesLevine.