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 Baron Davis deal.
Gilbert sent his son, 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.
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.
Instead the luck went to the Cavs, who are used to playing deep in the playoffs and hope they won’t have to worry about this trip again.
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.” The Cavs also brought along two Cleveland Browns dressed in the Cavs’ wine and gold jerseys for good luck.
They will likely decide between point guard Kyrie Irving of Duke or Arizona forward Derrick Williams.