82.8 percent. With less than four minutes left in the third quarter, after building a huge lead, losing most of it, and then winning it back, the Cleveland Cavaliers had an 82.8% win expectation in their Play-In game. Tournament against the Atlanta Hawks. All the Cavs had to do was shut things down.
They didn’t, seeing as Trae Young turned out to be the game’s best player, dropping 32 points in the second half to lead the Hawks to a 107-101 victory. at least four more games of playoff experience for this bright young core is heartbreaking for the team and its fans. Yet, thankfully, there is a silver lining to the play-in loss.
The Cavs suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Hawks on Friday and missed the playoffs. Fortunately, there is a silver lining for the team’s future.
By losing to the Hawks, the Cavs officially miss the playoffs. For NBA draft purposes, that puts them with the league’s 14th-best record among all teams to miss the playoffs. They will be the “last” team in the NBA Draft Lottery, with the best 14 chances to make it into the Top-4. Their draft pick is extremely likely to be No. 14.
For those not following draft pick protections, the Cavs traded their 2022 first-round pick to the Indiana Pacers in the Caris The Green trade…and protected him 1-14. That means if the Cavs’ pick falls in the top 14 draft picks — as it’s now guaranteed to do — they keep the pick and the obligation rolls over to next season. The Cavs now owe the Indiana Pacers their 2023 first-round pick, protected 1-14; if they miss the playoffs again next year, that pick converts to a second-round pick in 2025.
If the Cavs had won on Friday, they would have reached the playoffs for the first time since 2018, and the first time without LeBron James since 1998. Yet they would also have given up their pick, likely 16th, sacrificing the ability to add to that core. now in order to gain playoff experience.
It’s up to you to decide which of the two would have been more advantageous. Last year’s Memphis Grizzlies were the “last team” in the playoffs and gained playoff experience that helped propel them this season; on the other hand, the Golden State Warriors missed losing that second game of play, kept their draft pick (also No. 14) and drafted a player in Moses Moody who looks like a long-term piece of the young core that they build.
The Cavs have an incredible trio of players to lean on. Darius Garland, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley are young and dynamic, and are on a trajectory that should lead to annual restraint. Yet what the Cavs lack is an infallible wing to join that core. Collin Sexton stands six feet tall and is a restricted free agent after a serious knee injury; Lauri Markkanen is seven feet tall. Caris LeVery has been a roller coaster of play and inefficiency since joining the Cavs. isaac okoro has a long way to go as an attacking player.
There are many draft analysts who are down on the 2022 NBA Draft, and there’s no doubt that it looks flimsy compared to the incredible production and upside already in the 2021 class. Still, what this year’s draft class has mass, it’s wings; up to 20 players likely to go in the first round will be options at 2 or 3, exactly where the Cavs need help. Names such as Tari Eason, Bennedict Mathurin, Ochai Agbaji and Jeremy Sochan could all be available at No 14.
That won’t take away the sting of losing back-to-back play-in games, or the bitter taste in the Cavs’ mouths of an injury-fueled meltdown. Still, this presents an opportunity to add another cost-controlled player to this pool of young talent, and if they get the pick right, they’ll have a homegrown foursome you can compare to anyone in the league.
Maybe the silver lining only matters to the front office or to the fans, but hopefully that takes away some of the sting. The Cavs are now turning their attention to the offseason, one they will approach not as downtrodden low-feeders but as inevitable rising stars, a team ready to add the pieces they need to start competing in the Eastern Conference. very, very soon. This lottery pick will help them do just that.