The Cavaliers have really had a lot of luck in the past years when it came to the NBA draft. Just look at 2003, when the franchise ended up picking first overall. As many know, this pick ended up being the hometown hero LeBron James, who brought the Cavs for the first time in their NBA history glitz and glamour as well as a bigger fanbase and huge recognition all over the league and in the media. And of course, to make this great story even better, LeBron would lead his team to the first championship Cleveland was so desperately seeking in all of their years.
Not all things were positive, however. Many think that the NBA draft lottery was rigged since it happened that the Cavs were getting the first overall pick in back to back years. In 2013, they ended up drafting Anthony Bennett, who was a huge bust - more on him later. In 2014, the Cavs drafted Andrew Wiggins. This in the end brought them Kevin Love in a bigger trade who was a huge contributor during the Finals last year and helped them in a massive way in clinching the title and overcome the 3-1 series deficit against the Warriors.
This column is going to focus on both the mistakes (like Bennett for example) and the massive steals the Cavs have gained while drafting over the years!
15 STEAL - SHANNON BROWN
The Cavs drafted Shannon Brown with their 25th pick of the 2006 NBA draft and it was a pretty good choice. Even though he was mostly injured during his rookie season and throughout his NBA career, he definitely showed some good performances while playing in Cleveland and scored several times in double digits in his first NBA season.
Of course, he was not the most influential pick in the Cavs history of draft picks but if he could have stayed healthy, he would have been a much better choice looking back now. But the front office still did a good job with this one although they were pretty impatient at that time and decided to trade him to Toronto after his rookie season.
14 BUST - JJ HICKSON
A 19th pick, and a failure. Coming into the league known as a solid rebounder and good enough for catching a few lobs a game, Hickson's ceiling wasn't that high to begin with. The Cavs did not care though and got exactly what was promised - but worse. Throughout his NBA career, Hickson was a solid rebounder but that's pretty much it it. Okay, he could catch some alley-oops sometimes but that was his whole contribution offensively except for the offensive rebounds he could grab. Defensively he was a black hole. Every game you could see how he would miss certain rotations that led to easy baskets or that he would jump several times on simple pump fakes just to get the block. He then got traded several times and finally made his move to China where he is still playing now.
13 STEAL - DANIEL GIBSON
Truth is, Daniel Gibson is definitely not a household name. Yet, getting him with the 42nd pick in the draft was a smart decision and a steal. In desperate need of some scoring after the 2006 season which clearly showed that Cleveland had some serious issues with their backcourt and the ability to score the ball, Gibson could fill that hole and led all rookies in his first season in terms of three point shooting.
He was also allowed to start as a rookie in the playoffs and reached his peak as he scored 31 points in Game 6 in the 2007 Conference Finals against the great defense of Detroit and therefore helped them clinch the series. He was the first player since Magic Johnson to do so and a great pick considering how late he got drafted. Unfortunately he could never repeat what he had shown in those playoffs and only showed his potential sporadically, ending up as just a role player for some few minutes and therefore remaining at just number thirteen on this list.
12 BUST - SERGEY KARASEV
Yes, you can surely say that the Cavaliers did a terrible job in this specific draft. Not only did they draft Anthony Bennett with their first overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft (again, more on him later), they also picked Sergey Karasev with their second opportunity at the 19th spot. Same as with the player mentioned before, Daniel Gibson, the Cavs were in need of a scoring punch from the bench and were hoping that Sergey could fill that hole and provide them with some good minutes and good performances from the bench but the 19th pick couldn't even bring them that. Averaging just 1.7 points per game by shooting 34.3% from the field and 21.1% from beyond the arc just says it all.
11 STEAL - DANNY GREEN
Mostly known as a member of the Spurs, Danny Green was originally picked by the Cavs as their 46th pick in the 2009 NBA draft. Some might say now that he is just playing well because of Gregg Popovich and his great coaching staff as well as benefitting from the system the Spurs are playing under for so many decades now, but honestly, that does not change the fact that the Cavs did a good job in drafting him even though he could not be a big part of the team since some players just need more time than others. Cleveland was rather impatient in that case and traded him away after his rookie season. But still, picking him, one of the best three-and-D players in the league, with the 46th pick was a steal.
10 BUST - VITALY POTAPENKO
Coming into the league nicknamed the "Ukraine Train", Potapenko was nothing near something that would justify such a nickname. Nonetheless, he was another big man the Cavs liked to pick back then and another failed choice Cleveland would make. In his three seasons with the Cavaliers he averaged 6.7 points and 3.5 rebounds - not very impressive, even for a 12th pick. Undoubtedly, you have to be fair and admit that he was only their 12th pick and can't be considered a huge bust. But if you know that directly after him Steve Nash, Jermaine O'Neal and a guy named Kobe Bryant got picked, you maybe understand now why he can be seen as such a disappointment.
9 STEAL - JOHNNY NEWMAN
Back in 1986, the Cavs made one of the best group of selections ever in the NBA draft. Not only did they choose Mark Price and Ron Harper, they also selected Johnny Newman. Of course, Newman did not have a very successful time in Cleveland since he and Harper used to play the same position and he therefore was damned to ride the bench during his first season. And when he was playing, he would barely get any touches at all. But seeing his career stats where he averaged 11 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists, they tell you that he was a very solid roleplayer and a definite steal considering he was the 29th overall pick, 5th in the 2nd round.
8 BUST - DESAGANA DIOP
Yet another big man for the Cavs that ended up being no good at all. Diop was picked 8th in the 2001 NBA draft and was just another unsuccessful bust that played for Cleveland. In his four years with the Cavs, he averaged an astonishing 1.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game. Wow. For an 8th pick, he really was a horrible choice. Of course, it was surely not the best NBA draft class since a guy named Kwame Brown got picked first but there were still several quality players available at that time such as Joe Johnson, Tony Parker, Zach Randolph and Gerald Wallace that could have all been fitting in well into the roster at that time.
7 STEAL – BILL LAIMBEER
Nope, it wasn't the Pistons who drafted Bill Laimbeer, it was the Cavs in the third round of the 1979 draft. Getting this caliber of a player with the 65th pick was definitely one of the best decisions in the history of the NBA. Of course, he had his special years with Detroit that made him famous as the Center that could shoot like no other and brought them several championships but also as a mean trash talker that would make Dennis Rodman jealous. However, his years as a Cavalier were not very impressive or extraordinary as he averaged only 8.6 points but showed his potential as he was already rebounding like crazy and averaging 7.4 rebounds a game until he ended up in Detroit as a champion and great contributor.
6 BUST - DAJUAN WAGNER
Picked at the 6th spot in the 2001 NBA draft, Dajuan Wagner couldn't unfortunately finish career in a conventional way since he had serious health issues throughout his playing time which are surely more important than his career. It may sound harsh but that does not change the fact that he was a total bust for the Cavs and could not even fulfill his promised ceiling. Seen as an Allen Iverson light, Wagner could also never stay healthy and injured himself more often than not. He definitely showed some of his abilities in his rookie season where he averaged a promising 13.4 points per game but that was it. After that he was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. According to that the Cavs, they decided not to pick up their option for Dajuan and that meant his end with the franchise.
5 STEAL – ZYDRUNAS ILGAUSKAS
Known as the complementary partner and Center for LeBron James, Ilgauskas was undoubtedly one of the better choices the Cavs have made in the past years. Surprisingly though, his career started horribly as he was injured after his rookie season and played in only 29 games over three seasons! Even more surprisingly was that Cleveland chose to provide him with a 71 Million deal over 6 years in 1998. In a season where he appeared in five games. Yet, it paid off as he is until now the Cavs leader in blocks, rebounds and, very very surprisingly, leader in games played. Getting him with the 20th pick in the 1996 draft was even with all his injures, worth it and is still paying off since he is now a special advisor for the team as he joined their front office. Well done.
4 BUST – DION WAITERS
The Cavs selected Dion with their 4th pick in the 2012 NBA draft and you can tell that it was a huge mistake. In desperate need of scoring power since a guy called LeBron James left the "Land" they selected Waiters. Back then, a backcourt including Irving and Waiters sounded to good to pass up on. In reality it was a big failure. They never got along since their way of playing the game was way too similar. Both are not known as being solid or even good defenders and both desperately need the ball in their hands to create something for teammates or shots for themselves. It may hurt even more if you know that players like Andre Drummond, Draymond Green, Damian Lillard and Harrison Barnes were still available back then.
3 STEAL – RON HARPER
As you could read earlier in this article, the Cavs did a terrific job back in 1986 while drafting the trio of Mark Price, Newman and Harper. All three of them are All-Stars but were not playing really long enough there unfortunately. Harper was playing three years for Cleveland after getting drafted 8th. Being known as a scoring machine, Harper did just that in a impressive way. Just in his rookie season he was already averaging almost 23 points (22.9), 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Not bad for a rookie.
Unfortunately, his production and numbers dropped quite a bit due to injuries that limited his performance. After four seasons with the Cavs he was cut from the team and got traded to the L.A. Clippers.
2 BUST – ANTHONY BENNETT
One word to describe this one right here: terrible. In the 2013 NBA Draft the Cleveland Cavaliers selected with their first overall pick Anthony Bennett. "Excuse me, who?" That's what almost everyone thought. I think not even the whole Cleveland Cavaliers front office knew who exactly he was. Seen as a solid role player at best before the draft, Bennett could not even exceed these expectations and ended up being one of the worst busts ever. Of course, it is absolutely not his fault being picked this high but the fault of the incapable front office that led to picking him and making fun of him until today. Nonetheless, regarding the facts and not the emotional aspects of the game, averaging 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game is just a complete joke coming into the league as the 1st overall pick and is therefore the biggest bust the Cavaliers have picked and one of the biggest busts known in the NBA's youngest past.
1 STEAL – John "Hot Rod" Williams
Coming into the league as the 45th overall pick or the 21st pick in the 2nd round his future as a big contributor looked as bad as no other. Of course, the expectations were not really high regarding him but he exceeded them by a far amount and can be seen as the best steal the Cavs have gained in their history! The 6"11 Power Forward and Center hybrid from Lousiana was averaging 16.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.04 blocked shots per game in his prime during the 1989 season for Cleveland. Serving as their 6th man he also used to be the all-time leader for the Cavaliers in blocked shots (1200) until Ilgauskas came to play and has been taking over his spot until now. However, he is by no chance one of the most famous players to ever play the game but definitely the biggest steal the Land has gained.
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