By Michael Reghi
Come Thursday night, Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant will likely make his third top four selection in 12 months as he attempts to set the organization on course for playoff and possibly championship prosperity for years to come. And he needs to make a strong statement, with a second first rounder, currently the 24th choice, and the opportunity to do major maneuvering should he care to.
Along with 2011-12 Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving and the promising skills of Tristan Thompson, Grant should add a third and fourth piece that form the core of the Cavaliers.
Cavaliers draft night history is replete with glorious moments that have set the stage for some promising playoff excellence, although never a championship, and some choices that left many of you in wonderment. Let's start our first look with the five best draft night experiences for the Wine and Gold.
5. 1987 - Kevin Johnson - 1st Round - 7th Pick - Yes, he was ultimately dealt away to Phoenix for Larry Nance, and that's exactly why the KJ choice was excellent, even though he played behind lead guard Mark Price leading up to the deal. It gave GM Wayne Embry the ammunition to add the final piece in Nance to one of the best runs in team history. We also tend to forget that KJ had a superb career, averaging 18 points and 9 assists per game, a perennial All Star, and along with Charles Barkley and Dan Majerle, took the Suns to the NBA Finals in 1992. One of the wisest choices in team drafting history, even with Mark Price on board.
4. 1991 - Terrell Brandon - 1st Round - 11th Pick - Wayne Embry had a knack for point guard selecting, didn't he? With Price five years into his career with the Cavaliers, Embry wanted his heir apparent and found him in the whippet quick Brandon, who backed up price initially then took over the starting job in 1995, and was close to a 20 point per game producer for two seasons for Mike Fratello, along with 6 assists per night. Brandon was, and is, one of my all time favorite Cavaliers. Huge heart, production to match, and a wonderful man.
3. 1971 - Austin Carr - 1st Round - 1st Pick - In the second season of the Cavaliers with the first selection, the premier shooter in college hoops became a Cavalier. AC went on to a brilliant first 3 seasons in Wine and Gold, averaging better then 20 points per, until a knee surgery robbed him of quickness. The sweet stroke never left though, as Carr was still a key component through the mid 70's as the Cavaliers created some playoff relevance. Maybe not the megastar he was projected to be, still plenty efficient. Carr in the top five of virtually all team offensive categories.
Tie 1. 2003 - LeBron James - 1st Round - 1st Pick - Rookie of the Year and the undisputed 'face' of this franchise, James promised to 'light up Cleveland like Vegas'...and for the most part, short of a championship, he did. Evolving into the most brilliantly talented individual player in the game, James garnered a pair of MVP awards while in a Cavaliers uniform and led them to the NBA Finals in '07, following his 4th year in the league. You know the rest. Heartache for Cleveland. A championship last week for James.
Tie 1. 1986 Brad Daugherty - 1st Round - 1st Pick / Ron Harper - 1st Round - 8th Pick / Mark Price - 2nd Round - 1st Pick and acquired in a draft night trade with Dallas. Jackpot Cavaliers! A tremendous haul. Daugherty averaged 19 pts. per night, along with close to double figure rebounds in 8 Cavalier seasons. Cerebral, skilled and very, very effective. Harper was magnificent in his 3 seasons here, averaged 23 points per game in one, and just short of 19 in another. Teamed with Price to form arguably the finest starting backcourt in the NBA. The trio was a delight to watch. Price and Daugherty running that sweet high screen and roll, while Harper slashed and excited in the open floor. It all came to a crashing halt when owner Gordon Gund mandated that Embry trade Harper after allegations surfaced over his off court behavior. Could this three with Larry Nance and Hot Rod Williams have beaten Jordan and Pippen's Bulls? Wish we would have had the opportunity to find out.
The selecting of Zydrunas Ilgauskas with the 20th overall choice in 1996, and Andre Miller with the 8th overall in 1999 can't be overlooked. They never really had an opportunity to play a great deal together early in Miller's stay due to Z's injury issues, yet both were very significant to Cavaliers improvement. Ilgauskas so very gifted offensively, and beloved by the fan base for working through his injuries, not just cashing the checks, and teaming with James to bring the organization to the '07 Finals, and Miller's dogged determination, while not flashy, yet a consistent 15 point, 9 assist contributor throughout a stellar career that still goes on.
Ironically, both came with a 'partner' in the first round, as many forget Vitaly Potapenko was selected ahead of Z by the Cavaliers in '97, and Miller was united with Duke's Trajan Langdon in '99. Neither player remotely matched the presence of their first round mates.
Tuesday, we look at the other end, the botched and bungled choices in drafts that provided little if any impact on the court.
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