The Cleveland Cavaliers have had their share of NBA Draft Lottery luck over the years. In a four-year stretch, the Cavaliers landed the No. 1 overall pick three separate times. That doesn’t even include the monumental 2003 NBA Draft Lottery, where the Cavs landed a hometown phenom who would go on to become the greatest player in NBA history.
In addition to making the No. 1 pick six times over the years (Brad Daugherty in 1986 and Austin Carr in 1971) a number of players who were drafted first overall have passed through town and worn the Wine and Gold. Let’s look at all 10 such players and rank their Cleveland tenures from worst to first, starting with the most notorious first overall pick in NBA history.
Most NBA Drafts have a clear-cut player at the top, but the 2013 NBA Draft fell at the other end of the spectrum entirely. As many as five players were in play for the first pick leading into the final days before the draft, making it likely that the team at the top would make the wrong decision. There was no LeBron James or even Kyrie Irving to draft. The Cavaliers, armed with the first pick, had a difficult task.
The Cavaliers decided to punt on that task entirely, reaching past that group of five players to draft UNLC forward Anthony Bennett, a late riser who had seemed to solidify himself late in the process as a lottery prospect. The Cavs were up a creek no matter who they took; the likes of Victor Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Otto Porter Jr. and Nerlens Noel weren’t going to hit the expected heights of a No. 1 pick anyway. Even so, the Cavs found the worst possible option and pressed the button.
Bennett played 52 games on a bad Cavaliers team, shooting just 35.6 percent from the field and earning just 12.8 minutes per game. The Cavs then threw him into the Kevin Love deal at the end of the season, and he vainly tried to extend his career over the next few seasons, bouncing from Minnesota to Toronto to Brooklyn. His post-Cleveland career wasn’t any better than his rough rookie season, and he headed overseas to make a living.