Say this much for the Cleveland Cavaliers: They don’t take rejection lying down. A year after LeBron James jilted them for the Miami Heat, reducing a 61-win team to a 19-win team, they’re reportedly trying to regain their mojo with one bold move. ESPN The Magazine, citing NBA sources, says the Cavs want to acquire the second pick in the draft to go with the first (which they lucked into in the lottery).
To pull it off, according to the magazine, they’ll need the cooperation of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons. It would work like this: The Cavaliers would take Richard Hamilton’s hefty contract off the Pistons‘ hands — using the $14.6 million trade exception they received in the James sign-and-trade — and would get, in exchange, Detroit’s No. 8 pick. They would then package that pick with the fourth pick, which they also own, and ship them to the Timberwolves for the second pick.
Presto! A club that lost a record 26 straight games last season would be able to draft the top two prospects, Duke point guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona forward Derrick Williams. Think that might sell a few season tickets (and take some of the sting out of James‘ departure)?
In case you were wondering, this has never happened. A team never has had the first two picks in the NBA draft. On several occasions, though, a club has had two high picks — say, two of the top five. There also have been clubs in other sports that have had two early picks (e.g. the Washington Redskins in 2000).
Which raises some questions: The Cavaliers‘ strategy looks good on paper, but will it get them where they want to go? What happened to those other teams that had a pair of high picks? Did they end up winning titles? Let’s take a look.
Here, for starters, are the last five NBA teams that have had two picks in the top five:
• Houston Rockets, 1983 — C Ralph Sampson (1), F Rodney McCray (3). Result: The Rockets went to the finals two years later, but only because they had the first pick in ‘84, too — Hakeem Olajuwon. They won back-to-back titles in ‘94 and ‘95, but by then Sampson and McCray were gone.
• Detroit Pistons, 1967 — G Jimmy Walker (1), F Sonny Dove (4). Result: Walker is probably better known for being Jalen Rose’s father than for anything he did in the NBA (such as playing in two All-Star Games). The Pistons were terrible before he and Dove arrived, and they remained terrible for years afterward.
• San Francisco Warriors, 1965 — F-C Fred Hetzel (4), F Rick Barry (5). Result: Hetzel, who graduated from Landon School in Bethesda and was Lefty Driesell’s first great player at Davidson, was just a journeyman pro. The Warriors struck gold, though, with Hall of Famer Barry. He led the Warriors to the finals in his second season and to a championship (over the Washington Bullets) in ‘75.
Interesting, no? Just one title — a decade later — out of the whole bunch.
Let’s broaden our research — just for fun — to the NFL and NHL. (In baseball, you can’t trade draft picks.)
• Indianapolis Colts, 1994 — RB Marshall Faulk (2), LB Trev Alberts (5). Result: Faulk, just elected to Canton, had his greatest years with the St. Louis Rams, though he did bring the Colts respectability (read: wild card berths in ‘95 and ‘96). Alberts was habitually hurt and soon transitioned to TV.
• Colts, 1992 — DT Steve Emtman (1), LB Quentin Coryatt (2). Result: Knee problems cut short Emtman’s career. Coryatt started on a couple of Colts playoff teams - including one that reached the AFC championship game — but was nothing special.
• Colts, 1982 — LB Johnie Cooks (2), QB Art Schlichter (4). Result: Schlichter was a certified disaster, an overrated quarterback with a gambling problem. As for Cooks, the Colts got to the postseason just once in his six years with them (thanks to their strike team winning two division games in ‘87).
• Bills, 1979 — LB Tom Cousineau (1), WR Jerry Butler (5). Result: Cousineau signed with the Canadian Football League and never played a down for the Bills. Butler helped Buffalo make the playoffs twice — and was voted to the Pro Bowl once - but he was finished at 29 because of a bad knee.
Finally, here’s a handful from hockey:
• New York Islanders, 2000 — G Rick DiPietro (1), LW Raffi Torres (5). Result: I haven’t noticed the Isles adding to their Stanley Cup collection, have you?
• Vancouver Canucks, 1999 — LW Daniel Sedin (2), C Henrik Sedin (3). Result: A dozen years later, the Canucks are in the finals - with the Sedin brothers showing the way. So … nice job, Brian Burke (who was Vancouver’s general manager then and is Toronto’s now.)
• Islanders, 1997 — G Roberto Luongo (4), D Eric Brewer (5). Result: See Islanders, 2000. (Actually, the Isles traded Luongo after his first season and Brewer after his second. Roberto, you may have noticed, is minding the net for the Western Conference champion Canucks.)
What have we learned from this exercise? Answer: That having high picks is one thing, but getting value from those picks is something else. Maybe Irving and Williams would be franchise-altering players for the Cavaliers; then again, maybe the Cavs would be better off doing the Hamilton deal, not trading up, and drafting three players at Nos. 1, 4 and 8.
It’ll be years, of course, before we know for sure.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of “The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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