Most early draft boards have Cleveland taking Kentucky block-machine Nerlens Noel, left. Noel, however, is coming off a torn ACL and could be a risky selection.
NEW YORK — The Cleveland Cavaliers have been reeling since LeBron James took his talents to the Miami Heat after the 2009-10 season.
Now, Cleveland is having a string of good luck. For the second time in three years, the Cavaliers will have the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.
"It's huge for us," Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said after Cleveland won the draft lottery late Tuesday. "This is our third year in a row in the lottery. Hopefully, it's our last for a long, long time."
The Cavaliers chose James No. 1 overall in 2003 and took Kyrie Irving No. 1 overall in 2011. The 2013 draft is scheduled for June 27 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
It's not clear which player Cleveland will choose with the top pick. Kentucky center Nerlens Noel is considered by many to be the top prospect, but Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore is a contender as well. Other potential top picks include Michigan point guard Trey Burke and UCLA small forward Shabazz Muhammad.
"This isn't a draft where there's a clear-cut, obvious, no-holds-barred No. 1 choice," Gilbert said. "The work that our guys are doing — our guys are very, very deep and they do a lot of work, a lot of due diligence — and obviously, we're going to have workouts between now and the draft. I don't think there's a direction that the franchise is leaning at this point. I think they're going to be open-minded. Knowing we have that choice, hopefully we make the right pick."
The Orlando Magic, who had the best chance to receive the No. 1 pick at 25 percent in the lottery draw, will choose second. The Washington Wizards got the No. 3 pick despite having just a 3.5 percent shot at the No. 1 overall pick.
Cleveland had a 15.6 percent chance of getting the top pick.
"Two out of three years — we'll take it," Gilbert said. "For us, it's about the city of Cleveland, giving them more hope as we build the franchise and try to get to the level we all want it to go to."
The lottery included the NBA's 14 non-playoff teams with chances for the top picks weighted based on regular-season records. Orlando posted a 20-62 record and was guaranteed a top-four pick.
Noel, who just finished his freshman season, is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament with a projected return date around Christmas. He injured his left knee Feb. 21, and his defined NBA skill — defense — isn't going to create a queue of trade suitors. However, he's just 19 years old, and at 6-foot-10, he brings obvious potential because of his athleticism and length. Best-case scenario: Noel is an instant protector of the rim with his penchant for blocked shots and rebounds and eventually develops a modest offensive game.
"I feel I should be the top pick because I'm a great teammate, I really care about where I'm going to play and I'm going to give all my heart and 100 percent effort to get my team back to the promised land, which is where we all want to be," he said before the lottery.
A shooting guard hasn't been selected first since the 1975 NBA Draft, but David Thompson could be joined by McLemore, whom some NBA executives describe as a "safe" choice. But McLemore, at 6-5 and 200 pounds, has enough range to adjust quickly to the NBA game, but didn't stand out in a at last week's draft combine in Chicago.
"Just coming from nowhere, coming from nothing, just being able to have the opportunity get a No. 1 spot is just a blessing," McLemore said. "I'm going to work for it the same way as (Noel). He's going to work for it, and I'm going to work for it. It definitely is neck-and-neck."
Cleveland's top pick will join what Gilbert considers a talented core. He said the Cavaliers also are excited about their other recent picks — Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller. Irving was the 2011-12 Rookie of the Year. Waiters was named to the all-rookie first team and Zeller to the second team this season. Thompson averaged 11.7 points and 9.4 rebounds this season, in his second year.
Gilbert said the team had always planned to rebuild through the draft after losing James to the Heat, and he believes the upcoming pick will accelerate that process.
"To add a No. 1 pick — we're going to have our choice of several really good options here at the top, not to mention our 19th pick and cap space and our new coaching staff," he said. "I mean, we are more than excited. It's been a long three years and a painful three years for the franchise. We went through it. We think we're going to come out the other end."
All-NBA Team announced
Miami Heat superstar LeBron James recorded 119 votes to lead first team all-NBA team, which was announced Thursday.
James was the only player to receive that many votes. Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers earned an 11th selection, tying him with Hall of Famer Karl Malone for the most selections. He had been tied at 10 with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousy, Michael Jordan, Bob Pettit and Jerry West.
Joining James and Bryan on the First Team are the Oklahoma Thunder’s Kevin Durant, the San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul.
James led the Heat to a franchise-record 66-16 record and was the only player in the league to lead his team in scoring (26.8 points per game), rebounding (8.0 rpg) and assists (7.3 apg).
The All-NBA Second Team is made up of guards Tony Parker of the Spurs and Russell Westbrook of the Thunder, forwards Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks and Blake Griffin of the Clippers, and center Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies.
The All-NBA Third Team includes the Houston Rockets’ James Harden and the Heat’s Dwyane Wade at guard, the Indiana Pacers’ Paul George and the Golden State Warriors’ David Lee at forward, and the Lakers’ Dwight Howard at center.