The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Devastating Play-In Loss Was Actually the Best Outcome for Their Bright Future

I have been a Cleveland Cavaliers fan throughout my entire life. Heck, my wedding colors were even wine and gold, and I got married the same year they won their 2016 championship.

So, I was, obviously, pretty disappointed during the closing moments of the Cavs’ 107-101 NBA Play-In Tournament loss to the Atlanta Hawks on April 15. They went from just one game out of first place on Feb. 11 to completely out of the playoffs thanks to injuries and inexperience.

However, a buddy of mine then texted me, and he pointed out how this was actually the best outcome for Cleveland’s future. Sure, the Cavaliers lost, but it made their championship chances for the upcoming seasons even greater.

The Cavs will now keep their NBA Draft lottery pick … and Caris LeVert

The Cavaliers made a huge move before the trade deadline this year, acquiring Caris LeVert, a strong wing scorer, from the Indiana Pacers. They had to send Ricky Rubio to Indiana, along with three picks, including a 2022 first-round selection.

That first-round pick, though, was lottery protected. At the time of the trade, it looked like there was no way the Cavs would be in the lottery in 2022. However, their loss to the Hawks knocked them out of the playoffs and put them at No. 14 in the lottery.

So, Cleveland will not only have LeVert for at least next season (the last year on his contract), but it gets to keep its first-round selection, which won’t necessarily stay at No. 14. The team in the 14th spot has close to a 0.5% chance of receiving the first overall selection. In 2014, the Cavs had a 1.7% chance of winning at No. 9 and ended up receiving the No. 1 pick. They selected Andrew Wiggins and then later traded him for Kevin Love.

Cleveland can also move anywhere within the top 14 selections, which is a far cry from not having a first-round pick at all.

What will the Cavaliers do with their draft pick?

Darius Garland of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2022 NBA Play-In Tournament.
Darius Garland of the Cleveland Cavaliers during an NBA Play-In Tournament game against the Atlanta Hawks on April 15, 2022. | Rick Osentoski/Getty Images

The Cavaliers can use their draft pick to select another young player who can hopefully play well alongside Darius Garland, Evan Mobley, and Jarrett Allen.

Cleveland needs more perimeter scoring, and Bleacher Report’s mock draft has the team selecting Ochai Agbaji from Kansas with the 14th pick. He would give the Cavs a strong shooter and someone who averaged 18.8 points for the Jayhawks this past season.

However, the Cavaliers also have two second-round selections and could theoretically trade all their picks for a proven player.

All in all, Cleveland has a young and talented team. Garland, Allen, and Mobley are all younger than 24 years old. But they went from having limited resources to help improve their roster this offseason to now possessing a massive tool with their lottery pick.

Yes, the Cavs may have missed the playoffs, but the loss to the Hawks might have been the best outcome for their future. Cleveland will be dangerous for years to come.

Stats courtesy of Sports Reference

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