INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) – Not only did the Cavaliers not pick first in the NBA draft, they traded their only first-rounder this year.
Amazing what winning – and having LeBron James around – will do.
Expected to use the No. 24 overall pick to address their need for a backup point guard, the Cavs took Duke guard Tyus Jones and quickly traded him to Minnesota for two second-round picks – Nos. 31 and 36 – and a future second rounder.
It’s the second straight year the Cavs and Timberwolves have done big business. Last summer, Cleveland sent Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett – both No. 1 overall picks – to Minnesota in exchange for All-Star forward Kevin Love.
Following Cleveland’s recent loss to Golden State in the NBA Finals, general manager David Griffin said he wanted to mimic the Warriors’ model and add more versatile playmakers to Cleveland’s roster in order to help James, who was almost left on his own after injuries sidelined Love and All-Star guard Kyrie Irving.
With the No. 31 pick, the Cavs selected Turkey’s Cedi Osman, a 20-year-old who has get-to-the-basket skills. And at No. 36, Cleveland nabbed forward Rakeem Christmas, who averaged 17.5 points and 9.1 rebounds as a senior.
The Cavs also have the No. 53 overall pick, but it’s unlikely that player will make Cleveland’s roster.
By dealing their first pick, the Cavs will maintain some financial flexibility because they won’t be locked into paying guaranteed money, up to as much as $5 million with salary cap taxes, to a first-round selection. They need to save as much room under the cap as possible heading into free agency.
This was the first time in three years the Cavaliers didn’t have the No. 1 pick. It was a welcomed change for a franchise again transformed by the return of James, who led the Cavs back to the finals this season and figures to have them in title contention for the foreseeable future.
However, that could depend on what else happens this summer.
On Wednesday, Love opted out of the final year of his contract and he will become a free agent on July 1. James, too, will opt out next week and hit the market, but he’s expected to re-sign with the Cavs, who got past Atlanta to win the Eastern Conference title but had their lack of depth exposed when the Warriors beat them in six games.
The Cavs are also waiting to hear from guard J.R. Smith, who has until midnight to inform them whether he will exercise his option for next season.
Last week, Griffin said the team intends to keep its core together from last year and hopes to re-sign Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova – all restricted free agents.
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