It was a conspiracy theorist’s dream.
In an effort to prevent Cleveland fans from abandoning the NBA entirely and in a move to apologize to the Cavaliers for the way LeBron James left for greener pastures and bluer waters in Miami, the Cavs managed to land the number one overall pick for the second time in three years. The situation could not have broken more perfectly. After passing on potential franchise centers Jonas Valanciunas and Andre Drummond in consecutive years to pair with budding superstar Kyrie Irving, general manager Chris Grant was given a third chance to make things right.
Nerlens Noel, the presumed top choice in the draft for the entire season even after suffering a season ending knee injury, was interviewed on TV immediately after the lottery balls had gone Cleveland’s way. Surely, we were all staring at the newest Cavalier which would enable one of two scenarios to play out in the immediate future: either Irving and Noel would serve as the cornerstones for a rebuilding franchise that would go on to challenge the Heat for Eastern Conference supremacy or maybe, just maybe, that combination of players, hope, and promise would be just enough to lure a certain #6 back to the shores of Lake Erie. After three brutal years, things were finally looking up.
And then this happened.
Confusion. Anger. Surprise. Shock. You name the emotion, and Cavs Nation felt it at that moment. For an unprecedented third time, it seemed that the front office had managed to render 95% of all experts’ mock drafts completely worthless and tried to outsmart everyone yet again.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, the shock and awe moment became a shock and aww s**t move as Anthony Bennett seemed hellbent on turning in the worst rookie season in the history of the NBA. Not even the biggest winners from this past weekend’s Kentucky Derby could have predicted the superfecta of “accomplishments” that plagued Bennett’s season: the Cavs finding out about Bennett’s sleep apnea and asthma after the draft, the ignominious 0-15 from the field start to his career, his PER which only slightly exceeded that of Nerlens Noel (who played exactly zero games this year), and 30 games missed due to either injuries or Mike Brown’s decision.
The cherry on top of the awful tasting sundae came earlier today when Rookie of the Year voting results were released. Of the 124 voters who cast a ballot, none of them gave Bennett a first place vote. Or a second place vote. Or a third place vote. Just as he did 14 times in the 52 games he played this year, Bennett recorded zero points. For the first time since 2003 when voting moved to the point system, a number one overall pick who was not injured for the duration of the season (see: Oden, Greg and Griffin, Blake) failed to garner a single vote.
So in 15 days, and for the fourth consecutive year, Cleveland’s contingent of front office executives (sans GM Chris Grant who was let go earlier this year) will make their now annual trek to the lottery hoping for yet another miracle. Perhaps the fourth time is the charm and they will finally be able to not only be in prime position to land a second cornerstone of the franchise, but to actually do so when June’s draft comes around. In the spirit of a true optimist, there’s nowhere to go but up.
After seeing Bennett’s performance this year, it can’t possibly get worse, can it?