Without LeBron James the Cleveland Cavaliers Have Been Inept and Hopeless For Decades


The Cleveland Cavaliers are one of the most poorly-run franchises in American sports. Don’t be fooled by the fact that they won the title last season or are 5-0 in the 2017 NBA Playoffs. This, like everything else the Cavaliers have done for the last two decades, has been bolstered and painted over by the mere existence of LeBron James. Just look at the last two decades of Cleveland Cavaliers’ draft results.

1997 – #13 Derek Anderson, #16 Brevin Knight, #44 Cedric Henderson

1998 – #48 Ryan Stack

Post-Fratello Era

1999 – #8 Andre Miller, #11 Trajan Langdan, #39 A.J. Bramlett

Andre Miller had a long career with many teams that were not Cleveland. No one knows who the general manager was.

2000 – #8 Jamal Crawford traded for Chris Mihm

2001 – #8 DeSagana Diop, #20 Brendan Haywood, #35 Jeff Trepagnier

Two guys who inhabited NBA roosters for about a decade. This is as good as it gets.

2002 – #6 Dajuan Wagner and #34 Carlos Boozer

Just a great all-around draft. Some people accuse the Cavaliers of tanking to land the top pick in 2003, but if you look at the early 21st century drafts and the fact that they won an averaged of 30 games the previous 3 seasons, they didn’t have to not try very hard to get down to 17 wins.

2004 – #10 Luke Jackson

Jackson, from Oregon, appeared in 46 games in two seasons in Cleveland. He made $6.1 million and played 724 total minutes. These days he’s coaching Northwest Christian, an NAIA school in Eugene, Oregon. The bright spot of this draft was acquiring Anderson Varejao. He did help them get a ring. Eventually.

Danny Ferry Era

2005 – They got rid of all their picks, but ended up with the rights to Martynas Andriuškevičius. He appeared in 6 games before he was traded for Eddie Basden the next summer. Basden never played for Cleveland.

2006 – #25 Shannon Brown, #42 Boobie Gibson and #55 Ejike Ugboaja

2007 – No draft picks because they sent their 1st round pick to Boston for Jiří Welsch. Welsch had averaged 7.5 points and shot 32% from 3-point range the season before the Cavaliers traded for him. That pick turned out to be #24. A lot of actual, legitimate NBA players were picked 24 or later that year. There’s no guarantee – or reason to believe – the Cavs would have picked any of them, but still–Jiri Welsch.

2008 – #19 J.J. Hickson. Plus they acquired Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun.

2009 – #30 Christian Eyenga, #46 Danny Green and they purchased the rights to Emir Preldžić (0 NBA games).

2010 – They traded their 1st rounder for Antwan Jamison. Then LeBron left for Miami.

Chris Grant Era

2011 – #1 pick Kyrie Irving, #4 Tristan Thompson, #32 Justin Harper, #54 Milan Macvan

Two top 4 picks turned into two important parts of back-to-back Finals teams. Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard went later in the lottery and every team passed on Jimmy Butler – including the Bulls who took Norris Cole at 28 and traded him to Miami.

2012 – #4 Dion Waiters, #24 Jared Cunningham, #33 Bernard James, #34 Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder was traded for Tyler Zeller.  Every team passed on Draymond Green who went #35. The Cavaliers passed on Draymond 4 times.

2013 – #1 Anthony Bennett, #19 Sergey Karasev, #31 Allen Crabbe, #33 Carrick Felix

Bennett, 24, who has already washed out of the NBA, was cut by a Turkish team this week.

David Griffin Era

2014 – #1 Andrew Wiggins, #33 Joe Harris
Wiggins has turned into a capable scorer in Minnesota, but he was nothing more than a pick. Any of the guys who went behind Wiggins (Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, etc) would have been a fine trade chip in the Kevin Love deal. Had LeBron not returned to Cleveland, this draft might be considered a disappointment. Irving and Wiggins might have fought for the 8-seed this season in 2017. Depending on which lottery pick they had in 2015.

2015 – They took Tyus Jones with the #24 pick and turned him into #31 Cedi Osman, #36 Rakeem Christmas, and a 2nd rounder. They obviously have a good relationship with the Timberwolves front office. #53 Sir’Dominic Pointer is currently in Israel.

2016 – No picks, but they were able to acquire Kay Felder for cash. Felder appeared in 42 games this season.

2017 – NO PICKS

The Cavs sent their 1st to Portland in the Channing Frye trade.

2018 – They have their own 1st round pick this year. It will likely be used sometime next season to acquire a veteran.

2019 – Lakers or Timberwolves’ 2nd rounder.

The Cavs 1st rounder in 2019 went to Atlanta for Kyle Korver. Their 2nd rounder left in the J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert trade.

2020 – 1st Round Pick, POR’s 2nd

The Cavaliers haven’t acquired assets, they’ve been given a league-mandated two a year since that’s how the draft works.The Cavaliers had three good drafts in the last 20 years – 2003 (LeBron), 2011 (Kyrie and TT) and 2014 (Wiggins turned into LeBron, again.).

The last time a Cavaliers team without LeBron made the playoffs, James was 13. The last time a Cavs team without LeBron won a playoff series, James was 8. Don’t let anyone ever tell you someone besides LeBron James deserves credit for putting together a contender in Cleveland.