Finishing with the worst record in the NBA, something the Cavaliers seemed destined to do this season, isn’t as advantageous as it once was.
In September 2017, the NBA Board of Governors made changes to the lottery to discourage teams from tanking. As luck would have it for the Cavaliers after four straight trips to the NBA Finals, the changes go into effect in 2019.
The 14 teams that don’t make the playoffs are in the lottery each year. The 2019 lottery will be held May 14. The two-round NBA draft is set for June 20.
Starting with the next draft the three worst teams record-wise will each have a 14 percent chance overall to get the first pick, which in 2019 is expected to be Zion Williamson, the dynamic 6-foot-6 power forward from Duke. In the past the team with the worst record had a 25 percent chance of getting the first pick.
Odds of getting the first pick gradually decrease after the top three. The team with the fourth worst record has a 12.5 percent chance, the team with the fifth-worst record a 10.5 percent chance down to the team with the best record not making the playoffs at 0.5 percent.
“NBA Draft Lottery reform is a meaningful step in our continuous effort to enhance the quality of our games,” NBA President, League Operations Byron Spruell said when the reforms were announced. “These changes were necessary to improve the competitive incentives for our teams.”
Before the reforms the team with the worst record was assured of picking no lower than fourth. Now that team will pick no lower than fifth.
• The Cavaliers won’t be buyers at the Feb. 7 trade deadline, but they could be sellers. Sam Amico of Amico Hoops reported the Hornets and Mavericks have interest in injured forward Kevin Love, though he did not speculate what the Cavaliers might get in return.
Amico also said a trade might not happen before the deadline, which means Love might not be shipped out of town until next offseason. By then, the draft will have taken place. A healthy Love and Williamson could make the Cavs a playoff team again quickly.
Ken Berger of Bleacher Report, quoting an NBA Western Conference executive anonymously, suggested the Thunder, Rockets, Nuggets or Pacers as possible landing spots for Love.
Love’s albatross of a contract (he signed a four-year, $120 million extension in July) and injury history makes him difficult to unload. He played the first four games of 2018-19, and foot surgery Nov. 2 and hasn’t played since.
Trading Jordan Clarkson to a contender that needs a scorer could be more reasonable. Requests for Clarkson are likely to heat up as the trade deadline draws closer.
• LeBron James won’t play for the Lakers on Jan. 13 in Staples Center against the Cavaliers. James is still bothered by a groin injury suffered Christmas Day in a game against the Golden State Warriors.
The Lakers are 3-6 since James has been sidelined. He scored 32 points on his former team when the Lakers beat the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena, 109-105, on Nov. 21.