East loading up on lottery picks in loaded draft

East loading up on lottery picks in loaded draft
May 21, 2014, 1:00 pm
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The results of the NBA Draft lottery had a clear theme: Go East, young men.

If the 2014 lives up to its considerable hype, the Eastern Conference won't be the overtly weak conference for long.

Five of the top six selections landed with teams in the Eastern Conference, including the top four and more specifically the top three, the expected landing spots for Duke's Jabari Parker and the Kansas duo of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid.

That's the same result as the 2013 Draft, though the 2014 version is considered a far more impressive crop of prospects  throughout the draft and specifically at the top.

For the third time in four years - all coming after the franchise lost LeBron James in free agency -, Cleveland Cavaliers landed the top selection. The Milwaukee Bucks, who had the best odds for the No. 1 pick entering the draft and the most-discussed representative on hand, finished with the second selection followed by the Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic with the Boston Celtics at six.

The 76ers (10) and Magic (12) each have a second lottery selection while the Celtics also own the 17th pick. The Charlotte Bobcats, who battled with the Washington Wizards for playoff seeding over the final weeks of the season,  unexpectedly joined the fray when they received the ninth overall selection after the Detroit Pistons lost their lottery protection when Cleveland's jump knocked them outside the top-8.

RELATED: [Pistons going opposite direction from Wizards]

That's a lot of talent headed to a conference that outside of the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers received more punchlines than praise over the past couple of seasons. That's also not the same as saying that suddenly there will be more playoff worthy teams than slots available as was the case out West this season.

The Cavaliers could make that kind of leap, in theory.

What's working for them: Everyone loves Kyrie Irving's game even though the All-Star game MVP's scoring knack hasn't lead to postseason play for Cleveland. Beyond the All-Star game MVP and potential Olympian, Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller, Tristan Thompson, Sergey Karasev and Anthony Bennett are all recent first-round selections and mostly former lottery selections at that. Oh, Cleveland also has the first pick. Finally, there is the dream that LeBron returns home when he (in theory) opts out of free agency in 2015.

What's working against them: They currently have no head coach, though the job just became a lot more attractive. The roster is more about promise rather than proven talent. Some of that youngsters haven't come close to blooming (Bennett) and only Irving is a cornerstone piece. Luol Deng is a free agent. Perhaps most concerning are reports that Irving wants out of Cleveland. Yeah, let's see what this roster looks like after free agency before projecting a playoff berth.

What they should do at No. 1: There are essentially four options - Draft Embiid (center of the future); draft Wiggins (most upside); draft Parker (immediate scoring); trade the pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love. The fourth option probably isn't realistic unless Love is willing to sign a long-term deal. Why would he unless there is a sense the LeBron-to-Cleveland talk is legitimate. Both for the hypothetical LeBron plan and big picture, don't sleep on Embiid, the raw yet skilled and athletic big man drawing Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons. The big-and-small combo with Irving smells like a winner while leaving room for Bennett and Waiters to progress - and for a certain someone to return home. Ultimately, becoming as attractive as possible to you know who is the course Cleveland should charter.

Could they jump the Wizards?: While the backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal is certainly young, Washington also had productive vets starting with Nene, Marcin Gortat and Trevor Ariza with the latter two heading into free agency. Unless Deng returns and the team decides to exercise the $9.8 million contract options on Anderson Varejao, only Jarrett Jacks qualifies as a true veteran helper in Cleveland. Multiple young players would have to make a major leap otherwise for notable change in 2014-15. If we we're talking long term, any combination of Irving with Embiid/Wiggins/Parker intrigues, but let's see if Irving stays put.