Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? Part 7: Comparing the LeBron-Love-Kyrie Cleveland Cavaliers
Terrorizing the Eastern Conference for years
We laid out the constraints and boundaries of this analysis in the series master post, Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? An In-Depth Series. This also has links to all the articles in the series.
For the rest of the series, we will look at how other dynasties drafted. All modern NBA dynasties face the same problems: they draft very late for several years in a row and they are constrained by the salary cap from trading for high draft picks. The whole salary cap and draft / lottery system is built to erode and destroy dynasties.
How well did the Dynasty Cleveland Cavaliers draft?
This was LeBron James’s second superteam. Before the extended PR campaign to paint Kevin Love as No Help, Love was the top free agent of his class. The majority of people argued with a straight face that the Warriors should trade Draymond Green and Klay Thompson for Kevin Love. LeBron James also joined Kyrie Irving, one of the league’s best makers of tough inside shots.
CLE were the favorites to win in 2015 and for the foreseeable future… when some freak accident lifted the divergence value above 1.0 and jumped us into the alpha worldline, where the Warriors evolved and Stephen Curry leveled up into the greatest offensive attacker in history.
Nonetheless, the Cavs faced genuine Dynasty troubles, trying to maintain a top-flight team that cruised to the Finals every year in a demoralized Eastern Conference.
Let’s examine the drafting of the Eastern Dynasty Cavs.
#24. Swapped to MIN for #31, #36 and 2019 2nd.
#31. Cedi Osman. Osman was claimed one spot after Kevon Looney. He has racked up a respectable amount of floor time, as a starting forward for the post-LeBron nuclear waste dump Cavaliers. However, for the Dynasty Cavs, he only played 62 Playoff Minutes.
He was #28 in Win Shares for this draft class, and #39 in Value Over Replacement Player (notably, at -1.2 he was rated as below replacement level).
#36. Rakeem Christmas. Traded in summer to IND for a 2019 2nd.
#53. Sir'Dominic Pointer. Played one year in the D-League, then played overseas.
#24. Traded for Kevin Love with Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, etc. in the mega-swap.
#26. Traded to DEN with 2017 #20 for Timothy Mozgov and 2015 #53.
#28. Traded to BOS in a massive salary dump to make space for LeBron James and Kevin Love.
#48. Traded for Luol Deng, who didn’t play for the Eastern Dynasty Cavs.
#54. Kay Felder. (Got pick for cash considerations from ATL.) Felder bounced around between the G-League and CLE as a bench player in 2016-17, then was traded to ATL as part of a dump of Richard Jefferson’s salary. He racked up the #53 Win Shares out of 54 draftees who played a single minute in the NBA.
#58. Traded in a complex pair of trades involving Keith Bogans between BOS, CLE and PHI in Sept 2014.
#20. Traded to DEN for Timothy Mozgov, see 2016 #26.
#26. Traded to POR for 2018 1st.
#38. Traded in Luol Deng trade.
#53. Traded to BOS.
So, in three drafts, the Cavaliers netted
Cedi Osman and Kay Felder who together played (62 + 0) total playoff minutes, so essentially zero impact on the Cavaliers playoff runs.
They used plenty of draft picks to facilitate trades for
cornerstone Kevin Love;
half a great Finals from Timothy Mozgov, who played very well in the 2015 Finals before small ball made him obsolete mid-series, and he never played meaningful playoff minutes again for CLE until leaving as a free agent after the 2016 Finals;
Luol Deng who didn’t even play with LeBron
Part of the double-edged sword of LeBron James is that his constant threat to leave (via his 1+1 contracts) means you are constantly trading any medium-term strengths and the next generation to help LeBron win that year. Chop down all your forest and eat all your seed corn to go all-in. Once he’s gone, you have desolation for years.
So they drafted 62 Playoff Minutes, and, let’s be very generous with the trade credit here, traded for 2563 Playoff Minutes (Love and Mozgov).
The Warriors got a LOT more out of draftees (1353 Playoff Minutes) and even if you give 100% credit to the traded picks for sign-and-trades, GSW also got comparable minutes out of their draft trades (Andre’s 2851 Playoff Minutes compared to Love and Mozgov’s combined (2563 PM).
Verdict: The Warriors Dynasty drafted much better than the Cavaliers Dynasty.
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