Dynasty Drafts: GSW vs the LeBron-Love-Kyrie Cleveland Cavaliers
They terrorized the Eastern Conference for years and punted their future for a title
All articles in this series are at How the Warriors Extended The Dynasty Through The Draft, an in-depth series
We laid out the constraints and boundaries of this analysis in the series master post, How the Warriors Extended The Dynasty Through 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 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.
Evaluating the Drafts
In the master series post, I discussed how I considered a range of options for comparing how well Dynasty teams drafted, and came up with a simple measure: simply count up the total number of minutes the draftees played in playoff games.
Is this a perfect measure? Of course not. But it captures directly how much the team trusted them to play in the only setting that counts for a Dynasty, and how much they were available. Doesn’t this advantage teams whose Dynasty lasted longer? YES. That’s not a bug, it’s a feature. If your draft is part of a process that leads to a longer Dynasty, that is better drafting.
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 became known as No Help. 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 foundation for 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, and assume the picks were completely responsible for the trades (which is clearly untrue in the case of Love, but we are being generous), netting 2563 Playoff Minutes (Love and Mozgov).
The Warriors got players totaling 2650 Playoff Minutes, and made the sign-and-trade for Andre Iguodala (2912 Playoff Minutes) possible. Here is everything summarized in one chart:
The Warriors got a LOT more out of draftees (2650 Playoff Minutes). Even if you give 100% credit to the traded picks for sign-and-trades, GSW even got comparable minutes out of their draft trades (Andre’s 2912 Playoff Minutes compared to Love and Mozgov’s combined 2563 PM).
You might say, CLE got better value for the draft pick (that single 2016 #28 pick) by facilitating the LeBron arrival, since he’s LeBron. However, it was an absolute certainty that LeBron was coming to CLE, so the pick trade was just haggling between Boston and Cleveland for the salary dump. GSW got more value by facilitating Andre Iguodala’s trade, since that sign-and-trade was very very close to not happening, with Andre set to go elsewhere up to the last minute, so every last one of the FOUR Dynasty picks traded made the difference.
Verdict: The Warriors Dynasty drafted much better than the Cavaliers Dynasty and also used their draft pick trades more effectively.
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FYI Last open thread at https://dubnationhq.com/p/iconic-warriors-dunk-tournament-7/comments
So I'm going to quibble a bit. If you think of the summer of 2014 when LBJ joined Minny as the start of their dynasty, which makes sense as he had just come off a streak of Finals appearances and two championships. Then you can give CLE credit for Wiggs, and that means they get credit for Love. Sure, Anthony Bennet was part of the trade, but he was largely labeled a bust after his first year. OTOH, Andre was acquired in 2013, the summer before the start of the dynasty which started during the 2014-2015 season and ended with the 'Chip.
That makes it much closer at 2650 minutes vs 2563. Furthermore, you're counting Dubs draft picks from 2015 to 2021, which is 7 years. Counting 2014-2017 for CLE is only four years. In a similar vein, CLE's dynasty only lasted four years, whereas the Dubs have been going on for eight years providing many more total playoff minutes for a draft pick to be part of. So, on a playoff minutes provided by draft capital per year of drafting could actually tilt this in CLE's favor.
Of course, CLE benefits from going from a lottery team to being instant contender by signing LBJ and getting to leverage their #1 pick in Wiggs as part of the Dynasty in this assessment.