BIG PLAYS

Living in LeBron James’ Shadow?

With the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery this evening, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a 14 percent chance of obtaining the first overall pick. The team shares that chance with the New York Knicks and the Phoenix Suns. From there, the chances drop off to 12.5 percent for the Chicago Bulls, 10.5 percent for the Atlanta Hawks and so on and so forth.

The Cavaliers drafted LeBron James after winning the lottery in 2003. Additionally, the team has had the chance to take players such as point guard Kyrie Irving in 2011, small forward Anthony Bennett in 2013 and shooting guard Andrew Wiggins in 2014 (traded for with Minnesota for power forward Kevin Love).

Since the Cavs won the championship in 2016, James left again, this time for Los Angeles, and had a tumultuous year on the West Coast filled with team struggles and injuries.

However, it is clear that James will always be remembered as a Cavalier, despite winning his first two championships in Miami and being the most hated man in Cleveland for those four years (2010-2014) until he returned back to ‘The Land’ with his beautiful “I’m Coming Home” essay.

The clear-cut number one selection is Duke superstar Zion Williamson, who averaged 22.6 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game in his single year of college. If the Cavs were to get that coveted first selection, Williamson would wear wine and gold next year and beyond.

Additionally, players such as Ja Morant out of Murray St. and RJ Barrett out of Duke as well, may find themselves coming to Cleveland depending on how tonight goes.

The struggle of coming to Cleveland, even if say the Cavs do not land the first pick but instead just a top pick, will be to live up to the “LeBron James Standard of Excellence.” A man that had huge expectations and went above and beyond them, winning the championship after returning but thriving in every single season, making a true mark on basketball from the beginning.

Reviewing those aforementioned top picks and the realization is that Irving needed James to truly thrive in Cleveland, Bennett was a complete bust and Wiggins never played on the team. Thus, no one has succeeded in Cleveland without James alongside.

The pressure is on.

Moreover, Cleveland is not like Los Angeles where one could hide behind the likes of many past legends. It is LeBron James and that is it. The comparison is going to be made to a man that some say is the best to ever play.

Now, the expectations from Cleveland fans will not be “championship or bust” in the first year. Even so, the comparisons between this draft pick and James will always be made. If it is Williamson, a college star sized up to James since high school, the young man will be intensely scrutinized with any team, especially the Cavs and that Cleveland connection.

If all goes well, this could be the beginning of a new chapter in Cleveland basketball. The alternative is that the star, whoever it is, gets sucked into the hype and never finds the same type of success James had, this time with new head coach John Beilein.

The ping-pong balls will bounce, maybe not as much as Kawhi Leonard’s shot did, but the order of what looks to be a historic draft gets decided this evening. It will truly change the future and landscape of the NBA.

Will the next Cavalier become a Cleveland legend, or just another figure that could not handle the pressure set from a legend like King James?

The BIGPLAY Podcast

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