The Cleveland Cavaliers franchise isn't known for their consistency in building championship contenders throughout history, although they have had some great players such as Mark Price and of course LeBron James. The King, specifically, has been Cleveland's brightest factor thanks to their recent success in 2016.
But besides having LeBron James land in their lap in the 2003 NBA Draft, they have made some very questionable draft choices over the last 10 years. Some draft decisions have been downright criminal, and it is time to revisit the top-5 worst mistakes in Cavaliers history.
5. 2013 NBA Draft
Anthony Bennet (No. 1 Pick) over Victor Oladipo (No. 2 Pick)
Probably the biggest bust in NBA history, Anthony Bennet was a disastrous choice by the Cavaliers. Even though the 2013 draft didn't have much talent outside of Victor Oladipo, CJ McCollum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, and Steven Adams, choosing Bennet was such an embarrassing choice for a franchise lacking any sort of star power after LeBron James left.
Through 151 games, Bennet has career averages of 4.4 PPG and 3.1 RPG. He only lasted one season with the Cavaliers, averaging 4.2 PPG and 3.0 RPG in his rookie season in Cleveland. Bennet then bounced around to the Timberwolves, Raptors, and Nets over the next 3 years. Bennet's last season in the league was in 2017, and the out-of-shape power forward will probably never play again.
4. 2012 NBA Draft
Jae Crowder (No. 34) over Draymond Green (No. 35 Pick)
The 2012 NBA Draft was a very critical one for Cleveland because they made two very poor draft choices. The first one was drafting Jae Crowder over future Hall of Famer Draymond Green. Crowder is a nice NBA player and had good moments for Cleveland at times, but he is nowhere near as talented as Draymond Green is.
Crowder only played one season for the Cavaliers, the 2018 season where he averaged 8.6 PPG and 3.3 RPG. He actually had better seasons with the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, and now the Phoenix Suns. Of course, Draymond Green was the defensive stalwart for the Golden State Warriors dynasty that won 3 NBA titles. Without Green, Golden State doesn't win 3 titles and Cleveland could've certainly used the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year on their roster instead of having him defend LeBron James in the Finals for years.
3. 2012 NBA Draft
Dion Waiters (No. 4 Pick) over Damian Lillard (No. 6 Pick)
The most ridiculous draft decision that Cleveland made in 2012 was drafting Dion Waiters with the No. 4 overall pick. Waiters looked like a capable scorer coming in and had a lot of confidence in himself, but it was clear from his rookie season that he wasn't the right guy for the team. Waiters averaged 14.7 PPG and 15.9 PPG in his first 2 seasons with the team, but he was very inefficient as he shot only 41.2% and 43.3% respectively.
Waiters was traded in his third season and has bounced around the league since then. He is currently not playing for an NBA team right now. Of course, the obvious choice to make was drafting 6-time All-Star Damian Lillard. Lillard is averaging 28.4 PPG this season and is a top-2 point guard in the NBA. If Cleveland had Lillard on the squad, they would be in a much better situation because he is a bonafide superstar who has shown loyalty to the franchise that drafted him.
2. 2014 NBA Draft
Andrew Wiggins (No. 1 Pick) over Joel Embiid (No. 3 Pick)
In the 2014 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers had the No.1 overall pick. With talented players such as Julius Randle, Zach LaVine, and Aaron Gordon available; the Cavs made the biggest blunder by not drafting superstar center Joel Embiid. Instead, they took a raw and athletic swingman in Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins was traded immediately for Kevin Love, an All-Star forward who helped LeBron James and Kyrie Irving win an NBA title in Cleveland. But had they drafted Joel Embiid and kept him, it is very likely the Cavaliers would have won more than 1 NBA title. As great as Kevin Love was, Joel Embiid is a much more dominant player, and a duo of LeBron and Embiid would have been the best in the NBA by far.
1. 2011 NBA Draft
Tristan Thompson (No. 4 Pick) over Kawhi Leonard (No. 15 Pick)
In 2011, Cleveland once again had a valuable pick to choose a talented prospect. They passed up on the likes of Kemba Walker, Klay Thompson, and Jimmy Butler for Tristan Thompson. But they also missed out on one of the best two-way stars in the world in Kawhi Leonard. Tristan Thompson was a valuable piece to the 2016 Finals team that won the chip but imagine if Cleveland had Kawhi Leonard instead.
A trio of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Kyrie Irving would have won multiple NBA titles together and would have challenged the Golden State Warriors dynasty with ease. Kawhi is a 2-time NBA champion and 2-time Finals MVP who is a perfect complement to LeBron James. Leonard defends at a high level, developed into a superstar scorer by his season, and proved he is a championship player. Thompson wasn't a bad pick by any means, but missing out on Kawhi Leonard was borderline criminal.