Cavaliers number one pick no slam dunk this time

Photograph by: Aaron Josefczyk, REUTERS

NEW YORK, June 22 (Reuters) - The Cleveland Cavaliers have the top pick in the NBA draft on Thursday but there will be no slam-dunk decision like the last time they had the number one selection.

In 2003, after losing 65 games, the Cavaliers used the number one pick to grab LeBron James and were instantly transformed from league cellar-dwellers into championship contenders.

By most assessments there is no once-in-a-generation talent like James to be mined from this year’s draft but the Cavaliers will once again use the number one selection to rebuild a team that crumbled into ruin last season after the twice NBA most valuable player spurned Cleveland to sign with Miami.

With renovations underway at Madison Square Garden, the draft will be staged across the Hudson River in Newark and the first name called by NBA commissioner David Stern is expected to be either Duke point guard Kyrie Irving or Arizona forward Derrick Williams.

The Cavs are believed to be leaning towards Irving, a slick ball handler with size and speed over the athletic Williams, who averaged 19.5 points and 8.3 rebounds last season.

Neither player is likely to make jilted Cavaliers fans forget about James but with the number one and four picks, Cleveland should land two skilled players who will provide the cornerstone for a team rebuilding.

Whichever of those players Cleveland does not take is likely headed to the Minnesota Timberwolves, owners of the second overall pick.

The Timberwolves would probably prefer to have a shot at Williams having just locked up 20-year-old Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, who they claimed with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft.

The Utah Jazz will select third followed by the Cavaliers at four and the Toronto Raptors at five.

Like the Cavaliers, the Raptors are hoping to unearth a diamond in the rough to help fill the void left by Chris Bosh, who deserted the NBA’s most northern outpost to follow James to sunny Miami.

Already one of the NBA’s most cosmopolitan teams, the Raptors could once again be looking overseas to find their man.

With a possible labor war looming, international players are expected to figure prominently in this year’s lottery with several highly rated American college prospects choosing to remain in school and ride out a potential lockout while the NBA and players union negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement.

Some mock drafts have as many as five foreign players going in the top 10 with the Cavaliers eyeing Turkish big man Enes Kanter with the fourth selection and the Raptors considering Lithuanian centre Jonas Valanciunas.

The Czech Republic’s Jan Vesely, Congo’s Bismack Biyombo, Lithuania’s Donatas Motiejunas and Latvia’s Davis Bertans could all hear their names called in the opening round.

Draft day could also produce plenty of wheeling-and-dealing with some big names being dangled as trade bait.

The aging San Antonio Spurs would like to move up in the draft and according to pre-draft buzz are willing to deal Frenchman Tony Parker.

Toronto and Sacramento Kings, with the seventh, have reportedly expressed interest in the Spurs point guard, who helped lead San Antonio to three NBA championships.

Phoenix Suns are also rumoured to be shopping around twice MVP Steve Nash, exploring if there is any interest in the Canadian all-star guard.

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