With a whole host of draft selections at their disposal in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers were set to rejuvenate a franchise that had lost LeBron James to Miami two summers prior. In a story penned by ESPN The Magazine's Ramona Shelburne, the 2012 NBA Draft was also one that still haunts Dan Gilbert to this very day.
In 2012, Gilbert had said that the big lesson he learned from James' departure in 2010 was to never let a player have that much leverage over his franchise again. But coming out of that meeting with James' agents, Gilbert thought back to the call he'd gotten from Michigan State coach Tom Izzo at the end of the first round of the 2012 NBA draft. Izzo had told him, "You gotta take my guy." The Cavs had two second-round picks, and Izzo was calling Gilbert, a Michigan State guy, to tell him that Draymond Green was the real deal. "I still wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat that we didn't take him," Gilbert says of Green, who torched the Cavs for 28 points in the Warriors' 110-77 win in Game 2 of the Finals. "I didn't listen to my gut."
That year, the Cleveland Cavaliers, then under Chris Grant, were armed with picks 4, 24, 33 and 34. With the fourth pick, after the Charlotte Bobcats selected their initial target, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Grant's Cavaliers opted for Syracuse shooting guard Dion Waiters. Damian Lillard went No. 6 to Portland, Harrison Barnes went No. 7 to Golden State, and Andre Drummond went No. 8 to Detroit. Looking to get back into the lottery, the Cavs settled for trading up to No. 17 where they would select Tyler Zeller out of North Carolina. In doing so, they moved picks 24, 33 and 34 to Dallas, one of which was used on Marquette's Jae Crowder. Pick No. 35, exactly one pick after the duo traded away by Grant, was used on Green who ended up in Golden State.
At the time, Green was an undersized power forward who also happened to be a Senior in college, selected at a period in the draft where upside is oftentimes king. DraftExpress' profile of Green included the following: "He is not a particularly explosive athlete … Too small to play power forward ... Too slow to defend small forwards.”
If there was any lesson learned, it was passing on Green that, according to Shelburne's story, led Gilbert to swallow his pride and let LeBron James dictate the course of his return to Cleveland two summers later. Oh, and it was Zeller who was traded away to clear enough cap space to make that all work out. Silver linings, right?null