A year after LeBron James fled for South Beach, the Cavaliers were rewarded with the first overall pick simply for taking on a contract no longer welcome in Los Angeles.
The Clippers were looking for a way to shed the $30 million owed to Baron Davis over two years, sent an unprotected pick to Cleveland in exchange for the 33-year-old guard.
Unknowingly, the Cavaliers landed their franchise point guard in the deal.
The draft selection ended up being the first overall pick, which Cleveland used to select Duke point guard Kyrie Irving.
Even with just one double-double on the season, there was no question Irving was the Rookie of the Year, as he averaged 18.5 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 rebounds and inadvertently became a more dangerous player.
Irving saw his first year end prematurely after breaking his right hand, he spent the entire summer honing his skill with his left.
“My left-hand floater is something serious right now,” Irving told ESPN.com. “I can actually tie my shoe with one hand. My right hand, I’m 110 percent. No problems.”
With Irving fully healthy, he presents a problem for the rest of the Central Division.
Any questions about Indiana’s toughness were answered during a grueling six game set against Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
With so few true centers in the league, Hibbert’s dominance in the post season served notice. The 7-footer averaged 11.7 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game along with five double-doubles in 11 contests.
During each of his four seasons in the league, Hibbert has been able to increase his scoring, rebound and block averages while being named an All-Star for the first time in 2012.
Indiana is hoping his development continues, as the team has increased its win total by five games each of the past two years.
Smart Move: Indiana’s bench was one of its weak points last season, averaging 29.8 points in 17.2 minutes per game last season. By signing Gerald Green, a player that scored 20 or more points seven times last year, the Pacers added some much needed depth to compete with the elite teams in the conference.
Questionable Move: The 2012 NBA Draft was supposed to be one of the deepest drafts of all-time but the Pacers easily took the most surprising pick, selecting Miles Plumlee 26th overall. Indiana fans booed the pick heavily during the draft, as Plumlee wasn’t even expected to be selected by some experts. The Pacers already had a solid backup center in Louis Amudson and could have tried to upgrade a greater need on the roster.
Watch Out For: All season, the Pacers tried to figure out if George Hill was their long term solution at point guard. Darren Collison was traded to Dallas to open up minutes for Hill. A player with many skills, Hill needs to find a specialty so the rest of the team can excel.
The former MVP needs to display a remarkable recovery for the Bulls to ascend to their ultimate goal.
Chicago was won 75 percent of its regular season games over the past two years, even as Rose missed 27 contests during the strike shorted season in 2012.
After battling various foot and ankle injuries, a troubling season ended for Rose after tearing his ACL in the waning minutes of the first game of the playoffs.
The Bulls expect Rose back on the court at some point during the 2012-13 season, but for the team to be a true contender, he has to return to his MVP form.
Smart Move: The Bulls won 50 regular season games for the 14th time in franchise history and still managed to select one of the most promising point guard prospects. Kentucky guard Marquis Teague slipped to the team with the 29th pick and even after struggling during summer league play, the 19-year-old can become a perfect bench compliment to Rose.
Questionable Move: A large part of Chicago’s success stemmed from its stellar bench production. As one of the few teams with several defensive stoppers playing in reserve roles, the departures of Ronnie Brewer, for the veteran’s minimum to New York, and Omer Asik may be too much of a burden for the team to overcome.
Watch Out For: As one of 14 teams yet to use its amnesty clause, the 2012-13 season will likely serve as an audition for Carlos Boozer, the high priced power forward that has seen his scoring and rebound averages decrease each of the past three seasons.
In consecutive seasons, the Cavaliers landed the fourth overall pick as the rebuilding franchise looks to surround point guard Kyrie Irving with talent.
Tristin Thompson was a surprise pick in 2011, going fourth overall. His energy level is difficult to match, as he ranked 15th in total offensive rebounds last season, but the rest fo his game is lacking.
The 6-foot-8 forward shot just 43.9 percent from the field, an exceptionally low number considering just 27 of his 442 shot attempts came from outside of the paint last season.
Joining Irving in the back court is Dion Waiters, the fourth overall pick in the 2012 Draft. Waiters has the talent to become a star, but his selection that high in the draft is troubling, since he wasn’t a starter in college and he admitted to being out of shape for summer league play.
The Cavaliers need the pair of fourth overall selections to make significant contributions or the team will once again be headed for the draft lottery.
Smart Move: The Cavaliers finally found a solution at center if Anderson Varejao once again suffers a season ending injury early in the year. Tyler Zeller, a projected top-10 pick, fell to the 17th pick. Dallas chose the 7-foot center then shipped him to the Cavaliers for the 24th, 33rd and 34th draft selections.
Questionable Move: Few teams have an opportunity to select three players with top-4 picks during a two year span. Players such as Andre Drummond, Harrison Barnes, Thomas Robinson, Jonas Valanciunas and Klay Thompson all could have been selected by Cleveland, but were overlooked. The city of Cleveland hasn’t won a title in any sport since 1964 and with question marks surrounding a pair of high lottery picks, the drought may continue for a long time.
Watch Out For: Irving to make an All-Star bid. Even with an absurd amount of talent at the point guard position throughout the league, the player that challenged Kobe Bryant to a game of one-on-one will have every opportunity to shine in Cleveland.
In two seasons, the Bucks went from one of the top defensive team in the league, allowing just 92.7 points per game, to the most potent offense in the Eastern Conference, averaging 99 points each night.
The addition of Monta Ellis completed Milwaukee’s transformation, as it finished playing at the third fastest pace in the league, but the Bucks must find a way to slow down their opponent.
Opposing guards thrived against Milwaukee, as it allowed 98.9 points per game following the acquisition of Ellis and it allowed an opponent in the back court to score 25 or more points on nine occasions.
Smart Move: Milwaukee is a small market team with limited resources and a lack of appeal to free agents. The lack of serviceable front court players, especially ones capable of 29 point, 25 rebound efforts made Ersan Ilyasova the top priority for the Bucks this off-season. The five-year $40 million contract may be a reach for a player that averaged a career-high 13 points and 8.8 rebounds last season, but is a worthwhile risk.
Questionable Move: For a team full of stretch power forwards, the selection of John Henson with the final lottery pick in 2012 made little sense. While Henson is a talented player, Milwaukee may have a difficult time getting him on the floor, with six other players on the roster capable of playing power forward and just four total guards invited to training camp.
Watch Out For: The Bucks haven’t won a playoff series since the 2000-01 season. Golden State was unable to qualify for the post season with Ellis as the focal point of its team and if the team struggles, Milwaukee may once again be active at the trade deadline.
Perhaps no All-Star snub was more egregious than the one received by Greg Monroe last season.
The 6-foot-11 center averaged 15.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and posted 30 double-doubles, all numbers far superior than those put up by first time All-Star Roy Hibbert.
Playing for a Detroit team slated to have just one game nationally televised, a contest at Washington in late February, Monroe has just 48 minutes to display his talents to a wide audience.
Smart Move: Over the past three years, the Pistons have won between 25 and 30 games with a veteran roster and a salary approaching the tax line. Detroit was able to become a factor in free agency next summer by shipping Ben Gordon and the $25.6 million remaining on his deal to Charlotte for the expiring contract of Corey Maggette.
Questionable Move: Aside from bringing in Terrence Williams and Jonny Flynn, recent lottery picks turned NBA journeymen, the Pistons did nothing in free agency to improve a team in desperate need of a scoring punch.
Watch Out For: Additional roster shuffling. Small forward Tayshaun Prince has three-years and $21.6 million remaining on his contract and could be dealt to a contender seeking a defensive specialist off the bench. Detroit has $35,374,422 committed for the 2013-14 season and moving Prince could open up additional possibilities for the team in free agency.