Life after LeBron might not drag into the next decade, after all. And given the roll the Cavaliers are on right now, maybe LeBron James could rejoin them in their next life, anyway.
After winning the Tuesday draft lottery, the Cavaliers could have Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and now Nerlens Noel, if they take him as expected with the first pick. And there's a potential bonus. Since Noel won't suit up until January at the earliest because of knee surgery, the Cavs will likely fall into the lottery again next summer.
A stronger, deeper, potentially star-studded draft lottery, that is. With the luck of Nick Gilbert, son of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who represented Cleveland at two winning lotteries now, can't you see the Cavs winning the No. 1 pick for the third time in four years and coming away with Andrew Wiggins in 2014?
Could LeBron, who becomes a free agent that summer, resist the chance to return to Cleveland if that happened?
Well, we can put that speculation on the shelf for the moment. Meanwhile, it doesn't get any better for the Cavs, who can draft a shot-blocking big man and hope Noel eventually adds weight (he's 7-feet and 206 pounds) and a post move or two. And if they're feeling really adventurous, they can trade down in the draft and collect an extra body instead. It's a terrific position for a team that collapsed three summers ago when LeBron left for Miami and left Cleveland in ruins.
"We were hoping regardless of what pick we got that this would be our last lottery," Dan Gilbert said. "We thought originally that everything had to be reset that it would be a three-year process. You never know. It could be four. For everyone in Cleveland who has supported us these three years, this is for them."
Maybe it's for LeBron, too. He left the Cavs because he didn't believe they had enough help to win a title. Will this change things? His next "decision" is now on the clock.
Here's how we see the first round shaping up, the first mock draft before the interviews and workouts get serious:
1. CAVALIERS: Nerlens Noel, center, Kentucky. It's the perfect spot for Noel, who can take his time rehabbing while Anderson Varejao serves the final year of his contract, then return healthy and ready for 2014.
2. MAGIC: Trey Burke, point guard, Michigan. Orlando has needs at both guard positions, but smart teams always go for point guard help first. Burke can study behind Jameer Nelson for a year, then take over .
3. WIZARDS: Otto Porter, small forward, Georgetown. The Wizards already have guard Brad Beal, a potential star in the making, and therefore don't need Ben McLemore. Meanwhile, Nene is locked up for the next four years so Maryland center Alex Len doesn't fit. Either they pick Porter or talk trade.
4. BOBCATS: Ben McLemore, shooting guard, Kansas. You may not like the Bobcats' luck historically in the draft, but they're now the Hornets, so this could change their fortune, especially if McLemore slips. He's exactly what a team that can't score needs.
5. SUNS: Alex Len, center, Maryland. Phoenix isn't going anywhere fast, so there's more than enough time for Len to learn about life in the middle and perhaps become a solid, long-term solution for a team with many holes.
6. PELICANS: Victor Oladipo, shooting guard, Indiana. New Orleans would love to get Oladipo and give them yet another good reason to trade grumpy guard Eric Gordon, who'll be tough to move with a contract so heavy it can cause a hernia.
7. KINGS: Anthony Bennett, power forward, UNLV. Last year's rookie power forward, Thomas Robinson, didn't work out so well. The Kings try to get it right this time with Bennett, who must overcome size issues.
8. PISTONS: C.J. McCollum, shooting guard, Lehigh. They'd rather have Oladipo but McCollum would also be an easy fit into a Detroit backcourt that needs plenty of help.
9. TIMBERWOLVES: Shabazz Muhammad, shooting guard, UCLA. He comes somewhat devalued after an uninspired year in college, but he fills a need, and maybe former Bruin Kevin Love, who certainly has the inside scoop from his old school, gives his blessing.
10. TRAIL BLAZERS (FROM BOBCATS): Cody Zeller, power forward, Indiana. He can play both big positions in certain situations and give the Blazers another athletic forward with LaMarcus Aldridge.
11. SIXERS: Steven Adams, center, Pittsburgh. This would be the decision that wipes Andrew Bynum out of the Sixers' future plans and memory bank altogether.
12. THUNDER (FROM RAPTORS): Michael Carter-Williams, point guard, Syracuse. He's 6-foot-6, so if he improves his jump shot, Carter-Williams can play both guard positions for OKC.
13. MAVERICKS: Dennis Schroeder, point guard, Germany. GM Donnie Nelson has impeccable overseas connections and probably sees Schroeder as a poor man's Tony Parker. The Mavericks badly need a point.
14. JAZZ: Shane Larkin, point guard, Miami. Utah has major backcourt needs and will likely take the best point guard on the board and hope he's half as good as Deron Williams someday. Larkin is small (5-foot-11) but has hops and smarts.
15. BUCKS: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, shooting guard, Georgia. With the uncertain future of Monta Ellis, who can become a free agent this summer, the Bucks can grab his replacement, the SEC scoring champ.
16. CELTICS: Mason Plumlee, center, Duke. The rebuilding of the Celtics starts now, with the task of finding someone to learn how to play center from Kevin Garnett.
17. HAWKS: Dario Saric, small forward, Croatia. The Hawks would love to package this and the next pick and move up, but if not, will go for the best help available, since they have only three players under contract for 2013-14.
18. HAWKS (FROM ROCKETS): Kelly Olynyk, power forward, Gonzaga. The plans are to re-sign point guard Jeff Teague if they can't get Chris Paul, so the Hawks will go for size here. Olynyk brings smarts and skills.
19. CAVALIERS (FROM LAKERS): Sergey Karasev, small forward, Russia. A solid shooter from deep, he's only 19 and can give the Cavs an extra dimension on the front line that they presently lack.
20. BULLS: Gorgui Dieng, center, Louisville. Coach Tom Thibodeau loves players who gravitate to defense, and Dieng, a supreme shot-blocker, can be a valuable backup to Joakim Noah.
21. JAZZ (FROM WARRIORS): Deshaun Thomas, small forward, Ohio State. He needs polish but Thomas can give Utah some help on a front line that's expected to lose Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap this summer.
22. NETS: Jeff Withey, center, Kansas. He's a 7-footer who's athletic enough to get minutes at power forward, where the Nets are trying to phase out Kris Humphries.
23. PACERS: Pierre Jackson, point guard, Baylor. He'd be a quick and small (5-foot-10) change-of-pace guard coming off the bench for a team that lacks depth.
24. KNICKS: Rudy Gobert, center, France. He's raw but is 7-foot-2, has a grasp of fundamentals and can be groomed as a backup and future replacement for Tyson Chandler.
25. CLIPPERS: Tim Hardaway Jr., shooting guard, Michigan. The Clippers were exposed in the playoffs as a team with limited shooters, and with Chauncey Billups gone, Hardaway could add depth in the backcourt.
26. TIMBERWOLVES (FROM GRIZZLIES): Allen Crabbe, shooting guard, California. The Wolves need backcourt help and Crabbe has solid range with rebounding skills as a bonus.
27. NUGGETS: Tony Snell, small forward, New Mexico. He has length at 6-foot-7 and most importantly for Denver, brings a smooth shooting touch, but he needs to ask for seconds at the dinner table. Lacks an NBA body.
28. SPURS: Jamaal Franklin, shooting guard, San Diego State. San Antonio tends to find gems in the middle and late rounds, although Franklin isn't exactly a secret. If he falls this far, it's a no-brainer for the Spurs, because Manu Ginobili isn't getting any younger.
29. THUNDER: Lucas Nogueira, center, Brazil. He's only 20 and needs to mature, but at 6-foot-11 with a long reach, he could grow similar to his idol, Nene. And the Thunder need to find someone to press Kendrick Perkins for playing time, pronto.
30. SUNS (FROM HEAT): C.J. Leslie, small forward, N.C. State. He was one of the better players coming out of high school, but lapsed at State. He could catch his second wind with a team that would offer plenty of playing time.