Little luck goes a long way
Chance to draft Oden just part of lottery's high stakes
Posted: Tuesday May 22, 2007 10:22AM; Updated: Tuesday May 22, 2007 3:42PM
Forget the playoffs. For fans of the Grizzlies, Celtics, Bucks, Hawks and most of the other NBA also-rans, the moment they have been waiting for since the end of the regular season has finally arrived.
The NBA will hold its annual draft lottery at 8:30 EST Tuesday night, and this year's event is one of the most anticipated in years.
This time we're not talking about a Bogut, Bargnani or (Kwame) Brown.
This time we're talking about a No. 1 pick who can really make a difference --if the scouts are right about Ohio State's Greg Oden and Texas' Kevin Durant.
"We've got two players who stand head and shoulders above the others," said Grizzlies president Jerry West, whose team will have the best chance of landing the top pick. "It could be a franchise-altering experience."
"It's a big day for all the teams involved," said Celtics general manager Chris Wallace, whose team has the second-best chance. "I think this draft is deep enough that there will be quality players beyond Oden and Durant. But there's no question those guys are potential high-impact players."
As West and Wallace know, however, their teams will need some luck. The NBA uses a weighted lottery system designed to give those teams with the worst records the best shot of landing the No. 1 selection (see chart). But only two times in the past 16 years has the team with the worst overall record landed the top pick. Last year the Raptors won the lottery from the No. 5 spot. The Bucks did it from No. 6 in 2005.
If any team knows the agony of losing the draft lottery, it's the Celtics. In '97 Boston finished with the worst record in the league -- and the best odds of landing Wake Forest star Tim Duncan. But the Ping-Pong balls didn't bounce Boston's way and the Spurs wound up getting the top prize in that draft.
The good news for the Grizzlies and Celtics, of course, is that this year there are two players deemed worthy of the No. 1 spot. So finishing runner-up this time around won't be so bad.
Here's a look at teams that have the most at stake in Tuesday's drawing:
Grizzlies: As long as they get one of the first two picks, they will be happy. Despite their abysmal season, they have a talented core in Pau Gasol, Mike Miller and Rudy Gay. The addition of Oden or Durant could give them a huge boost. It also could influence their search for a GM and coach. Larry Brown reportedly is waiting to see the results of the lottery before deciding whether he'd be interested in serving one or both of those roles in Memphis.
Celtics: Like the Grizzlies, they would be content with either Oden or Durant. Oden's game, with his unselfishness and shot-blocking, is reminiscent of Bill Russell. Durant would fit nicely alongside Paul Pierce and Al Jefferson. Either way, landing one of these two picks will probably determine embattled front-office boss Danny Ainge's fate.
Hawks: They get to keep their pick only if they can move up into the top three. Otherwise it goes to the Suns as part of the '05 Joe Johnson trade (Phoenix would get Atlanta's '08 pick if the Hawks do get to keep it this year). Atlanta is in line to get the Pacers' pick (part of the Al Harrington trade), but only if it stays outside the top 10. If the Pacers get lucky and move up, the sad-sack Hawks could come away empty-handed.
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