SI.com 2003 NBA Draft 2003 NBA Draft


No cigar

Grizzlies are big losers in LeBron lottery

Posted: Thursday May 22, 2003 10:24 PM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- The loss of the chance to draft high school phenom LeBron James also meant the loss of an entire first-round draft pick for the Memphis Grizzlies and Jerry West on Thursday at the NBA Lottery drawing.

Thanks to a 1997 trade with Detroit for Otis Thorpe, the only way the Grizzlies could have retained their top draft pick was to win the No. 1 pick in the lottery. They came in second to Cleveland, which is expected to pick James.

That means Detroit will have the second pick. Memphis will have to settle for the 13th overall pick.

Jerry West, the Grizzlies' president of basketball operations, said it was agonizing to sit through the selection process knowing the Cavaliers had a better chance of landing the top pick because of the NBA's weighted lottery system.

"When you get down to these situations with a player of the magnitude at one or two in the draft, it would have been an enormous addition to our team -- enormous," West said. "I think there are three or four kids in this draft that are going to be tremendous NBA players, and more importantly for the city of Memphis and the Grizzlies coaching staff, if we'd have gotten the number one pick we would have gotten a real special player."

West represented the Grizzlies at the lottery in Secaucus, N.J., and spoke with reporters by teleconference afterward.

The deal that cost Memphis the No. 2 pick was made when the Grizzlies were still in Vancouver and West was running the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Pistons, who had the best record in the Eastern Conference, will likely take Syracuse star Carmelo Anthony if James is selected by the Cavaliers.

The Grizzlies had a 6.4 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick and a .5 percent chance of getting that pick with Houston's lottery pick at No. 13, obtained in the 1999 trade that sent Steve Francis to the Rockets for Antoine Carr, Brent Price, Othella Harrington and Michael Dickerson.

Memphis also has the 27th pick in the first round courtesy of February's trade with Orlando that sent Drew Gooden to the Magic for Mike Miller.

"We have the last two rookies of the year in Pau Gasol and Mike Miller, and we think we're going to get a very good player in the draft at number 13," West said. "And hopefully in the offseason we can add some strength to our team through player acquisitions."

West said he doesn't expect to land a superstar through free agency or by trade, but might be able to upgrade the Grizzlies' depth.

The No. 27 pick should help West continue building a team that is coming off a franchise-best 28-54 record after his first season at the helm.

The Grizzlies' draft history has been woeful in its short history.

They couldn't even take part in the lottery in their first year in 1995, winning a coin flip with Toronto for the No. 6 pick. Their expansion agreement kept them from getting the No. 1 pick for the next three years, so they had to pick second in 1998 when they did win the top selection.

Three years they held the top spot going into the lottery and fell back. The Grizzlies have lost ground in the lottery in five of the last seven years, and they moved up two spots in 2000 from No. 4 to second overall, which they used on Stromile Swift.


 
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