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As ping pong balls bounce, fates of 14 teams hang in balance

By Jonathan Givony, for
Posted May 18 2009 9:07PM

Tuesday at 8 p.m. (ESPN), the annual NBA Draft lottery will be conducted in Secaucus, N.J. All 14 teams will send a representative -- some their General Manager (Larry Riley, John Hammond), others their coach (Alvin Gentry, Scott Brooks), others a star player (Kevin Love) -- to watch the excruciatingly painful process of seeing their team's future being decided by a bunch of ping pong balls.

In a Draft such as this, where there appears to be a huge dropoff between the second and third picks, there is that much more on the line.

Here's what will actually happen behind the scenes, from the official NBA press release:

"Fourteen ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 will be placed in a drum. There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. Prior to the Lottery, 1,000 combinations will be assigned to the 14 participating Lottery teams by a computer.

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The Sacramento Kings finished the season with the NBA's worst record (17-65), so they will be assigned 250 combinations. The Phoenix Suns, the best team in the lottery at 46-36, will have five combinations out of 1,000.

Four balls will be drawn to the top to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned that combination will receive the number one pick. The four balls are placed back in the drum and the process is repeated to determine the number two and three picks. (Note: If the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls are drawn to the top again.)

The order of selection for the teams that do not win one of the top three picks will be determined by inverse order of their regular season record. Thus, Sacramento can pick no lower than fourth, Washington (19-63) no lower than fifth and the L.A. Clippers (19-63) no lower than sixth.

The actual Lottery procedure will take place in a separate room prior to the national broadcast with NBA officials and representatives of the participating teams and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young in attendance.

Following the drawing, team logo cards will be inserted into envelopes marked 1 through 14 by an Ernst & Young representative. These envelopes then will be sealed and brought on-stage, where the announcement of the Lottery results will be made by NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. A second representative from each participating team will be seated on-stage. Neither the Deputy Commissioner nor the team representatives will be informed of the Lottery results prior to the opening of the envelopes.

The team whose logo is in the last envelope opened will pick first in NBA Draft 2009, to be held on Thursday, June 25, at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City."

Here's what's at stake for all 14 teams participating in the lottery, as well as their odds of coming away with the first, second or third pick.

Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
17-65 250 25.00% 21.46% 17.72%

The Kings drafted big men with each of their last two lottery selections, and thus are one of the few teams that could buck the trend and pick Ricky Rubio over Blake Griffin. With a roster that needs help at every position beside shooting guard, they will likely be hoping just not to fall out of the top two.

On-stage Representative: Chris Webber

Lottery Room Participant: John Kehriotis (minority owner)

Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
19-63 178 17.80% 17.36% 16.45%

Injuries decimated the Wizards' season, and with a roster full of veterans with long-term contracts, they may decide that they don't need this pick as much as others. As good as Griffin may look in a Wizards uniform, If there is value out there, look for them to move this pick, which is why it's important that they don't fall too far.

On-stage Representative: Flip Saunders (head coach)

Lottery Room Participant: Ernie Grunfeld (president)

Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
19-63 177 17.70% 17.29% 16.41%

Clippers fans have been here enough to know that their pain won't be eased with just another lottery pick. Still, a player with the energy, athleticism and enthusiasm of Griffin could really infuse this franchise with a much needed shot in the arm.

On-stage Representative: Andy Roeser (president)

Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
23-59 119 11.90% 12.57% 13.24%

Local hero Griffin would obviously be Sam Presti's first choice, but drafting fourth or fifth wouldn't be the end of the world either, as players like James Harden and Hasheem Thabeet could definitely fit into their long-term plans.

On-stage Representative: Scott Brooks (head coach)

Lottery Room Participant: Sam Presti (general manager)

Minnesota Timberwolves
Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
24-58 76 7.60% 8.43% 9.46%

The Timberwolves have no coach and no GM, but even their mascot could tell you that they desperately need a point guard, preferably Rubio. If they fail to move up, though, they should have their first choice of an intriguing crop of playmakers, including Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson, Stephen Curry or Tyreke Evans.

On-stage Representative: Kevin Love

Lottery Room Participant: N/A

Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
24-58 75 7.50% 8.33% 9.36%

The Grizzlies need to get their hands on an athletic big man to compliment the excellent Marc Gasol. Unfortunately, there isn't much out there beyond Griffin and Jordan Hill, which means this pick could be for sale if they don't move up.

On-stage Representative: Lionel Hollins (head coach)

Lottery Room Participant: Greg Campbell (president, business operations)

Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
29-53 43 4.30% 4.93% 5.76%

As much as Griffin's rebounding ability would help the Warriors, should they fail to move up they could really use a guard who compliments the strengths of Monta Ellis. Players like Curry, Evans and possibly even Harden would likely get long looks if available.

On-stage Representative: Larry Riley (general manager)

Lottery Room Participant: Raymond Ridder (executive director, public relations)

new york knicks
Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
32-50 28 2.80% 3.26% 3.87%

Nothing would jumpstart the Knicks' rebuilding process more than the opportunity to get Mike D'Antoni the playmaker he desperately needs to run his offense. Unfortunately, the chances of that are slim, and thus they will probably be looking at players like Curry, Jennings and Lawson.

On-stage Representative: Allan Houston (assistant to president, basketball operations)

Lottery Room Participant: Donnie Walsh (president, basketball operations)

Toronto Raptors
Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
33-49 17 1.70% 2.00% 2.40%

While Griffin or Thabeet would be a godsend for the Raptors' frontcourt, they more realistically will look to address their lack of athleticism and shot-creating ability on the wing to help ease the pressure on Jose Calderon and Chris Bosh. DeMar DeRozan, Evans and Gerald Henderson will probably be in the mix here.

On-stage Representative: Bryan Colangelo (president and general manager)

Lottery Room Participant: Jim LaBumbard (director, media relations)

Milwaukee Bucks
Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
34-48 10 1.00% 1.18% 1.43%

Milwaukee has some big decisions ahead in terms of what they do with Ramon Sessions and Charlie Villanueva this summer. Until we learn more about their plans for their own roster, it's tough to evaluate which players they may look to add. Best player available?

On-stage Representative: John Hammond (general manager)

Lottery Room Participant: Jeff Weltman (assistant general manager)

New Jersey Nets
Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
34-48 9 0.90% 1.06% 1.29%

Rod Thorn has expressed his desire to add a tough, rebounding big man who can do the little things for New Jersey's solid group of scorers, and DeJuan Blair could be exactly what he's looking for.

On-stage Representative: Rod Thorn (president)

Lottery Room Participant: Bobby Marks (vice president, basketball operations)

charlotte bobcats
Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
35-47 7 0.70% 0.83% 1.01%

Larry Brown wants to get deeper and more athletic on the wing, which could be good news for the likes of Terrence Williams or Henderson.

On-stage Representative: D.J. Augustin

Lottery Room Participant: Josh Rosen (manager of basketball communications)

Indiana Pacers
Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
36-46 6 0.60% 0.71% 0.87%

Indiana has plenty of needs, which they probably won't be able to solve just in the lottery. Players like Blair, Curry and local product Jeff Teague could be a good start, though.

On-stage Representative: Larry Bird (president)

Lottery Room Participant: David Benner (director of public information)

phoenix suns
Record Chances 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick
46-36 5 0.50% 0.59% 0.72%

Since Steve Nash probably won't play forever, this may be the right draft to pluck the best point guard on the board as his eventual replacement. Eric Maynor, Jonny Flynn, Lawson or Curry will likely still be on the board at this point.

On-stage Representative: Alvin Gentry (Head coach)

Lottery Room Participant: N/A

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