Posted May 29 2012 3:45PM - Updated May 30 2012 12:25PM
NEW YORK -- They do this every year: Representatives from the non-playoff teams meet in the East, this time in New York City after years of gathering in New Jersey. They go into a double-top-secret room to watch pingpong balls decide the order of the top of the NBA Draft.
Four balls are drawn to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned those numbers will win. The four balls are placed back in the drum and the process is repeated to determine the second and third picks. From the fourth selection on, the order is determined by worst record, and tiebreakers where needed.
The results are then read during a live TV broadcast without any on-stage participants aware of the outcome. They do it every year.
But this year's lottery has a few more wrinkles than most.
The 2012 version of the lottery (8 ET, ESPN) has projected franchise-changing power forward Anthony Davis of Kentucky as the top prize. Yet it has so much more. Davis-being-traded more. Franchise-relocation more. Blockbuster-deal more. David-Stern-vindication more.
There never has been a convergence of circumstances like it since the lottery began in 1985. And not just because Davis is considered the best prospect to enter the NBA in years, ahead of the No. 1 picks of 2011 (Kyrie Irving), 2010 (John Wall), 2009 (Blake Griffin) and probably 2008 (Derrick Rose). No one has been spoken of in these terms since the Greg Oden-Kevin Durant debate of 2007.
Imagine if the Nets win. What a chip to suddenly be able to push to the center of the table in the continued pursuit of Dwight Howard. What a mega-money call Brooklyn and Orlando would have to make if it happens -- the certainty of Howard as a star center vs. the unknown of Davis as a pro, with the Nets in win-now mode to send a message to free agent-to-be Deron Williams. The question surrounding Howard's balky back would be raised as the expectation of a max contract offer looms. Quite the intersection of situations.
Imagine if the Kings win. Fans who have remained admirably loyal to the roster (despite a bitter distaste for ownership after the collapse of the arena deal) will not be able to turn away if Davis comes to town. A Sacramento victory in the lottery spurs a new wave of emotion that the city cannot let the Kings go now, not just after landing the best prospect in years. It is not inconceivable that pingpong balls in Manhattan will have at least a small say in the NBA future in Northern California.
Imagine if the Hornets win. Stern would have his victory lap, affirmation in his mind that quashing the three-team Chris Paul trade in December with the Lakers and Rockets was the right move because New Orleans needed a long-term future more than it needed Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic. Acting as Hornets owner during the time the league owned the franchise, Stern chose rebuilding rather than immediate reloading. Davis is definitely a pillar for rebuilding.
Imagine if the Trail Blazers win. Of all 13 teams on stage tonight -- the Hornets have their own spot and the unprotected Timberwolves pick as well -- Portland is the only one that would not have an immediate upgrade with Davis at power forward. Not with All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge holding down that spot. Long term could be another matter, as the debate of proven vs. potential returns. But the Blazers don't want another couple years of patience.
Aldridge and Davis could work together, but whoever is hired as general manager in Portland would be fielding a lot of calls. The Blazers want trade options, and they would have them.
All the long-shot scenarios have to be considered, too, because the Cavaliers went from the eighth-best chance to get No. 1 to that top spot last year and took Irving (with the pick acquired from the Clippers). The Clippers went from third-best to No. 1 in 2009 for Griffin. The Bulls went from ninth-best to No. 1 in 2008 for Rose. And the Trail Blazers went from sixth-best to No. 1 in 2007 for Oden. The team with the highest odds to land the first choice has not won since Orlando in 2004, the Dwight Howard selection. As if the odds-on-favorite Bobcats need reminding.
Charlotte has 250 chances out of 1,000 to win, followed by the Wizards (199 chances), Cavaliers (138), Hornets (137 and, with the Minnesota pick, 11), Kings (76), Nets (75), Warriors (36), Raptors (35), Pistons (17), Trail Blazers (eight), Bucks (seven), Suns (six) and Rockets (five).
The 13 teams now in the lottery could be reduced by the end of the night: The Trail Blazers will get the New Jersey pick if the Nets finish fourth or lower and the Jazz will get the Golden State choice if the Warriors finish eighth or lower.
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