Williams, Magic Hoping for More Lottery Luck

By John Denton
May 19, 2014

ORLANDO – The routine at the NBA’s Draft Lottery is as familiar to Orlando Magic Senior Vice President Pat Williams as the path he takes on a daily basis during the season from his Winter Park home to the Amway Center. Still, the lottery process produces the kind of exhilaration and promise that gets Williams’ heart pounding like a bouncing basketball.

Williams’ legacy in Orlando will always center predominantly around him being a co-founder of the Magic and one of the first inductees into the team’s Hall of Fame. But another major aspect of Williams’ legend in Orlando is his overwhelming success at the NBA Draft Lottery, a lifeline that has funneled some of the best talent in the NBA through Orlando.

Williams has been present for 11 NBA Draft Lotteries for the Magic, winning the first pick three times. And, in some ways Williams counts last season’s No. 2 pick, which turned out to be standout guard Victor Oladipo, as another big lottery winner for the Magic. So even though Williams is a veteran of the NBA Lottery process, he still gets excited about the tremendous promise that the night holds for the Magic.

``I don’t care how many times I’ve been up there, and over 25 years I’ve probably been up there to the lottery more times than we would wish, but it never loses its drama, excitement and anticipation,’’ said Williams, who will represent the Magic on the dais for the televised portion of the lottery on Tuesday night in New York City. ``And we certainly never lose the joy of winning.’’

Williams and the Magic have done plenty of winning at the lottery, capturing the top pick in 1992, 1993 and 2004. The Magic used those picks to draft franchise fixtures Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway and Dwight Howard – players who led the Magic to NBA Finals appearances in 1995 and 2009. And Orlando got Oladipo at No. 2 last season after Cleveland shockingly took disappointing forward Anthony Bennett first. Williams said that because the Magic most likely would have chosen Oladipo with the No. 1 pick, he should technically get credit for another lottery winner.

``I really think we won last year’s too,’’ Williams said with a chuckle. ``Because the player that we took at two, we would have taken him at one if we would have had that pick. That ping pong will never get into the trophy case, but I think he deserves to get into there. Nevertheless, we’ve had quite a run and hopefully we’ve got another ping pong ball that wants to go into the trophy case this year.’’

The days of Williams taking charms and trinkets to New York for luck are long gone. Instead Williams, Magic GM CEO Alex Martins, GM Rob Hennigan, head coach Jacque Vaughn and VP of Communications Joel Glass will venture to New York City armed with the third0-best odds at winning the top overall selection.

By virtue of their 23-59 record, the Magic will have a 15.6 percent shot at winning the top spot in the June 26 NBA Draft. They have a 15.7 percent shot at No. 2 and a 46.9 percent shot at landing in the top three. Only Milwaukee (25 percent) and Philadelphia (19.9 percent) have better odds at winning the first pick. In what would qualify as a worst-case scenario, the Magic can fall no lower than No. 6.

The Magic were the last team with the best odds to win the NBA Lottery back in 2004. The top selection has gone to the team with the third-best odds each of the last two seasons with the New Orleans Hornets landing Anthony Davis and Cleveland winning the rights to Bennett last season.

Orlando also has a second lottery pick, one that is statistically likely end up at No. 12. That pick will end up being the least favorable of Denver’s two selections. It comes as part of the Howard mega trade in August of 2012.

The Magic are hoping to put themselves in position to add another talented player around their young core of Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, Kyle O’Quinn and Oladipo. College freshmen Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins are considered the top three prospects available, while Julius Randle and Marcus Smart headline the rest of what is considered a very deep class.

Through the years, the lottery has had a way of helping to supply the Magic the pieces needed to build a winner. Williams is excited about the prospect of the Magic coming out of this lottery with a shot at getting another superstar player.

``You’re not going to stay at the highest level forever because this is a yo-yo business that we’re in,’’ Williams said. ``And the only way that you can get really good is to string together several really good drafts when you are struggling. … We’re coming back up again, and I don’t know that there’s a Shaq or a Dwight waiting for us in this draft, but we’ve just got to string together a series of really good drafts when you are picking high. The first swing was with Oladipo and our second swing will be in June with our two picks, which is a nice, little bonus having a second pick. So we’re excited about the prospect of coming out of this draft with another very good player.’’

Watch the NBA Draft Lottery at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN on Tuesday, May 20.