Big Leap, Big Risk
Posted May 19 2002 10:15PM
NBA Draft Lottery 2002
Houston, you have a pleasant problem.
The Rockets, who had a small 8.9 percent chance of winning the 2002 Draft Lottery, took one giant leap when they landed the No. 1 pick in the 2002 Draft.
"Houston was the only real surprise," Bucks GM Ernie Grunfeld said. "Everyone that was supposed to get the top picks did. Houstonís going to have a tough decision to make, but I bet there are 28 other teams in the league that wish they were in their shoes."
The Rockets have had the top overall pick thrice before, including back-to-back top picks in 1983 and 1984 when they first selected Ralph Sampson, then Hakeem Olajuwon. That tandem led them to a berth in the 1986 NBA Finals. Long after Sampson was gone, Olajuwon would lead the Rockets to back-to-back NBA Championships in 1994 and 1995.
Consider that the Rockets already have a great guard tandem in Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley and they won't need You-Can-Call-Me "Jay" Williams. Also, take into account that Yao Ming, the sweet-shooting 7-foot-5 center from China, may have his eyes set on cities like San Francisco, Chicago or New York that have higher Asian populations.
Regardless, the ping-pong ball landed in the Rockets' court and they have options.
Francis, the All-Star guard who was resplendent in a lavender suit, represented the Rockets at the Lottery. He pointed out a need for Houston to draft someone to help take the heat off him, pronto.
"If we don't win this year, it's going to be on me." Francis said. "So hopefully, we're able to get a player who can immediately come in and help us. Whether it's a big man, a guard or a forward, I'm not sure, but I still think that we have a good nucleus of players with Maurice Taylor and Kelvin Cato down low.
"I just think that once we get our injury thing over with, I think we'll be a good team."
Houston was the only team to significantly advance their draft position on Sunday and now occupy a spot that the Bulls and the Warriors, the teams with the worst records in the league, wanted.
Still, Jerry Krause the Executive VP of Basketball Operations for the Chicago Bulls, noted the Bulls now have options.
"It's certainly more flexible then if we had three or four or five," Krause said. "It's going to help and I feel real good about it. I'd like to have one, but that didn't happen and you have to be very happy with two."
That would leave the Warriors slightly disappointed at No. 3. But Robert Rowell, COO of the Golden State Warriors, was optimistic.
"Obviously, everybody would like to be in the cat bird seat with the top pick, but from our perspective, there are three good players out there and we're going to get one of them," Rowell said. "Actually, there are 28 good players in the first round, but we're going to get one of the top three best players available.
"We're excited about that and we're going to add it to the young talent we already have."
Then there are the teams -- the Knicks, the Heat and the Bucks -- who have a lot of veteran talent, yet still ended up spending a Sunday in the NBA's Secaucus studio. But there are many factors for these teams that may cause some shuffling on Draft day come June 26.
"Thereís a lot of things involved with management, with the salary cap and the luxury tax and free agency," said Heat GM Randy Pfund, whose team will select 10th, "so all that stuff comes into the mix in terms of what spots you may have and what positions youíre looking for, what trades could be made and also what you might do later on in the summer in free agency.
"But I think itís a great draft for big men, starting with the big guy from China, and there are several guys that I think will be significant impact players in this league that can help at the center or power forward position."