By Jeff Dengate

SECAUCUS, N.J., May 23, 2006 -- You’d think sitting around in Secaucus, N.J. watching the Pistons and Heat play for the right to go to The Finals would have a not-so-fortunate General Manager in a relatively somber mood.

It might if that GM’s name didn’t happen to be Bryan Colangelo, who has not even been on the job 90 days in Toronto but has already delivered the team its first stroke of good luck.

"Of course I wanted to win it. Holding this ball with the number ‘1’ on it is better than holding it with a ‘2’."
Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images
Of course, luck was exactly the case, as we learned by watching the proceedings from Conference Room 3A – site of the ping-pong ball bouncing – once again.

Colangelo and his Raptors, despite having a mere 8.8 percent chance of landing the top pick in this year’s Draft, beat the odds when the winning combination of 4—10—11—13 surfaced from the hopper.

As if Colangelo wasn’t busy enough with a new job – in a new country, no less – he will be now that he has to decide what to do with the No. 1 overall selection in a Draft most experts claim contains no consensus No. 1.

The Raps’ decision maker is up for the challenge, says Toronto’s Director of Media Relations, Jim LaBumbard, who was among those sequestered in the conference room until the lottery results were announced to the television audience.

“He’s coming (to Toronto) with a great reputation and it’s a great challenge for him,” LaBumbard said. “He’s been very busy (since being named the team’s President and GM on Feb. 28). There are a lot of decisions to make with our franchise.”

Those decisions begin with finding the right cast to improve upon the team’s 27 wins right now, but also designing the team for future successes much like he helped do in Phoenix.

“We just have a lot of work to do to try to figure out what the right move is for this organization,” Colangelo said after learning of his team’s fortunes. “But we have a great young core. You’ve got Chris Bosh and Charlie V(illanueva). They’re both very versatile players. You’ve got a young, budding player in Joey Graham. We’ve got the young core and now whether or not we want to add another young player to that – we’ve got a lot of areas to improve.

“We have a depth issue and we’ve got some very specific weakness. Whether or not the No. 1 pick addresses those specific weaknesses or areas we want to improve is yet to be determined, but we’re going to leave it all open and keep our minds free right now. There’s no need to rush to a conclusion when we’ve got a month before the Draft.”

The Raptors aren’t the only team with a lot of work to do between now and the June 28 NBA Draft. Others, such as Portland, who entered the night with the most chances (250 of 1000) of landing the top pick but fell all the way to fourth, have a number of options to weigh as well.

“I think our preference would’ve been to have the pick of the litter and dictate our own fate,” said Trail Blazers General Manager John Nash, “but we’re comfortable (at No. 4). There are four or five or six players that can be solid picks.”

Nash had to sit through five draws of the balls without ever hearing “Portland Trail Blazers” announced by Executive Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs Joel Litvin, who conducted the lottery drawing – Toronto (second draw) and Chicago (fourth) each came up twice.

Only two times since 1991 has the team with the most chances landed the top pick (Cleveland in 2003 and Orlando in 2004).

“I was aware of the history of the lottery,” Nash said while awaiting the televised announcement of the Draft order. “I’m a horse racing fan and after what happened in the Preakness this weekend, you appreciate luck.”

The Blazers – much like Barbaro – aren’t the only team to suffer a bad break or bounce of the balls. No team slotted six or higher moved in either direction.

“You come just in case you do win,” Sonics GM Rick Sund said after the winning ping-pong balls were drawn. “But we’ve been gearing our scouts and everybody for the No. 10 pick.”

Sund believes the fact his team has young, developing players, is basically two deep at every position and holds a decent pick puts Seattle in good shape to improve in the coming season after struggling through 2005-06.

“Last year at this time, we’d just been eliminated (from the Playoffs) and we had nine free agents. We knew it would be difficult to keep them all. How fast we accelerate depends on how the young veterans become experienced veterans.”

So, what does Seattle do with its top 10 Draft selection? Sund said the team has a number of options to weigh:

  1. Pick the best player available.
  2. Take the best prospect and possibly send him to the D-League to develop.
  3. Package the pick and/or other players.

In recent years, the Sonics have found success picking around the same range.

“Our picks over the years there have been good. We got (Desmond) Mason, (Nick) Collison, (Luke) Ridnour, (Vladimir) Radmanovic, (Johan) Petro. Petro got the fourth-most starts among all rookies.”

So, if the consensus is correct and the Draft is indeed deep despite lacking that one big name, the Sonics could find an equally talented player as a late lottery pick this year. If that’s the case, it certainly isn’t a bad year to slip out of the top three as the Blazers did.

Then again, it’s never a bad time to move up to No. 1. Just ask Bryan Colangelo:

“When we got passed over with the No. 5 announcement, someone said, ‘At that, did you think you were going to win it or did you want to win it?’ Of course I wanted to win it. Holding this ball with the number ‘1’ on it is better than holding it with a ‘2’.”