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OutletPass
05-22-2003, 11:36 AM
NBA Draft: Let's play the lottery
By Chad Ford
NBA Insider
Send an Email to Chad Ford Thursday, May 22
Updated: May 22
7:09 AM ET



Play the LeBron Mock Draft!

Have 13 NBA general managers found religion? It would appear so from the inordinate amount of prayers sent God's way the last 24 hours.

For the first time since the 1997 draft, when Tim Duncan was the top prize, something major is going to happen tonight when the pingpong balls are finally drawn at 8 p.m. ET in Secacus, New Jersey.

We've known all year that the basketball messiah, LeBron James, was finally coming. Now we'll know where.

One team will be miraculously saved.

The other 12, to varying degrees, are going to be burned to stubble.

While the talent drop-off isn't nearly as severe as it was in 1997 when the next pick behind Duncan was Keith Van Horn, no one wants to end up with No. 2.

James will not only bring wins. He'll sell season tickets, luxury boxes, jerseys, TV deals. He'll single-handedly resurrect one lifeless franchise.

Of course, some GMs are already grumbling that LeBron will also bring unwanted baggage. Some say the kid has too many advisors, a difficult family and unrealistic demands for a rookie. Some GMs and many more coaches will have a difficult time treating an 18-year-old like an all-star before he steps foot on the court. But that's what LeBron's looking for coming into this thing. We, the media, are partly to blame there.

The odds (not the ones the NBA gives you) say that it won't be Cleveland or Denver he saves tonight. In the past 18 years only one team with the worst record in the NBA (the New Jersey Nets in 1990) has ended up with the No. 1 pick.

The odds are that James won't be making a stop in Toronto either. The team with the second-worst record in the NBA has won the lottery only twice in the past 18 years.

The odds say that one of the other lucky nine will come home with the prize tonight.

That's great news if you're David Stern. The last thing you need is the next MJ (from a marketing standpoint, not a basketball one) mired in Cleveland.

Stern wants James in Chicago or New York. Miami would be OK, because of the connection to Pat Riley. Golden State (a lucrative market the NBA would love to tap) would be nice too, as long as Garry St. Jean promises to go away before he screws things up.

While I doubt Stern will resort to freezing pingpong balls or any other method to fix the lottery, the commish can pray too, can't he?

After LeBron, things will get interesting this year. Carmelo Anthony and Darko Milicic will go next to two lucky teams. Right now, most lottery teams are leaning toward Anthony for the No. 2 pick, but a few are still holding out for Darko.

Two lottery team executives told me on Wednesday that they were actually praying for No. 3.

"In a normal year, Darko, because of his size, would be the No. 1 or No. 2 pick," one executive told Insider. "But it's almost impossible to take him for all the other reasons related to selling tickets. But if Anthony and LeBron are off the board, then you don't have to justify it to the fans. In the end, I still believe Darko will ultimately be the best player in this draft."

That's a minority opinion, mind you, but an interesting one.

Things get a little scary after that.

Georgia Tech forward Chris Bosh, Texas point guard T. J. Ford and Central Michigan center Chris Kaman will also go high. Bosh probably has the most upside next to the top three. Scouts are calling Ford the best playmaker to come out of the draft since Jason Kidd. And Kaman is the only legit center who's going to have an impact in the league any time soon.

For the teams sitting at 7-13, things will get very interesting. Several international players, including France's Mickael Pietrus and Poland's Maciej Lampe, figure to go in the lottery. If Pietrus was playing college ball, he'd probably be the No. 4 pick in the draft behind LeBron, Darko and Carmelo. Lampe is a much bigger project and risk, but he has the upside of an 18-year-old 7-footer who can do everything on the court.

If the Knicks fall to nine, and the other eight players we just mentioned are off the board, they're better off trading the pick. There's no one left in the draft who's going to make a big impact in New York the way Nene Hilario or Amare Stoudemire would have last year.

Several point guards -- Kirk Hinrich, Reece Gaines, Luke Ridnour and Leandrinho Barbosa -- will get a look at the last five spots. Georgetown's Michael Sweetney figures to go somewhere in the lottery. Everything else is a crap shoot at this point.

Teams will have five weeks to figure it all out, and they'll need it. The consensus on the remaining players in the draft is all over the board. Some top college players, like Big 10 player of the year Brian Cook, KU's Nick Collison or Xavier's David West, could go as high as the mid first round, or slip out of the first round altogether. Ditto for a plethora of point guards like Alabama's Mo Williams, Washington State's Marcus Moore and Notre Dame's Chris Thomas.

Five other high school players will also be in the draft, but only two, Ndubi Ebi and Travis Outlaw, have a good shot at the first round. The other three -- Kendrick Perkins, James Lang and Charlie Villanueva -- should get out now while they still can.

And no one has a good handle on where the rest of the other top international prospects -- Pavel Podkolzine, Boris Diaw, Sofaklis Schortsanitis, Anderson Varejao, Alexsandar Pavlovic, Zaur Pachulia, Viktor Khryapa, Carlos Delfino, Malick Badiane and Zarko Cabarkapa -- will land. As many as 13 international players could go in the first round this year. Or it could be closer to eight. Just depends on who you ask and who ultimately keeps their name in the draft.

Now you understand why NBA teams are frantically flying across the globe trying to get a handle on these kids. Can teams really make a decision based on one visit, some grainy video tape and the legacy of Dirk Nowitzki?

There hasn't been a deeper draft in recent memory. But there hasn't been one fraught with as many landmines either.

"Some teams are going to walk away from this draft as huge winners, others are going to be making some catastrophic mistakes," one league executive told Insider. "Anymore the draft is about upside and there are plenty of kids in this draft that have lots of upside. But upside is tricky thing, it either gets you executive of the year or it gets you fired. At the end of the day, with this much parity, a few guys are going to make careers out of this draft and few guys are going to lose their jobs. Luck will have as much to do with it as anything else."

With that said, Mr. Stern, let the pingpong balls land where they may.

OutletPass
05-23-2003, 10:44 AM
For the 2nd time in 19 years....the worst team got the #1 pick. Gee, this lottery thing works great !!!! If only the officiating was this consistent...oh, it is...sorry !

LRB
05-23-2003, 12:00 PM
<< For the 2nd time in 19 years....the worst team got the #1 pick. Gee, this lottery thing works great !!!! If only the officiating was this consistent...oh, it is...sorry ! >>



LOL. Actually I'd take the odds with the lottery over the odds with the officials getting it right. i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif