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News » Sneak preview for Presti

Sneak preview for Presti

Sneak preview for Presti
Thunder general manager Sam Presti will know whether Oklahoma City lands the No. 1 pick to select Blake Griffin before anyone else.

He just won't be able to tell anyone.

Presti and one representative from the other 13 lottery teams will watch the ping pong ball process Tuesday night in Secaucus, N.J., long before results are announced on national television.

But the NBA has gone to great lengths to make sure the outcome remains a secret. The group is sequestered in a private room. Cell phones are confiscated.

"I've never done this before," Presti said. "I'll know where we'll pick but you sit and wait until everyone else is made aware."

Remember Jerry West's befuddled look in 2007 when he was the Grizzlies' president? Memphis finished with the league's worst record but wound up with the No. 4 pick in a draft that featured Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.

"It's about as disappointing as you could ever hope for," West was quoted in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "It's like pitching pennies. It's grossly unfair. I've never liked it."

The rest of the story is Dana Davis, Memphis' vice president of Basketball operations, already knew the outcome, having witnessed the ping pong ball process.

"It happens so quickly," Davis was quoted. "The hard part is you know about 90 minutes before everybody else. You're disappointed because you go in on a high and come out really low. ... And then you have to wait."

Now that Oklahoma City has an NBA team and Griffin is expected to be the No. 1 pick, this year's draft lottery will be the most anticipated in state history.

Will the Thunder beat long odds (11.9 percent) and land Griffin? Or will odds hold true to form and Oklahoma City ends up with the fourth or fifth selection?

Approximately two hours before draft positions are revealed, 14 ping pong balls numbered 1 through 14 will be placed in a drum. Four balls will be drawn without regard to order of selection. That combination ends up being the winning lottery ticket for one organization.

There are 1,001 combinations. A master board assigns combinations to every team based on win-loss records from this past season.

"It's not something teams can control," Presti said. "You're just waiting to see where you stand, which gives you clarity going forward in terms of planning for the future."

The lottery sometimes produces unexpected results.

Last year, the Bulls finished with the ninth-worst record, having only a 1.7 percent chance of landing the top pick. Chicago literally hit the lottery, enabling the Bulls to select eventual Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose.

Orlando received back-to-back No. 1 picks in the early 1990s. A year after landing Shaquille O'Neal, the Magic only had a 1-in-66 chance for the top pick the following year but landed another No. 1 pick, selecting Chris Webber, who they traded for Penny Hardaway and three future picks.

Without question, the most controversial lottery was the first one - 1985 - when all seven teams had an equal chance to land the No. 1 selection.

If you believe conspiracy theories, NBA commissioner David Stern reached into a bowl and grabbed a frozen envelope that contained the Knicks' logo. The conspiracy was rooted in the belief Georgetown center Patrick Ewing would be a boon for New York and the NBA.

But over the years, other potential "good for the NBA" plots fizzled.

Tim Duncan was supposed to wind up with the 15-win Celtics, but landed in San Antonio.

In 2002, the downtrodden Bulls had the worst record, but Houston, with only the fifth-best odds, ended up with Yao Ming.

Conspiracy theories no longer have merit. The process is closely monitored.

The first step was removing Stern from the process after five years so he could no longer be accused of favoritism. The accounting firm of Ernst & Young oversees the process.

In 1990, the NBA began using a weighted system to give the worst teams a better chance of a top-three draft position.

What's often forgotten is the lottery wasn't implemented because Ewing was eligible for the 1985 draft. The lottery was born because some accused the Houston Rockets of "tanking" the previous year to assure drafting Hakeem Olajuwon.

Which team will get lucky Tuesday night?

Last year, Rich Cho, the Thunder's assistant general manager, was the person behind the scenes in the sequestered room. This time, it will be Presti who will be among the first to know whether Griffin plays in his hometown.

"It will be interesting to watch how the process works," Presti said. "It's not anything teams can control. It's very random. We'll see where we're slotted and we'll go from there."

Who's in the hopper?

Teams in the 2009 NBA Draft Lottery, with their percentage chance of landing the No. 1 pick

Sacramento 25.0

Washington 17.8

LA Clippers 17.7

Oklahoma City 11.9

Minnesota 7.6

Memphis 7.5

Golden St. 4.3

New York 2.8

Toronto 1.7

Milwaukee 1.0

New Jersey 0.9

Charlotte 0.7

Indiana 0.6

Phoenix 0.5

Thunder's odds by pick

Selection: odds

No. 1 pick: 11.9%

No. 2 pick: 12.6%

No. 3 pick: 13.2%

No. 4 pick: 10.0%

No. 5 pick: 35.0%

No. 6 pick: 16.0%

No. 7 pick: 1.3%

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 20, 2009


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