An NBA draft process being turned on its ear by the mad dash of the kiddie litter to declare--All-conference in high school? Turn pro--was interrupted Sunday by a lottery that, of all things, made perfect sense.
The team in line for the No. 1 pick got it, the first time that has happened since 1990. Every team, including the Clippers at No. 7, drew according to record except two, and those simply flip-flopped Nos. 2 and 3. No one had a big-time drop. No one beat big odds to climb.
Of course, this being the year that child labor laws may have to be introduced, it resulted in a college sophomore, Allen Iverson of Georgetown, being put in position to become the top pick when point guard-starved Philadelphia won the process in Secaucus, N.J. Actually, the Ping-Pong ball belonging to Toronto came out at No. 1, but the expansion agreement barred the first-year clubs from going first until 1999, so the Raptors dropped to second.
"It doesn't make a difference to me," said Pat Croce, the 76ers' new owner who celebrated on stage by pumping his fist and slapping hands with the representatives from other teams after the victory. "I can only spell No. 1 one way."
Said Raptor General Manager Isiah Thomas: "It's not deflating. We knew the rules going in."
And since they also don't need a point guard, not with Damon Stoudamire having been named rookie of the year last week, the 76ers will be welcome to take Iverson, or even freshman Stephon Marbury, without causing pain in Toronto. Conventional wisdom says the Raptors would then select projected forward Marcus Camby, even with Tracy Murray coming off an encouraging season and likely to re-sign as a free agent, because talented big men remain a commodity.
The other first-year team, Vancouver, finished with the worst regular-season record, but was similarly barred from No. 1, and got eliminated from second when Toronto was forced into the slot, then ended up at No. 3.
From there, the teams were placed according to inverse order of record. That makes the rest of the lottery for the June 26 draft:
4. Milwaukee Bucks.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves.
6. Dallas Mavericks.
8. New Jersey Nets.
9. Boston Celtics.
10. Denver Nuggets.
11. Golden State Warriors. If they had finished first, second or third, the pick would have gone to Orlando.
12. Cleveland Cavaliers. The only playoff team to take part got Washington's spot from the Mark Price trade.
13. Charlotte Hornets.
That undoubtedly leaves the Clippers too far back to solve their point guard deficiency with either Iverson or Marbury, but Coach Bill Fitch would rather steer away from the youth movement anyway.