John Hammond is not a highly superstitious sort, and he doesn't think of himself as a pessimist. Still, the Milwaukee Bucks general manager is prepared for any result in the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night, including the chance his team might drop from its slot at No. 10.
After all, it has happened in each of the last two years. The Bucks were in the seventh spot and slipped to No. 8 in last year's draft, when the Chicago Bulls moved up from the No. 9 position to grab the top overall pick and guard NBA rookie of the year Derrick Rose.
In 2007, it was even worse for Milwaukee when it dropped the maximum three positions, from No. 3 to No. 6, and missed out on the chance to grab power forward Al Horford. Instead, the Bucks took Chinese forward Yi Jianlian with the sixth pick, after Horford went to Atlanta with the third selection.
The last time one of the top three teams entering the lottery did not drop was in 1996. In that year, Philadelphia moved from second to first, Toronto moved from third to second and Vancouver slipped from first to third.
"Realistically you know going in, we could move back one spot, and we can come home with 11th," Hammond said Monday.
The Bucks actually have an 8.88% chance of dropping a spot and an 86.97% chance of staying put at No. 10, based on the bouncing of 14 ping-pong balls placed in a drum.
But there's always the chance that 2005 history could repeat itself. That was the year the Bucks , with a 6.3% chance of grabbing the top spot, got lucky and took center Andrew Bogut with the top overall pick.
This time the Bucks will only have a 1% chance of claiming the No. 1 overall choice when Hammond and assistant general manager Jeff Weltman attend the lottery proceedings in Secaucus, N.J. Milwaukee also could move up to No. 2 or No. 3 and has a better than 3% chance to be in the top three.
The event will be televised at 7:30 p.m. (Milwaukee time) on ESPN, before Game 1 of the Western Conference finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets.
"We'll work out of the hotel room during the day and head over to the lottery and hope for something special to happen," Hammond said. "But so will the other 13 teams in the lottery.
"I've got a little superstition in me, probably from my coaching days, but not to the extent of carrying any good-luck charms."
Oklahoma power forward Blake Griffin has emerged as the consensus No. 1 pick, a contrast from last year when a debate raged over whether Memphis' Rose or Kansas State forward Michael Beasley would be the top pick.
The Bulls took Chicago native Rose and did not regret it, as he helped Chicago reach the playoffs and gave a sterling performance in a first-round series against Boston. Beasley went No. 2 to the Miami Heat and was a solid contributor as the team returned to the playoffs following a 15-victory season in 2007-'08.
"People around the league felt both had a chance to be very good players," Hammond said. "Rose was an extraordinary thing for Chicago at different times, especially in the playoffs."
Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio and 7-foot-3 Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet are projected as top five picks this year. But it's still a bit of a muddled outlook after Griffin.
"I wouldn't say there's a consensus 2 or consensus 3 at this time," Hammond said.
Griffin's intensity and physical skills appear to set him apart in this draft, which will be held June 25 at Madison Square Garden. The Sacramento Kings have the best chance (25%) to nab the top pick, followed by the Washington Wizards (17.8%) and the Los Angeles Clippers (17.7%).
Griffin has been compared favorably with Utah Jazz forward Carlos Boozer, who was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 35th pick in the 2002 draft.
"He has a prototype power forward body, great size, speed, quickness and strength," Hammond said of Griffin. "People project him to be an excellent rebounder and shot blocker. He's still a little raw offensively but has the tools to develop into a very good player."
The actual lottery procedure will take place in a separate room before the national telecast. Weltman will represent the Bucks in that room, with Hammond making the on-stage appearance for the franchise.
Among other on-stage representatives will be Chris Webber for Sacramento; team president Ernie Grunfeld for Washington; Baron Davis for the L.A. Clippers; Kevin Love for Minnesota; coach Scott Brooks for Oklahoma City; coach Lionel Hollins for Memphis; former player and current front-office executive Allan Houston for the New York Knicks; president Bryan Colangelo for Toronto and president Larry Bird for Indiana.
NBA DRAFT LOTTERY / 7:30 P.M. TUESDAY ON ESPN
* The Milwaukee Bucks have had five lottery picks since 2002: Marcus Haislip (13th overall in 2002); T.J. Ford (eighth overall in 2003); Andrew Bogut (first overall in 2005); Yi Jianlian (sixth overall in 2007); and Joe Alexander (eighth overall in 2008).
* A team in the No. 10 slot never has won the lottery. The best any No. 10 team has done is move up to No. 2, accomplished in 1990 by the Seattle SuperSonics. Seattle chose wisely, grabbing Gary Payton with that pick.
* Orlando went from No. 11 to the top overall spot in the 1993 draft and selected Chris Webber before trading him to Golden State in exchange for Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway and three future first-round picks.
* Not since 2004 has the team with the worst record won the lottery, when Orlando (21-61) stayed in the top slot and chose Dwight Howard. It also happened that way in 2003 when Cleveland (17-65) chose first and grabbed LeBron James.
* Boston dropped from second to fifth in the 2007 lottery but still profited when it took Jeff Green and traded him to Seattle, along with Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West, in exchange for Ray Allen and the draft rights to Glen "Big Baby" Davis, taken 35th overall.
Charles F. Gardner
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