If the Cavaliers find enough magic to win the NBA Draft lottery again tonight, they would join the Orlando Magic as the only teams in league history to win it in consecutive years.
History and draft odds might not make the Cavs prohibitive favorites, but their draft position just might.
They finished the regular season tied with the New Orleans Hornets for the league’s third-worst record, thereby giving them the third-best odds in the lottery. By virtue of winning a coin flip with the Hornets, the Cavs have a 13.8 percent chance at landing the top pick — or 138 number combinations out of 1,000. After losing the coin flip, the Hornets have 137 combinations.
Since the lottery shifted to a weighted system beginning with the 1990 draft, the team in the No. 3 position has won the lottery six times, most recently in 2009 when the Los Angeles Clippers won the right to select Blake Griffin.
The top prize this season is clearly Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis, who averaged 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds in winning the Player of the Year award and leading the Wildcats to the national championship.
The Cavaliers overcame long odds last season (2.8 percent) to land Kyrie Irving with the top pick, using the selection acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers to do it.
This time, with what many around the league consider a rich draft class, the Cavs have a 14.2 percent chance of selecting second, a 14.5 percent chance of picking third and a 23.8 percent chance of slipping to fourth. They have a 29 percent chance of falling to fifth and a 4.55 percent chance of tumbling down to sixth.
The Charlotte Bobcats, by virtue of the worst record, have the greatest odds of winning the draft lottery at 25 percent.
How it works
League officials, a representative from each team in the lottery, employees of the accounting firm Ernst & Young and selected members of the media will observe the actual lottery in a private room tonight. Those people will remain sequestered without phone and Internet access until the results are aired on television.
Just like last year, team minority owner Jeff Cohen will serve as the Cavs’ representative and observe the actual lottery. Majority owner Dan Gilbert’s 15-year-old son, Nick, will represent the Cavs on stage during the television broadcast.
In fact, the Cavaliers are taking precise measures to ensure they do everything exactly the same as they did last year. Just like last year, Browns players Josh Cribbs and Joe Haden will accompany the team at the lottery, as well as former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar.
Irving will also be there, just as he was last year. The only change is a big one — the lottery this year will be in New York City instead of NBA Entertainment headquarters in Secaucus, N.J.
Fourteen pingpong balls, numbered 1 through 14, are placed into a hopper. There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn (sequence isn’t important) and 1,000 of them are assigned to the 14 teams in the lottery. One combination (11-12-13-14) is thrown out. Should it be drawn (it never has before), it won’t count.
After the top three teams are selected through the lottery, the remaining teams will be slotted in inverse order of their final record. The Cavs are assured of drafting no lower than sixth.
The only man who has successfully pulled off what the Cavs are trying to accomplish is Pat Williams, who has won three draft lotteries as general manager and later vice president of the Orlando Magic.
With Williams on the dais, the Magic won the lottery in 1992 and the right to draft Shaquille O’Neal after entering the night with the second-best odds of winning. Then they won it again the next year despite having the best record among all non-playoff teams.
Their jump from 11th to the top spot, defying 1.5 percent draft odds, forced the NBA to again alter the system and weight the lottery heavier for teams at the top of the board.
“When we won in ’93, you could feel a chill come over the room,” Williams told the Orlando Sentinel this week. “It was so cold, it felt like a meat locker in there. I remember this grim look on David Stern’s face when the announcement was made that we’d won. The rules were being changed before I even got to the stage.”
Williams joked that the secret to his success is to treat the pingpong balls like the girl of your dreams. Talk to them, pamper them, treasure them and tell them how pretty they are and how much you love them.
It remains to be seen if 15-year-old Nick is as good of a sweet talker as the 72-year-old Williams.
After winning their second consecutive lottery in 1993, the Magic drafted Chris Webber with the top pick and traded him for guard Anfernee Hardaway and three future first-round picks. Two years later, the Magic were in the NBA Finals.
The Cavs can only hope to be so lucky.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.