Bullets hoping luck drifts their way for draft lottery

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The NBA draft lottery is mostly about luck -- both good and bad. The Orlando Magic has had it, getting back-to-back No. 1 picks that produced Shaquille O'Neal and, ultimately, Anfernee Hardaway.

The Washington Bullets hadn't until last year, when the fifth pick yielded Juwan Howard of Michigan. The Bullets are hoping their luck improves Sunday, when the NBA holds its lottery for the 1995 draft, scheduled for June 28 in Toronto.

"Hopefully, Chris Webber and Juwan Howard will bring us all the luck we need," said Bullets general manager John Nash, whose team has an 18.3 percent chance of picking first and will, according to the rules, choose no lower than fifth.

Webber and Howard will represent the team at the lottery, which will be held in Secaucus, N.J., and televised nationally (channels 11 and 4). They will try to improve the luck of a franchise that has picked no higher than fifth since the lottery was established in 1985.

Though the league has tried to increase the chances of teams at the bottom to pick at the top with a system weighted toward those with poorer records, it still takes a bit of luck to wind up with the player of your choice. But there are some pretty good consolation prizes for those teams whose numbers don't come up Nos. 1 through 3 Sunday.

The decisions by four sophomores -- Maryland's Joe Smith, former North Carolina stars Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace, as well as Alabama's Antonio Mc-Dyess -- to leave school after two years has set up the likelihood for a deep draft.

"I think the three ACC kids will be without a doubt among the top four or five players chosen," said former Boston Celtics All-Star Kevin McHale, who recently took over the basketball operations of the Timberwolves. "And McDyess is pretty interesting, too."

The woebegone Los Angeles Clippers will have the best chance of picking first in the draft. The Clippers, with the NBA's worst record at 17-65, will have a 25 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick.

The Bullets are next among the 11 non-playoff teams eligible, followed by the Timberwolves (18.2 percent), Philadelphia 76ers (12.6), Golden State Warriors (9.4), Detroit Pistons (6.6), New Jersey Nets (4.4), Miami Heat (2.7), Milwaukee Bucks (1.5), Dallas Mavericks (0.8) and Sacramento Kings (0.5).

After the first five teams are determined, the two expansion teams will pick. Toronto and Vancouver have been guaranteed either the sixth or seventh pick in the draft. The order in which they select will be determined by a coin flip following the NBA finals.

Nash won't disclose whom the Bullets would select should they finally win the lottery. Considering the team's history, it might be better to figure out who'll go fifth.

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