By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The luck is in the land of lattes. In the most highly anticipated NBA draft lottery since LeBron James entered the league in 2003, the Pacific Northwest came out the biggest winner as the region is guaranteed Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.
With only the sixth-best chance of winning the lottery, the Portland Trail Blazers secured the No. 1 selection -- and an opportunity to draft a potentially franchise-changing superstar in either Oden or Durant -- in the June 28 draft in New York. And the Seattle SuperSonics, Portland's neighbor just 175 miles north up Interstate 5, claimed the second choice, despite finishing with the fifth-worst record.
Both teams managed to make surprising leaps over Memphis and Boston, the teams that finished with the two worst records.
"We couldn't be more excited. This has a chance to be a catalyst to take us to the next level," Portland General Manager Kevin Pritchard said in a teleconference last night. "This is huge. Unbelievably huge. Franchise-making. I don't how to make it any bigger than that."
Portland has the top choice for the first time since 1978, when they selected Mychal Thompson. The Trail Blazers had just a 5.3 percent chance to win the lottery after finishing 32-50 last season.
Oden, a first-team all-American from Ohio State, is generally considered the best big man to enter the league since Tim Duncan in 1997. The 7-foot center led the Buckeyes to the national championship game, in which he had 25 points and 12 rebounds in an 84-75 loss to Florida.
Durant averaged 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds in his only season at Texas and swept every major player of the year award. The 6-foot-9 native of Suitland has been compared to all-stars Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady.
Pritchard said the team hasn't made a decision.
"I don't want to assume that we're going to take Oden first," Pritchard said. "Both of the players who are at the top of this draft have championship qualities. One is a center; one is a small forward. I'm the type of GM . . . I look at who's the best player available. I don't care what the position is."
The good fortune couldn't come at a better time for the Sonics, who are rumored to be moving if they cannot secure a new arena.
The Atlanta Hawks also caught a break. The Hawks, who landed the third pick, finished with the fourth-worst record but needed to finish in the top three to prevent surrendering the pick to the Phoenix Suns as compensation for the Joe Johnson trade two years ago.
Memphis finished with the league's worst record at 22-60 and had the greatest probability of winning the No. 1 pick (25 percent), but departing team president Jerry West was stunned when he heard the Grizzlies would get the fourth pick. Boston finished with the second-worst record (24-58) and was suspected of intentionally losing games in the last month in hopes of landing a high pick. The Celtics will have to settle for the fifth pick. Milwaukee, which had the third-worst record and won the lottery two years ago despite having the sixth-worst record, dropped to sixth.
The Trail Blazers were represented by reigning rookie of the year Brandon Roy, who cracked a huge grin when NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver pulled out an envelope to reveal that they would get the top pick.
"I was just happy to come here and maybe give us some luck," Roy said from the NBA TV studios in Secaucus, N.J.
"Rip City," Pritchard screamed, bringing back the slogan used when the Trail Blazers made it to the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992. "We're back."