The chance to land the No. 1 pick in the June 24 draft is not something Ernie Grunfeld, the Washington Wizards' president of basketball operations, covets.
"It's not a feeling I want to get used to," Grunfeld said.
Grunfeld has no choice but to accept his fate tonight in Secaucus, N.J., where he will represent the Wizards when the NBA holds its annual draft lottery to determine the top pick. The Wizards' 25-57 record gives them the third-highest odds at landing the top pick -- 15.7 percent.
"This is our situation," Grunfeld said. "So we have to do what we have to do."
Only Orlando and Chicago have a better chance to land the top spot. Washington can drop as low as No. 7 if the Ping-Pong balls in the hopper don't bounce its way. As soon as the Wizards know their draft position, they'll immediately begin assessing talent and exploring trades.
"We're going to do our research and use every tool available to us to evaluate what we have, and what's out there for us," Grunfeld said.
Grunfeld, in his years running the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks, never had the chance to land such a high draft pick because those teams were playoff regulars with established stars. The highest pick he's ever had came last season with Milwaukee, when he selected Texas point guard T.J. Ford with the eighth overall pick, a selection the Bucks received in a trade with Atlanta for Glenn Robinson. The highest choice he had before that came in 1991, when, with the Knicks, he selected guard Greg Anthony at No. 12.
Now Grunfeld is in charge of constructing a team that has regularly drafted high because it routinely loses. There is no keystone player to build around.
"We're going about our business the same was I always have," said Grunfeld, which, he said, means using due diligence in working with the coaching staff and scouts to determine the best way to improve the team's talent.
Grunfeld and his scouts have covered all their bases in gyms at high schools, colleges and overseas to watch players they think might be able to improve the Wizards.
"We feel we can get a solid player or have a solid asset," Grunfeld said.
Grunfeld is approaching the draft with the idea that the Wizards will return last season's starting lineup of guards Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes and the front court of Jerry Stackhouse, Kwame Brown and Brendan Haywood, a group that rarely played together because of significant injures to Stackhouse (right knee surgery), Arenas (abdomen/groin tear) and Hughes (fractured wrist).
That lineup might not be the same when the season opens because of possible trades and free agent maneuvering, but Grunfeld doesn't assume that change will necessarily take place.
"We don't have a glaring need," he said. "Last year, we needed a point guard so we went after one in Gilbert in free agency."
Most early projections have Connecticut forward Emeka Okafor as the likely top pick. After that, it could be wide open. The names mentioned include collegiate non-seniors such as Duke's Luol Deng, Wisconsin's Devin Harris and Stanford's Josh Childress, whom Grunfeld knows well because he played with Grunfeld's son, Danny, at Stanford. There are also high schoolers Josh Smith, Dwight Howard and Shaun Livingston as well as a group of foreign big men.
"This is a very young draft," Grunfeld said. "It's a draft as much on potential as anything else. We're looking at the best players."
Wizards Notes: Washington worked out guards Romain Sato (Xavier), Tim Pickett (Florida State) and Ricky Shields (Rutgers via Parkdale High) yesterday.