Draft lottery means big night for Brooklyn

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Could Kentucky's Anthony Davis go from cutting down nets to playing for the Nets?If you like drama, the NBA draft lottery is must-see TV.

The annual ritual involving ping-pong balls and giant envelopes is always exciting, as we watch the fates of NBA franchises rise and fall before our very eyes. But this year, one team in particular has its future hinging on the outcome -- and it just moved into our own backyard.

The brand-new Brooklyn Nets -- well, brand-new in name, location and logo, anyway -- arguably have more at stake than any of the other 12 participants on Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). Simply put, the Nets could make one giant leap to the upper echelon of the league, or be poised for several more years of mediocrity -- all in the span of 30 minutes.

It’s a boom-or-bust kind of night for Brooklyn, and here’s why:

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The 10 Greatest NetsPhoto Gallery | BlogFirst, the basics. After finishing 22-44 in the just-completed lockout-shortened season, the Nets have the sixth-best chance (7.5 percent) of landing the coveted No. 1 slot in next month’s NBA draft. They have an 8.33 percent chance of getting the second pick, and a 9.36 percent chance of getting the third -- adding up to a 25.19 percent chance of finishing in the top three.

But if the Nets don’t defy the odds and end up in the top three, they won’t have a first-round pick at all -- that selection will go to the Portland Trail Blazers, as part of the Gerald Wallace trade.

What a difference a ping-pong ball can make.

The Nets have won the draft lottery twice before. In 1990, they had the best chance of any team and got the No. 1 pick, using it on Syracuse forward Derrick Coleman. In 2000, the Nets had just the seventh-best chance -- 4.4 percent -- of securing the top pick, but got lucky and selected Cincinnati forward Kenyon Martin.

If they get lucky again Wednesday night, there’s little doubt who general manager Billy King will bring into the fold. Six-foot-ten power forward Anthony Davis, the consensus college player of the year who led Kentucky to a national championship as a freshman, is a virtual lock to be the first player selected, no matter which team is doing the picking.

Davis has to get a lot stronger, and develop his offensive game. But he’s only 19 years old, and is undoubtedly the kind of building block that would strongly entice All-Star point guard Deron Williams to re-sign with Brooklyn.

With the second or third pick, the Nets could also add a very talented player, although Davis is viewed as a step above the rest. When the Wallace trade went down in March, a team source told ESPN.com’s Chad Ford that the Nets also coveted Kentucky swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kansas forward Thomas Robinson.

Those two are currently the No. 2 and No. 4 ranked players in Ford’s Top 100 list of draft prospects. Whether either would be enough to convince Williams to stay remains to be seen, but adding one of them certainly wouldn’t hurt.

On the other hand, a failure to jump into the top three means the Nets won’t have a shiny new piece to help sway Williams’ decision. And the current starting lineup, including Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez, isn’t exactly championship caliber.

So there’s a lot riding on Wednesday night’s proceedings at Disney/ABC’s Times Square Studio -- the first time the NBA has held the draft lottery in New York City since 1993.

For the Nets, it’s not a stretch to say this could be one of the biggest nights in franchise history.

Conspiracy theorists still maintain that in the very first draft lottery back in 1985, it was no coincidence that the New York Knicks -- one of the league’s flagship franchises, in the media capital of the world -- were awarded the opportunity to select Georgetown center Patrick Ewing.

There’s no doubt the NBA has a vested interest in seeing the Nets’ relocation to Brooklyn be a success, too.

A representative from the accounting firm Ernst & Young will be present, to make sure everything is handled fairly and correctly.

But if the Nets do get lucky, one thing’s for sure -- it’ll be talked about for many, many years to come.