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Raptors claim No. 1 pick for June's NBA draft

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- The Toronto Raptors beat the odds to win
the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft lottery.

Figuring out what to do with it will be the first major decision
for new general manager Bryan Colangelo.

"Right now we've got a month to go and we'll see what comes our
way and see what we can dig up," Colangelo said Tuesday, minutes
after the Raptors (27-55) jumped four spots in the pingpong ball
lottery.

The Raptors chances of landing the top pick for the first time
were only 8.8 percent.

"For us to have this kind of luck is a symbol of a reversal of
fortune going forward," said Colangelo, who was hired in February,
a day after the former executive of the year left a similar
position with the Phoenix Suns. "We have our work cut out. This
will help."

There doesn't seem to be a definitive No. 1 pick for the June 28
draft to be held in New York.

Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison, Texas center LaMarcus Aldridge
and LSU forward Tyrus Thomas -- all underclassmen -- are considered
top candidates.

Under the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement, this is the
first year high school players won't be eligible for the draft.

The Raptors have some nice pieces to build on with All-Star
Chris Bosh, Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham. And they have
salary cap room.

"We go into this draft not only holding the No. 1 pick but with
the cap flexibility to take on a pretty large contract," Colangelo
said. "So the combination of those two is pretty powerful.
Hopefully, we can manipulate it the right way and make some good
decisions. I think at this point we're in a no-lose situation."

Colangelo has a proven track record. He was voted the NBA's 2005
executive of the year for retooling the Suns, who won a league-high
62 games. He left Phoenix after not getting a contract extension.

Toronto fired general manager Rob Babcock on Jan. 26.

There were a couple of notable losers in the lottery, the New
York Knicks and the Portland Trail Blazers, the league's two worst
teams.

Portland (21-61) slipped all the way to fourth despite having a
25 percent chance of winning the top pick.

Trail Blazers President Steve Patterson believes his team will
still get a good player.

"You may find a player with as big an impact at No. 4 or even
No. 6 as you may at No. 1," Patterson said.

New Orleans guard Chris Paul was the fourth pick in last year's
draft and he won the rookie of the year award.

The Knicks (23-59) were losers even before the lottery. They
gave their No. 1 pick to Chicago in a preseason deal for center
Eddy Curry, and then they posted their worst season since 1985-86,
Patrick Ewing's rookie season.

The Bulls (41-41) struck a bonanza, getting rid of an unhappy
player, making the playoffs in the process and getting the No. 2
pick overall.

John Paxson, the Bulls executive vice president, called the
trade an emotional decision, but one which hinged on Chicago
getting the Knicks' first-round pick.

"Eddy Curry is a very good basketball player," Paxson said.
"We made the deal and we're lucky we got in the lottery."

NBA commissioner David Stern refused to be drawn into the
Knicks' problems, which include rumors that Hall of Fame coach
Larry Brown won't be back for a second season.

"You'd rather that franchises not be in turmoil but in over 22
years as commissioner and with 30 current franchises, ...the
franchise is what the franchise is," Stern said before the
lottery. "There are going to be ups and downs."

Charlotte will have the third pick, which coincides with its
third-worst record. Atlanta dropped from No. 4 to fifth overall.
The other nine teams in the lottery stayed in the same order as
their records.

Minnesota is sixth and will be followed by Boston, Houston,
Golden State, Seattle, Orlando, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Utah.