SECAUCUS, N.J. -- The Philadelphia 76ers brought one of
Smarty Jones' horseshoes to the NBA Draft Lottery.
It wasn't good enough because the Orlando Magic had the best
charm of all -- Pat Williams.
Without the benefit of a rabbit's foot or horseshoe, Williams
won his fourth draft lottery on Wednesday night, giving the Magic
the right to make the first pick in next month's draft. The Los Angeles Clippers pick second and Chicago picks third third.
Williams also won the lottery in 1992 and '93 with Orlando, and in 1986 with Philadelphia. The '92 pick was Shaquille O'Neal.
"They rolled the kid out again, dusted off the suit and said
'Go out and win one for the Gipper,' " quipped Williams, the senior
vice president of the Magic.
Unlike a year ago when LeBron James was available, the draft doesn't have a clear No. 1 pick.
Williams didn't seem to care.
"It's huge and we're not sitting here with Shaq or Michael Jordan, it appears," Williams said. "Ninety percent of the time,
I think it's safe to say, that number one picks turns out to be
very good players. More than anything, it gives our franchise a
lift. We struggled through a really difficult period of time."
In a season during which Tracy McGrady battled injuries, the Magic won a league-low 21 games. The arrival of the No. 1 pick may help the Magic keep McGrady, who can opt out of his contract after next season.
"The news tonight is great for us," Williams told GameNight on ESPN Radio. "The team will be better and [McGrady will] be happy about that. We're talking to his people trying to figure out where he's at, but we won't know for a month or so."
Connecticut center Emeka Okafor and Atlanta high school star
Dwight Howard have been mentioned prominently as possible top
picks, but each has drawbacks.
Okafor has battled a back problem and Howard is like any
youngster -- one never knows.
"We've got to study Okafor, especially the back ... and we have to dig deep into the life of young Dwight Howard," Williams told ESPN Radio. It's a tough business -- it's almost become like baseball where you have to project 16- and 17-year-olds."
Orlando came into the lottery with the best chance to win with
250 out of 1,000 chances.
However, the odds have tended to work against the favorite. When Cleveland won the lottery last year, it was only the second
favorite to win since New Jersey in 1990.
The Magic also had a Triple Crown threat working against them. Philadelphia president and general manager Billy King turned for
luck to local hero Smarty Jones, the winner of the Kentucky Derby
and Preakness. The 76ers were hoping the horseshoe would jump them
up from No. 9.
The strategy stumbled out of the gate.
"I think that Smarty Jones horseshoe may have cost them,"
Williams said. "You're better off with pingpong balls and the more
the better. Something happened with that horseshoe. I'm rooting. I
hope he wins the Belmont. Do you think we have jinxed Smarty
None of the lottery long shots came in.
The teams that were supposed to pick in the sixth through 14th
spots in the draft remained in that order.
Washington slipped two spots to No. 5. opening the door for the
Los Angeles Clippers to take it all.
The expansion Charlotte Bobcats were slotted into No. 4.
The final three envelopes opened by deputy commissioner Russ
Granik belonged to Chicago, the Clippers and Orlando.
The Bulls, who had the second best chance at winning, had their
card opened first, giving them the third pick.
Granik then revealed the Clippers' logo, and Williams
celebrated, pumping a fist in the air and then raising both arms.
Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said the jump helped make up for Clippers' struggles down the stretch.
"All I can say is we should come away with a good player,"
Atlanta will have the sixth choice and will be followed by
Phoenix, Toronto, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Golden State, Seattle,
Portland and Utah.
A record 94 players have applied for early entry into this
year's draft, 21 more than last year.
The draft will be held on June 24 in New York City.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.