Blazers seek No. 1 pick in draft


SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) – While the odds favor the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, history hasn’t favored the team with best chance of getting the No. 1 pick – at least until recently.

Only three times since 1990 has the team with the best chance of winning the pingpong ball lottery gotten the No. 1 pick overall. The last two times that happened were in 2003 and 2004, when the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic won the right to pick first.

Under the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, this is the first year high school players won’t be eligible for the June 28 draft in New York.

Portland earned the best shot (25 percent) at winning the lottery by posting a 21-61 record, the worst mark in the league and the team’s worst since the 1972-73 season. The run included losses in 19 of its final 20 games.

Chicago has the second-best chance of winning the top pick because it owns the Knicks’ first-round draft choice. The Bulls, who gave Miami a great run in the opening round of the playoffs, acquired the choice in the preseason trade that sent center Eddy Curry and Antonio Davis to New York (23-59) for Tim Thomas, Michael Sweetney and Jermaine Jackson.

All the other teams in the lottery missed the playoffs.

Charlotte has the third-best chance of winning. It is followed by Atlanta, Toronto, Minnesota, Boston, Houston, Golden State, Seattle, Orlando, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Utah.

Despite having only a 6.3 percent chance of winning the lottery a year ago, the Milwaukee Bucks won the right to pick first in the 2005 draft. They took Utah center Andrew Bogut, who averaged 9.4 points and 7.0 rebounds as a rookie.

New Orleans guard Chris Paul, the fourth pick overall, won the rookie of the year award, averaging 16.1 points, 7.8 assists and a league-best 2.2 steals. The Hornets had the NBA’s second-worst record the previous season, but they slipped to No. 4 in the draft lottery.

The winner of this year’s lottery will face a tough decision. There isn’t a James or Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal-type player in the group of eligible players either coming out of college or on the international scene.

“It’s a good group,” said Ryan Blake, the NBA’s assistant director of scouting. “It’s deep and deep into the second round.”

However, Blake said that no one has emerged as the definitive top choice.

Gonzaga forward Adam Morrison, Texas center LaMarcus Aldridge, LSU forward Tyrus Thomas, Connecticut forward Rudy Gay and Bradley center Patrick O’Bryant have attracted the most interest among the underclassmen. Brandon Roy of Washington, Randy Foye of Villanova, Rodney Carney of Memphis and J.J. Redick of Duke are the most talked about seniors.

Among foreign players attracting interest are Andrea Bargnani of Italy, Spain’s Rudy Fernandez and Tiago Splitter, Oleksiy Pecherov, who is playing in France, and Saer Sene, a 7-footer playing in Belgium.

AP-ES-05-22-06 1938EDT