Half an eye on the Draft Lottery


UPDATE: The Hornets won the Draft Lottery and hold the first and 10th pick in the Draft. The Nets did not finish in the top three and their pick was sent to the Trail Blazers as part of the Gerald Wallace trade. So much for that dream.

Tonight the ping pong balls will fly in a back room of the NBA offices in Secacus, New Jersey. The ESPN cameras will begin building the hype at 8 p.m. ET for an event that really does not take that long. After all, all the representative from Ernst & Young has to do is draw four ping pong balls and find the combination on the gigantic board and figure out which team it attaches to and then do it twice more for the other top picks.

The Magic do not have a lottery pick this year — they will be drafting 19th if things stand the way they are — but they do have an interest in tonight’s results.

What was once a whisper, a bright idea or a half-baked conspiracy theory has become legitimate discussion in the last few days.

The Magic are cheering hard for the Nets to win the lottery. Deron Williams and Dwight Howard probably are too if they want to keep their dream alive of playing together.

There would be no better prize in a Dwight Howard trade then drafting the guy many believe is the next Dwight Howard (or Kevin Garnett) with the first pick in the draft. Few lottery teams are probably willing to do this… except the Nets, who want a splash and are desperate to get Howard so they can turn their attention to retaining Deron Williams.

Dwight Howard’s decision to opt in to the final year of his contract and forego free agency this summer effectively cut off his ability to force his way to his reportedly favored destination — Brooklyn. With a new arena and a lot of cap space, the Nets do not seem to be willing to tank another year with expiring contracts and young players to wait on Dwight Howard.

Brooklyn likely knows it too if you believe Adrian Wojnarowski’s report about Deron Williams leaving Brooklyn unless the team brings in Dwight Howard this offseason — and that includes if Brooklyn wins tonight’s lottery.

The best thing for the Nets and the best thing for the Magic, it would seem is for the Nets to win the lottery.

Brooklyn gets their guy(s) and the Magic get their young soon-to-be superstar center to rebuild around. It is a win-win.

Things rarely work out this way and it seems Howard is destined to play somewhere he does not want to sign long-term, whether that is Orlando or Houston or who knows where else. Indeed, according to Wojnarowski, the Magic have softened their stance on trading Howard going from “do whatever it takes to keep him” to “we won’t go through the will-he-won’t-he drama again.”

That is a big step forward for Orlando in planning the franchise’s future. And so general manager candidates are coming to Alex Martins with how they will handle their first big decision — what to do with or surrounding Dwight Howard.

From Wojnarowski’s report:

Orlando ownership has softened on moving Howard and doesn’t want to spend another season pleading with him to sign an extension. The organization’s preference is to get the best possible trade package for him and start retooling the franchise. Nevertheless, the Magic will give a new GM some latitude to navigate Howard’s future once he’s hired. Several of the potential GM candidates in Orlando have already been devising trade scenarios for Howard and plan to propose those ideas to Orlando president Alex Martins in the interview process.

That first step might be taken tonight if the ping pong balls bounce the right way.

There is no guarantee that Anthony Davis will turn out to be the next Dwight Howard or the next Kevin Garnett (remember Kwame Brown, a year younger than Davis is now when he was drafted with the top overall pick, was the next something too). But if the Magic are looking for a real rebuilding and to get the most out of a Dwight Howard trade, this is a great place to start.

I suspect that if Howard says he wants out of Orlando, that the team will make a call to whoever has the No. 1 pick. That is, unless the Magic are determined to go for a championship next year. No one thinks that is a possibility in the wake of a trade of Dwight Howard.

We can dream though. The best way to rebuild is to start from scratch with a top pick. All the Magic need is one ping pong ball to fall their way.