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NBA draft: Bucks, 76ers hope for lottery prize

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Fortunes could soon change for the Milwaukee Bucks, whose 2013-14 season was defined by losing.

Even the Philadelphia 76ers (19-63) did more winning than the Bucks, despite a winter swoon that reached an epic record 26 consecutive losses, putting Milwaukee (15-67) in the driver’s seat for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

“I’ve never been first before,” Bucks general manager John Hammond said. “Obviously sitting today in our position, there’s a real sense of anticipation and hoping for the best.”

Even with the best odds of landing the top pick, the Bucks have a better chance of losing Tuesday night when the ping pong balls are drawn to determine the order of the first 14 picks in the 2014 draft. The lottery will take place at halftime of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.

Milwaukee’s probability for the fourth overall pick — the Bucks are assured a spot in the top four — is much greater at 35.76 percent, as compared to a 25 percent chance at No. 1. Not since 2004 has the team with the league’s worst record actually landed the first pick in the draft.

Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins, Duke forward Jabari Parker and Kansas center Joel Embiid are projected to be top-five picks. Australian point guard Dante Exum, Kentucky power forward Julius Randle, Arizona forward Aaron Gordon and Indiana center Noah Vonleh are in the picture, too.

The lottery could greatly reshape the draft boards of teams at the top, according to senior director of NBA scouting operations Ryan Blake. For example, Blake said evaluators must determine whether Wiggins is a good player with the ceiling of someone like 2013 lottery pick Harrison Barnes, or if he might rise to meet his athletic potential and be closer in talent to perennial All-Star Tracy McGrady.

“If you look at last year’s draft — you had no idea the order (players) would be drafted,” Blake told The Sports Xchange at the conclusion of the NBA Draft Combine last week. “You also have seven teams with multiple picks in the first round. You haven’t had the trades the last few years that we expected. But when you have the number of teams rebuilding and can utilize these picks in other ways — and a team like Oklahoma City with two picks, they have a pretty full roster.”

Blake said the prevailing commentary on the draft class, which some described at the outset of the 2013-14 college basketball season as possibly the greatest ever, did not impact his top-down view of the crop.

“It’s a good draft, no question,” Blake said.

In 2005, Milwaukee leapt from sixth to the No. 1 pick and selected Utah center Andrew Bogut. In 2007, the Bucks finished with the third-worst record but dropped to the sixth pick and drafted Yi Jianlian, who played only one year in Milwaukee and is now playing in Hong Kong.

The 76ers are hopeful of becoming the third franchise to go from the second-worst record to the top pick, a feat that would represent a repeat for Philadelphia. In 1996, the lottery pushed it up from the second spot and the 76ers drafted Allen Iverson first overall.

The Sixers would receive the New Orleans Pelicans’ first-round pick if it is outside the top five. Based on NBA draft models, the best chance for Philadelphia to wind up with two top-10 picks is if the Pelicans get the 10th selection and the 76ers fall to fourth. There is a nearly 28 percent chance of that outcome Tuesday.

Notes: Julius “Dr. J.” Erving will represent the Philadelphia 76ers at the draft lottery on Tuesday. …Twin brothers Markieff and Marcus Morris, back-to-back lottery picks in 2011 and now Phoenix Suns teammates, are scheduled to represent the franchise at the lottery. The Suns narrowly missed the playoffs with 47 wins but could have four first-round picks, including their own lottery selection and a top-13 protected selection from the Minnesota Timberwolves. … Cleveland climbed up to win two top overall picks with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert’s young son, Nick, representing the team but he was bumped in favor of vice chairman Jeff Cohen. The lottery fortune led to Cleveland drafting Kyrie Irving and then Anthony Bennett No. 1.

Odds of landing the No. 1 overall pick (via NBA):

1. Milwaukee Bucks 25.0%

2. Philadelphia 76ers 19.9%

3. Orlando Magic 15.6%

4. Utah Jazz 10.4%

5. Boston Celtics 10.3%

6. Los Angeles Lakers 6.3%

7. Sacramento Kings 4.3%

8. Detroit Pistons 2.8%

9. Cleveland Cavaliers 1.7%

10. New Orleans Pelicans 1.1%

11. Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks) 0.8%

12. Orlando Magic (via Denver Nuggets) 0.7%

13. Minnesota Timberwolves 0.6%

14. Phoenix Suns 0.5%

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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