The Orlando Magic have won the NBA’s draft lottery three times. Going into the NBA Draft Lottery Tuesday, May 21, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, the Magic will have the best chance of securing the top overall pick for this June’s draft.
In 1992, Orlando had the second best chance of winning the lottery with 10 of the 66 ping-pong balls and came up a winner. That led to the Magic’s selection of LSU center Shaquille O’Neal.
In 1993, the Magic had just one ball in the hopper, but it came up absolutely golden—it was the winner and for the second straight year, Orlando selected No. 1. This time around, the Magic took Michigan forward Chris Webber. Webber’s rights were soon traded to the Golden State Warriors for the rights to No. 3 overall pick Anfernee Hardaway.
Orlando also picked up first-round picks in 1996, 1998 and 2000. The 1996 and 1998 picks were later traded to the Washington Bullets; the 2000 pick turned out to be Mike Miller out of Florida with the fifth overall selection.
The Magic rode the O’Neal-Hardaway combination to the franchise’s first playoff berth in 1994 and a spot in the NBA Finals in 1995.
It’s worth noting that the NBA completely overhauled the lottery process after Orlando’s win in 1993, putting into place the system we have today with the weighted chances.
The last time Orlando had the best chance of winning the top overall pick was in 2004 and the Magic got it—using the pick to take Atlanta prep star Dwight Howard.
After trading Howard away last summer, Orlando again will have the most balls in the machine—25 percent of them. But no team with the best chance (or tied for the best chance) has actually come through with the No. 1 pick since the Magic in 2004 and it’s only happened three times in the 19 years this lottery format’s been in place.
The Philadelphia 76ers got the top overall pick in 1996 and took Allen Iverson of Georgetown. In 2003, the Cleveland Cavaliers had the best chance of picking first, got the top selection and took some kid from Akron, Ohio, named LeBron James. I wonder what ever happened to him; sometimes those high picks just don’t pan out.
This year’s draft is not being looked upon as a particularly strong one; one scout told the Charlotte Observer in January that “this is the year you should consider trading your draft pick—no matter where it is.”
There are three favorites, according (premium subscription required) to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford—Kentucky’s injured big man Nerlens Noel and a pair of perimeter players, Ben McLemore of Kansas and Michigan’s Trey Burke.
Yes, the draft lottery has come a long way from seven envelopes in a container.
The only problem for whoever wins Tuesday night is this: Is this year’s draft class even worth winning?