Those longtime losers from Los Angeles were big winners Tuesday night. The Clippers came across the country for what's practically an annual spring vacation and are going home with a nice souvenir: the No. 1 pick in next month's draft.
The Clippers won the draft lottery, moving up from the third-best chance to earn the top pick for the third time, earning the right to draft All-America forward Blake Griffin of Oklahoma, the national college player of the year.
Memphis vaulted to second and Oklahoma City will pick third.
Sacramento, which had the best chance to win the lottery after finishing with a league-worst 17-65 record, fell to fourth, and Washington dropped from second to No. 5.
The Clippers last had the No. 1 pick in 1998 and, perhaps predictably, blew it, taking eventual bust Michael Olowokandi.
They stand a better chance of getting it right this time if they go with Griffin, who led the nation with 30 double-doubles and 14.4 rebounds per game, while also averaging a Big 12-best 22.7 points as a sophomore.
Clippers president Andy Roeser, who represented the team on the podium, wouldn't confirm that they will choose Griffin, though they could certainly use a power forward after their former star Elton Brand left before last season as a free agent.
"I think five years from now Blake Griffin will be hitting his stride in the NBA and he will be an impact player wherever he is," Roeser said. "He is an athletic player. He can do all sorts of things and has a ton of talent, and I think any team will be happy to have him."
The top three teams all moved up, making the 25th lottery as unpredictable as most of its predecessors. Not since 2004, when Orlando took Dwight Howard, had the team with the best chance to win ended up with the No. 1 pick.
The draft is June 25.
Minnesota has the sixth pick followed by Golden State, New York, Toronto, Milwaukee, New Jersey, Charlotte, Indiana and Phoenix.
The Clippers also picked first in 1988, drafting Danny Manning. This was their 20th appearance in the draft lottery, which is supposed to help bad teams get better quickly. They can only hope that will finally be the case this time.
The lottery had much bigger buzz in the past two years because there were two players who seemed worthy of going No. 1. Portland went for Greg Oden over Kevin Durant in 2007, and the Chicago Bulls moved up to get Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose last season, with Michael Beasley going second to Miami.
That wasn't the case this year, since Griffin seems like the only possible choice at No. 1. Spanish guard Ricky Rubio and Connecticut center Hasheem Thabeet are also considered top-three choices, but come with question marks: Rubio is still a teenager and Thabeet isn't polished offensively.
The lottery determines the top three picks, with the rest of the first round going by inverse order of a team's record. It began in 1985, when the New York Knicks selected Patrick Ewing.
The lottery to determine the order of next season's NBA draft is tonight. For a refresher on how the first pick is determined, we turn to Wikipedia:
To determine the winner, fourteen ping pong balls numbered 1-14 are placed in a standard lottery machine and four balls are randomly selected from the lot. Just as in most traditional lotteries, the order in which the numbers are drawn is not important. That is, 1-2-3-4 is considered to be the same as 4-3-2-1. So although there is a total of 24 orders in which the balls numbered 1-2-3-4 can be picked, they are all treated as the same outcome. In doing this, the permutation of 4 balls from 14 becomes the combination of 4 balls from 14. That is, the total of 24,024 (14! / 10!, or 14x13x12x11) possible permutations is reduced by a factor of 24, to 1,001 combinations. Of these, 1 outcome is disregarded and 1,000 outcomes are distributed among the 14 non-playoff NBA teams. The combination 11-12-13-14 (in any order that those numbers are drawn) is not assigned and it is ignored if drawn; this has never occurred in practice.
According to the
The Wizards have the second-best odds of winning tonight's NBA draft lottery, which is a pretty good position to be in, considering that the team with the second-best chances has won the No. 1 pick on three occasions.
To see the odds of each team winning the lottery, go here. The Kings have the best chance at 25%, and the Wizards are second with 17.8%.
Fanhouse has a fun blog imagining what would happen if the lottery were not left up to randomness but was instead ruled by the mind of David Stern.