Archive for Monday, May 20, 2002

NBA Draft: Rockets win top selection

Gooden headed to Denver at No. 5?

May 20, 2002

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— The Houston Rockets took a big man from abroad the last time they had the No. 1 pick.

Now they'll have another opportunity.

Houston won the NBA draft lottery Sunday, giving the Rockets the right to make the first overall selection, something they haven't done since 1984. That year, Houston picked Hakeem Olajuwon, who helped the team win two championships. Two picks lower, of course, the Chicago Bulls took Michael Jordan, who led them to six titles.

This time, the Rockets could go for 7-foot-5 Chinese center Yao Ming. Duke undergrads Jay Williams and Mike Dunleavy also are considered possible top-three picks.

The Monter Draft service lists the top-10 prospects as 1, Yao; 2, Williams; 3, Kansas forward Drew Gooden; 4, Duke forward Dunleavy; 5, Northeast Mississippi Community College forward Qyntel Woods; 6, Connecticut forward Caron Butler; 7, Memphis guard Dajuan Wagner; 8, Maryland forward Chris Wilcox; 9, Stanford center Curtis Borchardt; 10, Indiana forward Jared Jeffries.

"Hopefully, we can get a player who can come in and help us right away," said the Rockets' star point guard, Steve Francis. "What we really have to get is some aggression. We won't be looking for a point guard anything else, I don't know."

Chicago will pick second, and the Golden State Warriors third in the June 26 draft. Those clubs tied for the league's worst record (21-61) and each had a 22.5 percent chance of winning the lottery.

"We're going to consider a lot of different things, even a trade, if somebody calls with an offer you can't refuse," said Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, thought to be high on Yao's prospects.

Houston had the fifth-worst record (28-54) this season and an 8.9 percent chance of getting the top pick. The pingpong balls bounced the Rockets' way, though, extending a trend: The team with the best chance of grabbing No. 1 hasn't done so since 1990.

Drawings determined the top three picks, and the rest of the draft order was set by reversing the non-playoff teams' order of finish during the season.

Because Houston jumped ahead, Memphis slid to fourth, and Denver will pick fifth. Cleveland's next, followed by New York, the Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix, Miami, Washington, the Clippers again, and Milwaukee at No. 13.

One scenario has Ming headed to Houston with Williams to Chicago, Wagner to Golden State, Dunleavy to Memphis and Gooden to Denver at No. 5.

The Clippers have two choices because they get Atlanta's slot at No. 8, completing a sign-and-trade deal that sent Lorenzen Wright to the Hawks in August 1999. Atlanta would have kept the pick had it landed among the top four.

Francis, wearing a bright lavender suit and matching sunglasses, represented the Rockets during the announcement of the lottery results.

Chicago and Golden State each had 225 combinations, the Memphis Grizzlies 157, the Denver Nuggets 120, Houston 89, and so on.

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Gooden workouts: Confident in their draft positions, Gooden and Jay Williams have indicated they will only hold personal workouts for teams picking in the top three. Gooden also will not be going to the Chicago draft camp for NBA prospects, ostensibly because he doesn't have anything more to prove there.

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