By Scott Howard-Cooper
May 19, 2009

The meeting is called to order. The rules are simple: The Ping-Pong balls determine the order of the first 14 picks of the NBA draft, then the outcome of the selections determine how long you keep your job. And no sobbing in front of the cameras. Any questions, ask the Clippers.

This is the lottery. Fourteen team representatives sequestered in a back room under the cone of silence for the drawing itself, 14 more who dare to show their faces again on stage in Secaucus, N.J., as results are announced to the outside world Tuesday night. You can land in the top three for the June 25 draft, hold your current place established by reverse order of regular-season record or drop as many as three spots. Pretend to be sincere when congratulating the winner.

As you know, No. 1 will almost certainly be spent on Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin and No. 2 will probably turn into Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, though it gets pretty interesting if the Thunder or Nets, set at point guard for a long time, climb to second. After that, it's a jumbled mess. So there will be very few actual answers Tuesday, heading toward a draft your optimistic peers have labeled "unpredictable" and the less diplomatic have cut down to "terrible."

Addressing weaknesses will mostly have to come as package work in the offseason, a lottery pick combined with trades combined with free agency. The lottery is an important first step, though, because, if nothing else, it allows trade talks to begin in earnest. There was no reason to get deep in discussion without knowing where a team would be picking. You'll all know in a few hours, making this the real starting point to the summer plan that may not be answered in the draft. Some of your wish lists are that long.

In order of greatest chance to land the top pick, here's a look at the needs for each lottery team:

Sacramento Kings: They could use answers at point guard and small forward and have to find anyone at any position who can be bothered with rebounding or defense. The makeup of the team has become that embarrassing.

There could be, and should be, major moves beyond a high draft choice to change the culture of a roster gone horribly wrong. A new coach will surely be part of the attitude adjustment. But the summer work of president Geoff Petrie will be long and exhaustive just to improve the chemistry, before even getting to reversing the downward spiral in the standings.

Washington Wizards: They are the most difficult team to assess because no one has seen the Wizards. There's no way to get a read off 19-63, 16 games worse than the Bobcats for real perspective, with Gilbert Arenas out for all but two games and Brendan Haywood for all but six and DeShawn Stevenson in the lineup just 32 times. Only that when healthy, this is hardly the second-worst team.

Hiring Flip Saunders as coach was the perfect way to transition into what they can realistically see as a bounce-back season. Saunders has been adept at developing young talent and steering veterans, so it's a credibility move for a roster that has both. At No. 2, Washington would consider drafting Rubio and moving Arenas off the ball. That's intriguing enough. But at No. 3, and needing a center, Washington would be staring at the risk of UConn's Hasheem Thabeet, though with the comfort of knowing it has more than enough offense to compensate for Thabeet's shortcomings there.

Los Angeles Clippers: Seeking offense, defense and rebounding. Otherwise, they're good.

The Clippers will have cards to play, with Marcus Camby a valued player beyond a contract that expires after next season. The intrigue comes in if they move up to No. 2, with a straight line to Rubio a year after making the massive commitment to Baron Davis. The likely outcome in that scenario is that the Clippers would take Rubio and bring him along with less pressure than he would face in other situations, but he's going to require big minutes at some point and Davis is as close to untradable as any player in the league.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Griffin isn't just the dream sequence because it would mean a team already on the rise would also add the best player in the draft. Griffin grew up just outside of Oklahoma City and starred at OU. His addition would be more popular around the Ford Center than any other Griffin landing spot.

No matter what, the Thunder covet interior scoring and interior defense, having been unexpectedly forced to continue the search for a defensive upgrade when they scuttled the Tyson Chandler acquisition because of an injury concern. OKC can also use a dependable shooting guard and should be in the range of Arizona State's James Harden.

Minnesota Timberwolves:Al Jefferson and Kevin Love never got the chance to play big minutes together. Love was brought along slowly and Jefferson tore a knee ligament in February, and there went the important chance to gauge whether two undersized but strong inside players could fit.

Either way, that was a lot of starts for Kevin Ollie and Sebastian Telfair at point guard. And another member of the backcourt, Randy Foye, was second on the team in scoring but shot only 40.7 percent.

Memphis Grizzlies: The priority is generating offense, though the presence of O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay equals the potential presence of two 20-point scorers. That's a good start toward the future, just not nearly enough to push the Grizz into playoff contention.

Barring beating the odds to spring up to No. 1, and getting Griffin for an upgrade at power forward, Memphis will have the spending power to be an impact player in free agency. The same cap space could go toward trades.

Golden State Warriors: Stability is harder to come by than victories amid the likelihood that the uncertainty will continue with Don Nelson turning 70 soon after the end of next season and many of their prospects unable to get consistent minutes. A summer trade is a big possibility.

The Warriors would love a big point guard to play alongside small shooting guard Monta Ellis, unless they revert to the less-desirable fall-back plan of Ellis as point guard. The real jackpot is adding someone who will defend and rebound, if that's allowed in Golden State.

New York Knicks: There's plenty of roster uncertainty, on purpose, with few commitments beyond this season to build a war chest for the summer of LeBron. David Lee is a restricted free agent. Chris Duhon, Al Harrington and Quentin Richardson will be unrestricted free agents after another season. Last year's lottery pick, Danilo Gallinari, barely played because of a back injury. The Knicks either have holes, impending holes or potential holes everywhere.

Toronto Raptors: That Jermaine O'Neal thing didn't turn out too well, so someone to ride shotgun to Chris Bosh would be a nice idea, with Bosh (22.7 points, 10 rebounds in 2008-09) heading into his contract year and Toronto needing to establish an identity. A perimeter upgrade, alongside and behind starting point guard Jose Calderon, is a necessity, too. And the only other Raptor to average more than six rebounds a game, Shawn Marion, could leave as a free agent. Needs, they have a few.

Milwaukee Bucks: A team that won 34 games has a lot to be encouraged about because it won 34 games -- five away from Detroit as No. 8 in the East -- with Michael Redd playing 33 times and Andrew Bogut limited to 36 games. A healthy Bucks roster and we're not having this conversation.

New Jersey Nets: They're locked in at point guard (Harris) and center (Brook Lopez, the best rookie at the position), noteworthy because those are the toughest positions to fill. Shooting guard is filled as long as Vince Carter is around. Lots and lots of questions at forward, though.

Charlotte Bobcats: They stayed in the playoff race with good defense and decent rebounding, plus the coaching of Larry Brown, and those are good foundation points. But moving forward requires the scoring punch missing since shooting guard Jason Richardson was traded to the Suns. Gerald Wallace led Charlotte with 16.6 points, a terrible number for a No. 1 scorer, and No. 2 Raymond Felton is a restricted free agent.

Indiana Pacers: They play fast, and fast is fun, but fast still only produced one dependable scorer, Danny Granger. He turned into very dependable, the Most Improved Player, and maybe the return of a healthy Mike Dunleavy solves the problem. The Pacers can't leave it to Granger to do all the heavy lifting.

Phoenix Suns: How about some youth? (The draft specializes in that.) They have Steve Nash and Shaquille O'Neal and maybe Grant Hill, a free agent who wants to return, and someone has to make it to the future. Maybe Amar'e Stoudemire, maybe not. So power forward could be a need, too.


GALLERY: Most unlikely teams to win the NBA draft lotteryComplete list of early entry candidates for 2009 draft

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