Sonics try to reverse draft trend
Poor selections, roster upheaval have cost club

By Darnell Mayberry Modified: May 20, 2008 at 1:49 am •  Published: May 20, 2008
In
1998, they selected Michael Olowokandi first overall with players such as Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison and Dirk Nowitzki.

The Atlanta Hawks, perhaps the poster franchise for poor drafting, have been lottery eligible 10 times since the lottery's inception in 1985, including each of the past eight seasons. In 2006, the Hawks selected former Midwest City standout Shelden Williams over Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay. Atlanta chose Marvin Williams in 2005 over Deron Williams and Chris Paul. The Hawks drafted Pau Gasol in 2001 only to immediately trade him to Memphis.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, who have been lottery eligible 11 years, including seven straight years from 1999-05, had similar lottery blunders that led to their prolonged lottery stints. The Cavs selected DeSagana Diop with the eighth pick in 2001 over Joe Johnson and Richard Jefferson. In 2002, they drafted Dajuan Wagner with the sixth selection over Amare Stoudemire and Caron Butler.

Houston and Detroit are two franchises, however, that have successfully avoided annual lottery appearances, largely by limiting roster turnover.

The Rockets, who have been lottery eligible only six times and have made a lottery selection only five times, didn't make their first lottery appearance until 1992. That year, they narrowly missed the playoffs for the first time in eight years after posting a 42-40 record.

But during the franchise's most successful years, which included back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995, Houston kept its core roster of Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith, Otis Thorpe, Mario Elie, Robert Horry, Vernon Maxwell and Sam Cassell together.

Similarly, the Pistons have been lottery eligible only five times with their first non-playoff season in the lottery era not coming until 1993 and the last being 2001. The Pistons made the playoffs nine straight seasons from 1984-1992, including back-to-back NBA championships in 1989 and 1990.

Through those golden years, Detroit maintained its core roster of Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Vinnie Johnson, John Salley, Mark Aguirre, Dennis Rodman and James Edwards.

Getting lucky in tonight's lottery perhaps could be the easiest part of the Sonics' rebuilding. Selecting the right player in the June 26 NBA Draft and finding a way to keep him with Durant for the foreseeable future is where it gets tricky.