Last night, the 76ers won the NBA draft lottery, giving them their third top-three pick in the last three seasons. The last time they had the first overall pick, in 1996, the Sixers took Allen Iverson. AI seemed pumped to watch history repeat itself last night:
Since the NBA instituted a weighted lottery system before the 1990 draft, nine teams with a less than 10 percent chance of winning the drawing have been awarded the No. 1 pick. No team beat the odds quite like the 1993 Magic, who, after barely missing the playoffs at 41-41, made good on their 1.5 percent chance (1 Ping-Pong ball out of 66) to claim the top spot for the second consecutive season (they had snagged Shaquille O'Neal in '92). Orlando wound up selecting Chris Webber and trading him to Golden State for Penny Hardaway and three first-round picks. Two years later, Shaq and Penny led the Magic to the NBA Finals.
After the Warriors delivered on their 9.4 percent chance, then-general manager Dave Twardzik said, ''Whoever you take, some people are going to say, 'How could pass on this [other] guy?' '' Twardzik experienced the second-guessing first-hand: The Warriors chose forward Joe Smith while the rest of the top five was Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett.
Pegged to draft seventh after a 31-51 season, the Nets instead cashed in on their 4.4 percent chance of winning the lottery. New Jersey picked forward Kenyon Martin, who proved to be a key part of back-to-back Finals teams in 2002-03 before being shipped to Denver as part of a sign-and-trade deal in 2004.
An 8.9 percent chance was enough for the Rockets to leapfrog four teams and win the Yao Ming sweepstakes. Yao was productive when healthy, but the healthy part didn't happen nearly as much as Houston would have hoped. The 7-6 center retired in July 2011 after nine seasons in which he averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
Photo: John W. McDonough/SI(2); Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
The Bucks, with a 6.3 percent chance, jumped from sixth to first and selected center Andrew Bogut ahead of point guards Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Bogut spent seven years with the Bucks before being traded to Golden State. He led the league with 2.6 blocks in 2010-11.
General manager Bryan Colangelo entered his first draft in Toronto with the biggest prize after the Raptors vaulted to the top despite only an 8.8 percent likelihood. The Raptors used the choice to make Italy's Andrea Bargnani the NBA's first European No. 1 pick. Bargnani averaged a career-high 21.4 points in 2010-11 and followed that with 19.5 points in an injury-shortened 2011-12, but he's been criticized for his defense and rebounding.
While the teams with the three worst records -- Memphis, Boston and Milwaukee -- got the fourth, fifth and six picks, Portland won the lottery with its 5.3 percent chance. The windfall didn't pay off, however, as the Trail Blazers passed on Kevin Durant in favor of Greg Oden, who has played only 82 regular-season games over five seasons because of persistent knee injuries. The Blazers waived Oden in March 2012.
The Bulls turned their 1.7 percent chance into the first pick. They did just fine with it, too, selecting Chicago native Derrick Rose, who was the 2008-09 Rookie of the Year, an All-Star a year later and the league MVP in 2010-11.
The Cavaliers used the pick obtained in a trade with the Clippers to win the No. 1 pick despite just 2.8 percent odds. That put them in position to draft Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, who turned into the Rookie of the Year and the centerpiece of their post-LeBron rebuilding effort.