Bucks land second pick
It was a tale stranger than fiction on Times Square.
But the plot twist still brought a fairly happy ending for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night.
The Bucks entered the night with the best odds of winning the lottery and slipped one spot to second when the Cleveland Cavaliers inexplicably took the top spot, vaulting up from ninth with a 1.7 percent chance of winning.
Cleveland's amazing luck—winning the lottery for the third time in four years—failed to dampen the Bucks' festive mood as new owners Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry made their official debut.
Mallory Edens, 18-year-old daughter of Wesley Edens, sat on the studio stage next to Philadelphia 76ers legend Julius Erving.
“I was really nervous but really happy to get the second pick,” Mallory said.
And it was a historic pick—the first No. 2 pick in franchise history.
Philadelphia wound up with the third pick in the June 26 draft, and Orlando and Utah completed the top five.
In a deep draft the Bucks still could get a major contributor as they continue to rebuild with young players.
“If we were fourth we thought we would have great options, and obviously at two we have better options,” Wesley Edens said. “I think this is a pivotal moment for the organization and a great step in the right direction.”
And Edens addressed head-on any concerns about draft prospects avoiding Milwaukee, after one anonymous general manager said recently it was a place no one wanted to go.
“I think they'll all want to work out for Milwaukee,” Edens said. “It's a great place to be; it's a great place to play. At the end I think we'll get the player that the organization really wants.”
Bucks general manager John Hammond and assistant general manager David Morway sat in the audience and sweated out the live telecast on ESPN.
An audible gasp went up when it was clear the Cavaliers—who grabbed Kyrie Irving first in 2011 and Anthony Bennett with the top pick in 2013—again had the No. 1 choice.
“What's up with that is a team in our division has had the No. 1 pick three out of the last four years,” Hammond said. “But we go home excited and happy with the No. 2 pick.”
Hammond said he was relieved not to fall back the maximum number of spots to fourth.
“I still feel confident if that would have happened we would have gotten a very good player,” Hammond said. “But I feel much better being at 2 rather than 4.
“With the second pick, that player is not going to face the pressure of the No. 1 pick. You know what goes along with that. It can be very difficult at times.”
Bucks players Giannis Antetokounmpo and Brandon Knight were in the audience after being invited to the lottery by the team's owners.
“I know we'll still be able to get a good player and it will be exciting,” Knight said.
Antetokounmpo said he was glad the Bucks didn't fall too far.
“If we had gone to No. 4 it would have been really hard but now we can choose which player we want,” Antetokounmpo said.
Some of the projected lottery picks were in the Times Square Studios, including Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Noah Vonleh, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Smart and Doug McDermott.
It's thought Wiggins, Embiid, Duke's Jabari Parker and Australian point guard Dante Exum are top four material, and Kentucky's Julius Randle also could be in the mix.
If the Bucks are looking for a scorer, they may find one in Wiggins or Parker. Embiid is the top big man in the draft and is recovering from a back injury that kept him out of the NCAA Tournament.
The 6-foot-6 Exum has scouts intrigued with his size and quickness, and he came across at last week's draft combine as quite poised for an 18-year-old.
“We feel very good about this draft class and the top of the class,” Hammond said. “We think we can get a very good player, a potential all-star.”
Alexander Lasry, 26-year-old son of Marc Lasry, was in the holding room where the actual drawing was done and was the first to know the Bucks' position.
When Cleveland's numbers came up for the top pick, he had a sinking feeling.
“It was nerve-racking,” Alexander Lasry said. “Especially when they take your phone and they lock the door. And then Cleveland comes in at No. 1.
“A little disappointment set in but then No. 2 came in. We can really build something special with No. 2, especially in a draft like this.”
Wesley Edens said he was happy to have Knight and Antetokounmpo join the party in New York as the Bucks' new era begins.
“The young nucleus of this team is terrific and we have a good chance to add to it,” Edens said.
“He (Giannis) handles himself so well. It's hard to imagine he's only 19 years old. He's really a special kid.
“It was a spontaneous thing (to invite the two Bucks players). We thought it's a time to build a culture of caring for each other.
“Those guys care deeply about the team and they're obviously very vested in the future of this. We thought it would be a great opportunity to bring a couple of the young stars and they were gracious enough to come.”
The Los Angeles Lakers made a rare lottery appearance and former Lakers great James Worthy was on the stage. But the Lakers dropped one spot to seventh when Cleveland moved up.
One Bucks' Central Division foe did not fare so well as the Detroit Pistons fell to ninth and lost their first-round pick to the Charlotte Hornets. The Pistons' pick was protected only through the top eight spots in the draft.