Raps take secret weapon to lottery

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

Rob Babcock says he generally is not a superstitious man.

But there is nothing wrong with covering all the angles heading into the NBA draft lottery, right?

"I have sent some Holy Water, the real stuff, with Matt Bonner and John Lashway," Babcock, the Raptors general manager, said yesterday. "This water is directly from Lourdes, France, where there once was a famous Virgin Mary sighting."

Bonner, a rookie forward, and Lashway, the vice-president of communications and community development at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, Ltd., will be the Raptors' representatives as the annual lottery unfolds tonight in Secaucus, N.J.

Lashway will be present, behind the scenes, when the actual lottery takes place. Bonner then will be the on-camera face of the franchise as the results are announced in descending order, from No. 14 to No. 1.

Babcock said he has had some previous success with Holy Water, back when he was an executive in the Timberwolves organization.

"This water was used on the Timberwolves for the 2003-04 season, and we made it to the conference final," Babcock recalled.

Hmmm ... and with Babcock gone, the T-Wolves did not make the playoffs this season.

Coincidence?

A lack of post-season activity is the reason both the T-Wolves and Raptors will be part of the proceedings tonight.

But the lottery is heavily weighted in favour of the very worst teams, leaving the Raptors with only a 3.6% chance of securing the No. 1 pick.

Mock drafts abound and while rankings can change significantly in the weeks leading up to the June 28 draft, at present there seems to be something of a consensus on who the top three players are:

- Andrew Bogut, a 7-foot centre from Utah, who is seen by many as the No. 1 pick.

- Marvin Williams, a 6-foot-9 forward from the NCAA-champion North Carolina Tar Heels, who some think should be drafted ahead of Bogut.

- And Chris Paul, a point guard from Wake Forest. As an indicator of how varied opinions can be at this time of year, people can't even agree on how tall Paul is. Some sources list him as big as 6-foot-1, while others say he's as small as 5-foot-11. Who knows?

Outside of that supposed top three, the player who has generated the most attention lately is Gerald Green, an 18-year-old high schooler from Texas, who is 6-foot-8 and is projected to be either a shooting guard or a small forward in the NBA.

Others who are possible top-10 picks include Deron Williams, a 6-foot-3 point guard from Illinois; Raymond Felton, a 6-foot point guard from North Carolina; 7-foot-3 Lithuanian centre Martynas Andriuskevicius; Chris Taft, a 6-foot-10 power forward from Pittsburgh; Channing Frye, a 7-foot centre from Arizona; 6-foot-10 Spanish power forward Fran Vazquez; and 6-foot-11 Brazilian power forward Tiago Splitter.

To be blunt, after the first three or four guys, evaluations veer off in all sorts of directions. About the only thing that is certain is this: The better your pick is, the more options you have. All Babcock can do tonight is sit and wait.

"I haven't been in the lottery in a long time and I did not miss it one bit," said Babcock, who had not yet been hired by the Raptors when the club was in the lottery last spring. "I don't get nervous about the lottery, because we have absolutely no control over it."

Well ... don't forget about your secret weapon, Rob.

"I am not superstitious in that I never blame anything else after a loss," Babcock said. "But it certainly can't hurt to send some luck along the way to New Jersey."

The Raptors only can hope for divine intervention when Holy Water is mixed with the swamps of Secaucus.

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NUMBERS GAME

Odds among the non-playoff teams to win the NBA draft lottery tonight:

TEAM 2004-05 RECORD CHANCE TO WIN

Atlanta Hawks 13-69 25.0%

Charlotte Bobcats 18-64 17.8%

New Orleans Hornets 18-64 17.7%

Utah Jazz 26-56 11.9%

Portland Trail Blazers 27-55 8.8%

Milwaukee Bucks 30-52 6.3%

*TORONTO RAPTORS 33-49 3.6%

New York Knicks 33-49 3.5%

Los Angeles Lakers 34-48 1.4%

Golden State Warriors 34-48 1.4%

Orlando Magic 36-46 0.8%

Los Angeles Clippers 37-45 0.7%

**Charlotte Bobcats 18-64 0.6%

Minnesota Timberwolves 44-38 0.5%

* The Raptors also have the 16th pick in the draft and that will not be impacted by the lottery.

** This pick originally belonged to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who went 42-40 this season.


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