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Pistons win 2021 NBA draft lottery; have No. 1 pick for first time since 1970

(AP Photo) Bob Lanier (16) of the Detroit Pistons jumps to make a layup over the head of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33) of the Milwaukee Bucks, during NBA action at the Mecca Arena in Milwaukee, Wis., Dec. 30, 1973. Detroit selected Lanier No. 1 overall in the 1970 NBA Draft.

Newly selected Basketball Hall of Famer Ben Wallace tapped his fist on the table a few times, then clapped his hands and pointed one finger skyward.

After one of the worst seasons in franchise history, Detroit has something to celebrate.

The Pistons won the NBA draft lottery on Tuesday night, meaning they’ll have the No. 1 pick on July 29 — and, presumably, the chance to take Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham.

“We get to add another young player to the restoration process,” Pistons general manager Troy Weaver said. “We’re excited to be in this position. But it means that we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re going to be diligent about it, but it always helps to be able to add a No. 1 pick from a talented group of players to choose from.”

Houston — which basically had 50-50 odds of picking in the top four — got the No. 2 pick. Cleveland will pick No. 3 and Toronto will pick No. 4, after both of those franchises got some lottery luck to move up in the order.

But the big winners were the Pistons, with Weaver saying the team will take a look at five players before deciding on the No. 1 selection. Unless Detroit moves the pick, it will be picking No. 1 overall for the first time since taking Bob Lanier in 1970.

And, as if there was any doubt, Weaver said Cunningham — just the fourth player to win Big 12 Player and Freshman of the Year honors in the same season, after averaging 20.2 points per game in his lone collegiate season — is at the “top of the list.”

“It’s going to mean a lot. It’s going to mean a lot for this team,” Wallace said on the ESPN telecast of the lottery, after he served as the team’s virtual representative for the event that took place in Secaucus, New Jersey. “I think the team is headed in the right direction.”

Orlando will get the No. 5 and No. 8 selections, with Oklahoma City picking No. 6 and Golden State also with two lottery slots — No. 7, as part of a trade with Minnesota, and the Warriors’ own pick at No. 14.

The rest of the lottery results: Sacramento picks No. 9, New Orleans No. 10, Charlotte No. 11, San Antonio at No. 12, and Indiana at No. 13.

The lottery — 14 ping-pong balls, all numbered 1 through 14, placed into a hopper — technically only determines the first four picks. The rest then default to a pre-established order of finish; Golden State, for example, had only a 2.4% chance of its own pick being anything other than the No. 14 selection.

The Rockets had a 52% chance of winning a top-four pick. The worst Houston could do was the No. 5 selection, and that truly was a worst-case scenario because if the Rockets were outside of the top four the pick would convey to Oklahoma City as part of the compensation for the Russell Westbrook-Chris Paul trade between those teams in 2019. In that scenario, if Houston had gotten the No. 5 pick, it would have gone to the Thunder in exchange for the No. 18 pick.

But the Rockets held on, getting the No. 2 pick as one of the building blocks they can use to reload after finishing with the NBA’s worst record this season.

SUNS STYMIE LAC:

In Phoneix, Deandre Ayton jammed an alley-oop pass from Jae Crowder with 0.7 seconds left, giving the Phoenix Suns a thrilling 104-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

The Suns were down one with 0.9 seconds left when Crowder lofted a high pass on an out-of-bounds play on the baseline. A soaring Ayton came down the lane and stuffed it through the net over L.A.’s Ivica Zubac as the crowd roared in disbelief at Phoenix Suns Arena.

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