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Utah Jazz hoping this year they will get lucky

Published: Tuesday, May 17 2011 12:32 a.m. MDT

 (heidi perry, deseret news photo illustration, shutterstock.com) (heidi perry, deseret news photo illustration, shutterstock.com)

SALT LAKE CITY — The last time the Utah Jazz had this good of a chance to win the NBA's draft lottery, Kevin O'Connor didn't turn to any superstitions to help improve the franchise's fortunes.

He didn't have a four-leaf clover stashed in his pocket.

No rabbit's foot, lucky coin or any other trusty charm to be found in his suit, either.

The result?

In that 2005 lottery, the luckless Jazz fell from the fourth spot to No. 6 — a turn of events that later required the general manager to pull off some trade magic in order to climb a few spots to draft Deron Williams with the third overall selection.

O'Connor hopes no such wheeling and dealing will be necessary this year for a high pick.

"Hopefully, that will get inverted in some way, shape or form and we'll move up," O'Connor said. "The lottery gods owe us that."

This time around, O'Connor isn't going to the formal lottery event at the NBA Entertainment Studios without a couple of luck-improving tokens.

O'Connor's wife picked out a green tie for him to wear at the ping-pong-ball fest in Secaucus, N.J., where the Jazz hope to improve their picking and pecking order from their current positions at No. 6 (from New Jersey) and No. 12 (from their own rough season).

The Jazz GM will also sport sentimental cufflinks that display the badge number of his father, who was a New York police officer.

"We'll see if we can use a little New York luck," O'Connor said.

Lady Luck has already snubbed the Jazz once in this particular draft process.

The Nets lost a tiebreaker coin toss with Sacramento last month to determine the fifth and sixth positions in this lottery and potentially in the draft.

Utah acquired that slightly devalued N.J. pick from February's D-Will deal, but the Jazz now have worse odds (7.5 percent compared to the Kings' 7.6 percent) of winning the lottery.

Not only that, but Sacramento would have a higher pick if the Jazz don't win one of the top three spots and leapfrog the Kings.

That position could make a big difference in what many experts consider a fairly weak draft.

"It's obviously very important," O'Connor said of tonight's lottery outcome..

"It's also something that we have no control over," he added. "As of right now, we're preparing that we have the sixth pick and the 12th pick."

Having spent hours and hours watching film and evaluating players in recent months — with more to come this week at the Chicago pre-draft camp — O'Connor doesn't subscribe to the skeptics' cynicism of this player crop.

"I always think that there will be good players in every draft," he said. "It's our responsibility to find them. … People stayed in school last year, too. It's just a matter of (the Jazz organization) making the right decisions."

With its 17-win season, Minnesota won (lost?) the best shot at picking up the top pick. The Timberwolves own 25 percent of the ping-pong balls, and are followed by Cleveland (19.9 percent), Toronto (15.6 percent) and Washington (11.9 percent).

Technically, the Jazz have the fifth-best chance of winning the lottery when you combine their sixth and 12th positions, which equals out to be 8.2 percent.

The lottery includes the first 14 spots in the draft. The top three spots will be selected through this behind-the-scenes picking process, and the remaining draft positions will go in the current order.

A team can leapfrog from 14th — where Houston has a 0.5 percent chance — to first, second or third. But teams cannot fall more than three places, and that would only happen if three teams behind them win the first three spots.

That burned the Jazz in 2005. However, last year Utah remained in the No. 9 spot with New York's pick, which the Jazz used to pick up Gordon Hayward.

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