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Hornets win, Nets lose in NBA draft lottery

Basketball in New Orleans may be saved, conspiracy theorists abound, and the Nets' first official act since putting down roots in Brooklyn went over like a lead balloon.

Welcome to the NBA draft lottery, where hope and desperation collided Wednesday night.

The league-owned Hornets wound up with the No. 1 pick, and thus the rights to Anthony Davis, in a favorable collision of ping-pong balls that might actually give the franchise a chance to succeed in New Orleans. Good for coach Monty Williams, who deserves a player like Davis to help dig out of the gaping hole left by Chris Paul's departure.

Good for the NBA's vast population of conspiracy theorists, who will insist that the fix was in for the franchise still technically owned by the league until Saints owner Tom Benson's purchase is formally approved by the Board of Governors. If you've ever been in the room where the lottery is conducted, you'd realize how impossible it is to rig. But that's never stopped a good conspiracy theory before.

The biggest loser? By far, the Nets, who got the worst-case scenario: Not only did they not get the No. 1 pick, they got the sixth pick -- which, of course, means it goes to Portland from the Gerald Wallace trade. The pick was top-three protected.

The luck of the draw did not shine on the Brooklyn franchise, which missed out on a prime opportunity to upstage the rival Knicks. Not only that, but losing a lottery pick theoretically hampers the Nets' ability to surround free agent-to-be Deron Williams with elite talent in the short term. The Nets will now turn their attention to being ready to pounce when the inevitable happens: Orlando's new general manager, whomever that might be, asks Dwight Howard to sign an extension, Howard says no, and the Magic have no choice but to trade him.

The Nets' thinking in trading a top-three-protected pick for Wallace, who also will be a free agent, was based on their opinion that this is basically a three-player draft. If the Nets can't get Howard and the domino effect leads to Williams' departure, will heads roll in Brooklyn? Time will tell, but it's important to note that the Nets' pursuit of Carmelo Anthony last season and acquisition of Williams was part of an aggressive strategy approved by owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

But as Russian billionaires go, Prokhorov had to be one of the unhappiest on the planet Wednesday night.

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