NEW YORK (AP) — With their new owner sitting front row, the New Jersey Nets will have the best chance to win the NBA draft lottery.
They could sure use the help.
Mikhail Prokhorov will represent the Nets on stage Tuesday night in Secaucus, N.J., for the lottery, which his team has a 25 percent chance of winning after finishing with a league-worst 12-70 record.
Kentucky freshman point guard John Wall is considered the top prize in this year's class, with player of the year Evan Turner of Ohio State also expected to go high next month.
"From my perspective, I think that we are in a very good position. We're going to get a really good player, so I'm excited about that," Nets president Rod Thorn said. "You always want to get as high as you can, because the higher you get, the more leverage it gives you. We're hoping for the best, but we do know that wherever we end up, we'll get a good player."
The Nets can finish no worse than fourth. However, the lottery hasn't been kind to the team that needs the most assistance lately.
Not since 2004, when the Orlando Magic selected Dwight Howard, has the team with the worst record won the lottery. Last year, the Sacramento Kings tumbled to fourth — though they did end up with eventual Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans.
Thorn believes the lottery system works and has always been supportive of it, going back to when he worked in the league office, though he joked that, "Hopefully I won't be upset tomorrow night."
The Minnesota Timberwolves (19.9 percent) and Sacramento (15.6 percent) are the other teams with high lottery probabilities. Golden State (10.4 percent) and Washington (10.3) round out the top five.
The 14 teams that missed the playoffs are in the lottery. The lottery determines the top three picks, with the next 11 spots being determined in inverse order of a team's record.
The Timberwolves are in the lottery for the 13th time and have never improved their position, staying in the spot they were supposed to pick six times and falling six other times. Maybe that's why Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn was trying to downplay the importance of the drawing.
"There's a tendency with tomorrow night to make everybody feel the stakes are much higher than they actually are. I don't think the stakes are as high as people would like others to believe," he said. "Sure, would we like to be 1, 2, 3 even? Of course. But I just don't see the world becoming a very bad place for Timberwolves fans if, God forbid, we're at 4 or 5 tomorrow night."
Prokhorov, a billionaire from Russia, was approved as Nets owner by the NBA's board of governors last week. The team will formally introduce him at a news conference in New York on Wednesday.
By then, the Nets could have plenty to celebrate if a lottery pattern holds form. New Jersey won in 1990 and 2000, and now hopes the balls bounce their way in 2010.
"I think we're going to get a lot of positive buzz no matter what," Thorn said. "The cache that he brings with him, we're going to get a lot of positive feedback, particularly in this area. I think it's going to be really good for our fans and our team."
The Nets drafted Derrick Coleman with their first win and with the second grabbed Kenyon Martin, who became a starter on a team that made consecutive NBA finals appearances.
Landing the top pick would be a huge step in what the Nets hope can be a quick turnaround. It would make them more attractive as they look to fill their vacant coaching position, and a more enticing option for one of the top free agents available this summer. New Jersey is among the teams that can afford a maximum salary player.
Prokhorov's wallet and his desire to win will help with that. For now, all the Nets want from him is luck.
"If we win, we have control of the draft so to speak," Thorn said.
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski in Minneapolis contributed to this report.