The 76ers ended up in both camps. They claimed the No. 10 pick from the New Orleans Pelicans, avoiding the disaster of having the Pelicans land among the top three picks and holding onto the selection for another year. And they dropped slightly at the top of the board, going from the second-best slot to getting the third pick in the June 26 draft.
To Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie's way of thinking, talismans were unlikely to decide the capricious bounces of the Ping-Pong balls. He'll go with the calculator every time.
"I'm afraid it makes me boring, but we came in knowing what the odds are and you hope for good luck, and I'm not under any illusions that my hope really helps," Hinkie said. "So what you do is say, 'What can you live with?' In our scenarios, we were comfortable that with anywhere from one to five we were going to get a good player."
At three, however, the 2014 draft game gets very interesting, particularly if the Cavaliers choose to trade the top pick, something their general manger hinted at on Tuesday night. Although the draft is considered a deep one, a growing consensus is that beyond Andrew Wiggins of Kansas and Jabari Parker of Duke, considered 1-2 at the moment, there are a number of players who could end up going between the third and seventh picks in any order.
"This time of year a lot of information can be gained [by others] and a lot lost the more you say," Hinkie said. "You have to be careful people don't know what you're going to do."
Among the scant surprises of the evening, that revelation didn't even rank. Hinkie plays his cards inside his vest, not just close. He said he will fly to Los Angeles for workouts that begin Wednesday. He didn't mention it, but one of those will include a workout featuring Wiggins on Friday.
There is every possibility that Hinkie views the two picks as not just representing future players, but also as potential bargaining commodities. He could use them in the draft, package them individually with other assets, or invent something else he thinks might help the team down the line.
"Having two top-10 picks in a draft like this is something a lot of teams would give a lot for and we're excited. There's a lot of work left in the weeks ahead and we're looking forward to it," Hinkie said. "I think we're open to whatever may come over the transom, but if you ask me today, we're excited about the players we might get to add into our program.
"I think you hear a lot about the guys at the top, but . . . it's deeper than people think. Teams draft better and better over time and it's hard to find the steal. But a lot of these can help and we can use the help."
One thing is certain. Hinkie will try to squeeze every bit of value from that third pick. If Wiggins and Parker do fall with the top two picks, the strategy could involve leveraging something from teams eager to draft Kansas center Joel Embiid. Since the Sixers appear to be building their frontcourt around Nerlens Noel and have a playing-style philosophy that doesn't include two 7-footers in the starting lineup, they could find themselves in a powerful spot.
All of that is a long way off, however, and Hinkie said he is relishing the research that will take place in the next month as they fine-tune their assessments.
"I think everyone assumes there's a board right now that's completely set and we just wait," Hinkie said. "There's a lot of time and work to be done. I'm a big believer that you might find better answers if you spend time on it."
And, yes, that's boring, but it beats depending on luck. By draft day, Hinkie will know all the possibilities, just as he had them committed to memory before the lottery. Others may have crossed their fingers, but he just folded his arms.
"I was pretty sanguine about it. We knew the odds well," Hinkie said. "We talk for 364 days a year about controlling what you can control and not worry about the rest. We'd be phonies if we got here and felt any differently."
He let the calculator do the work on Tuesday. Now, it's his turn.