The NBA has downplayed Thursday’s first-ever virtual draft lottery since it won’t have all the bells, whistles and the usual full transparency because of COVID-19 safety measures.
But it’s a bigger-than-ever night for the Knicks and their rookie president, Leon Rose, who will represent the club on the lottery “dais’’ via Zoom. “Lucky Leon,’’ who will carry a good-luck charm, will finally find out if he will be positioned to select the top point guard on their board, LaMelo Ball.
COVID-19 hasn’t changed the odds — just the date of the lottery and draft day (Oct. 16). Seeded sixth, the Knicks have a 9 percent chance of winning the lottery and 27.6 percent chance of moving up to the top three.
Ball is expected to be a top-three pick, likely battling with Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards and Memphis big man James Wiseman. Ball and Edwards will appear on the ESPN telecast, which starts at 8:30 p.m.
The Post has reported Ball’s preference is New York and his handlers are not averse to steering him there. Father Lavar Ball already stated the Knicks are the top choice.
“I’ll be very comfortable in making the call,’’ Rose said in an MSG Network interview in late June.
The Knicks could just as easily fall back. At that point, the Knicks could pull a draft-night trade and move back further to collect more assets in what is seen as an equitable draft.
In fact, the greater probability has the Knicks not moving up. They have a 62.8 percent chance of picking between 6-10. That would put point guard and Manhattan product Cole Anthony in play as the Knicks’ preference is for a scoring point guard.
“It’s interesting, this draft, a couple of guys stand out, and after that, there’s a lot of equality,’’ Rose said. “I think there’s a lot of guys that are close with different skill sets, different positives, different negatives. It’s funny, each scout, there’s varying opinions. A lot more varying opinions than in past years.”
The proceedings will take place in Secaucus, N.J., instead of a lavish Chicago hotel ballroom because of the pandemic. The results will be read by deputy commissioner Mark Tatum.
Shortly prior to the unveiling, the pingpong balls will roll in a separate room. Normally, a representative for each of the 14 lottery teams and select media invitees would be on hand as witnesses. To limit travel and maintain social distancing protocols, that won’t take place this time.
According to the NBA, the only people in the room for the drawing will be “a media member, NBA officials and representatives of the accounting firm of Ernst & Young.’’
The Knicks, who haven’t made the playoffs since 2013, have been mainstays in the lottery but have had little pingpong luck the past few years after winning the first lotto in 1985. Striking out on the dais have been legends Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier and Allan Houston and executives Scott Perry and Steve Mills.
The Knicks opted against choosing a player such as RJ Barrett to represent them Thursday. Stephen Curry (Golden State), D’Aaron Fox (Sacramento), D’Angelo Russell (Minnesota), Rui Hachimura (Washington) and Devonte’ Graham (Charlotte) are the lone player reps.
Rose was on the other side of the table last lottery as one of the game’s top agents. Now he’s surrounded himself with a handful of new college scouts.
While the Knicks’ top college scout, Gerald Madkins, and personnel director, Harold Ellis, have left the organization, Rose still has GM Scott Perry for the time being (his name has floated as a candidate to return to Sacramento). Rose has added top college scout Walter Perrin from the Jazz and a growing collection of analytics department staffers.
“We’ve reviewed a ton of film,’’ Rose said. “We’ve Zoomed interviews with prospects for the draft. We obviously missed out on an NCAA Tournament and don’t know what’s going to be for a combine. We’re going to make the most of it. Now we have a lot more time to prepare.’’
The postponed draft combine will likely be a virtual event despite internal talks of a live — albeit downsized — one in September. The Knicks have three picks in the top 38. Thursday, they find out how valuable their best one is.