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SIXERS LOSE, BUT WIN NBA DRAFT LOTTERY

The order of selection is set for the NBA Draft, and the three worst teams won the first three picks.

Philadelphia got the leadoff spot in the lottery Sunday, followed by Toronto and Vancouver.Whether it stays that way when this puzzling and undergraduate-dominated draft is held June 26 at the Continental Airlines Arena in nearby East Rutherford is anyone's guess.

New 76ers general manager Brad Greenberg gave indications after his team backed into the top pick that it would use it. Toronto general manager Isiah Thomas wasn't so sure about No. 2.

"I see some really intriguing prospects in the draft," Greenberg said in a telephone conference call from Portland, Ore., where he was celebrating his son's 10th birthday. "We're open, but we like a lot of the options available to us right now via the draft."

Thomas officially started the season of speculation that leads to the draft.

"I'm not married to the second pick," he said. "We're very happy to have it, but I'm by no means married to it. If there's a deal out there that makes sense, we'll explore it."

The early front-runners in this draft loaded with more than three dozen college underclassmen and high school players are Massachusetts forward Marcus Camby and point guards Allen Iverson of Georgetown and Stephon Marbury of Georgia Tech.

Vancouver general manager Stu Jackson said there is no clear-cut No. 1 pick, but some very good players.

"Conventional wisdom says Philadelphia will probably take a point guard and Toronto, not needing a point guard, might look at a (Connecticut junior shooting guard) Ray Allen or a Shareef Abdur-Rahim (freshman forward from California)," he said.

Of course, that would leave Camby for the Grizzlies, not that Jackson was planting the seed.

Over the next five weeks, the speculation is going to continue. What was certain on Sunday was that the 76ers, under new ownership, didn't really win the NBA Lottery.

The Raptors actually won the 13-team lottery held at the offices of NBA Entertainment when the combination 3-5-7-13 - one of 157 lottery numbers assigned to the team - was drawn, according to NBA counsel Joel Litvin.

However, under an agreement with the expansion franchises, Toronto and Vancouver are ineligible for the No. 1 pick until 1999.

So the Raptors automatically dropped to the second draft position after their number was drawn. The 76ers, who had the second-worst record in the league at 18-64, moved up to first when they were drawn for the second pick.

"It doesn't make a difference to me," said 76ers president Pat Croce, who pumped his fist and slapped hands with representatives from other teams.

Croce, who headed a group that recently purchased the 76ers for at least $125 million from Harold Katz, refused to speculate on the No. 1 pick.

Vancouver, which had the worst record at 15-67, won the third pick. Picks 4 through 13 then were assigned according to records during the regular season. Milwaukee got the fourth pick and was followed by Minnesota, Dallas, the Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey, Boston, Denver, Golden State, Cleveland and Charlotte.

Cleveland, which made the playoffs, got into the lottery by having obtained Washington's pick in a trade for Mark Price.