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Can you feel it, Warriors fans? You know, NBA draft lottery fever.

Put on your "We Believe" T-shirts, grab a seat in front of the television tonight and let the pingpong ball magic unfold.

For the 13th time in the past 14 seasons, this will be your team's excuse for postseason thrills. What could be more exciting than to see 14 assorted team executives or human good luck charms — hello, Mitch Richmond — squirm as their teams' draft fates unfold?

The draft lottery was an expected offseason diversion for Warriors fans each year from 1995-2006.

Then the Warriors rehired coach Don Nelson, worked a blockbuster midseason trade for Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington, made a wild push into the playoffs and stunned the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks last season.

The Warriors reminded us what the NBA playoffs are like when you actually have a local team in the field.

Oracle Arena was electric. When the Warriors were thrashing Dallas and battling the Utah Jazz, fans at Oracle were louder than an Oprah studio audience after she gives them, say, "A Trippp Tooo Jaa-mai-caaa!" The helter-skelter Warriors captured the imagination of NBA fans throughout the nation and the wrath of Charles Barkley.

It was fun. It was exciting. But as it turned out, it was just a tease. This season the Warriors went 48-34 but faded down the stretch and wound up back in lottery land.


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So we're back in that familiar position in the Bay Area of being on the outside looking in at the NBA playoffs. With no local team in the tournament these televised "40 games in 40 nights" seem as if they're taking an eternity, despite the star power of Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the rest.

Here's my fear: The Warriors could be sliding back into that draft lottery morass and starting another lengthy playoff drought in the ultra-competitive, unforgiving Western Conference.

Crazy talk after a 48-win season? Maybe. Then again, consider the uncertainty surrounding this team, starting at the top with Nelson.

Nelson is under contract for just one more season. Yeah, he'll probably return after jerking team owner Chris Cohan's chain for the requisite amount of time. But there's no guarantee with Nelson. And at age 68, he's close to the end of his coaching career.

Then what for the Warriors? What do they do when Nelson heads to his retirement paradise in Maui? In the past 15 seasons, he's the only coach to lead them to the playoffs, in 1994 and 2007.

It's doubtful that any other coach could have squeezed so many wins out of this undersized Warriors team this season. No one else does small-ball the way Nelson does.

Now consider the uncertainty surrounding point guard Baron Davis. He has until June 30 to opt out of the final year of his contract. It's unlikely he'll walk away from a guaranteed $17.8 million when the odds are so long against him finding that type of money on the free-agent market.

But you have to wonder how much longer this marriage will last. Davis wanted a new long-term deal before the start of last season. When he didn't get it, he bit his tongue and started all 82 games for the first time since the 2001-02 season.

Davis is still waiting for a new deal. The longer this drags out, the more you wonder if he'll decide to leave after next season, if not sooner.

Some Warriors fans would probably say good riddance to Davis. Despite starting every game this season, he has a troubling history of injuries. Plus he faded down the stretch, although that was understandable considering how hard Nelson rode him all season.

For all his flaws, Davis still led the team in scoring, assists and steals. He was still the Warriors' best player, their only player to receive any votes in the All-NBA balloting.

If Davis leaves, then what? Monta Ellis could slide from shooting guard to point, but he still has ball-handling issues, trouble finding the open man and difficulty defending.

The Warriors have been such an entertaining, exciting team to watch that it's easy to get fooled into thinking they have more talent than they really do. You have to remember that not a single Warrior made the All-NBA first, second or third team.

Rookies Brandan Wright, Marco Belinelli and Kosta Perovic are promising but unproven. Center Andris Biedrins is talented but limited by his lack of shooting range. At 30, Jackson is starting to show some wear and tear. Harrington is a power forward who can't rebound.

So keep your fingers crossed. Maybe the Warriors will overcome the lottery's longest odds and move up from No. 14 to one of the top three picks.

They could use some luck and some help, if only to avoid making this lottery business a habit again.

Contact Eric Gilmore at egilmore@bayareanewsgroup.com.