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NBA Draft Lottery 101: The primer

May 17, 2010, 11:54 AM EDT

Tomorrow night, Secaucus is the place to be.

Okay, Secaucus, New Jersey, is never THE place to be. Better to be down in Orlando, where the Eastern Conference Finals are taking place, for example. But some team will leave Secaucus Tuesday night thinking they are on the path to the Finals after they win the NBA Draft Lottery because they are going to draft John Wall.

The lottery is a pretty simple process that the NBA has made amazingly complex. Here’s how it works.

The crappier your team was during the regular season, the better their chances of winning the top pick. Nobody was as crappy as the Nets, although Minnesota tried to make a run at it for a while. So here are how the odds of winning break out.

1. New Jersey Nets – 25.0%
2. Minnesota Timberwolves – 19.9%
3. Sacramento Kings – 15.6%
4. Golden State Warriors – 10.4%
5. Washington Wizards – 10.3%
6. Philadelphia 76ers – 5.3%
7. Detroit Pistons – 5.3%
8. Los Angeles Clippers – 2.2%
9. Utah Jazz (from NY Knicks) – 2.2%
10. Indiana Pacers – 1.1%
11. New Orleans Hornets – 0.8%
12. Memphis Grizzlies – 0.7%
13. Toronto Raptors – 0.6%
14. Houston Rockets 0.5%

(These numbers have been updated and corrected to current odds.)

The Bucks draft 15th and from there it simply follows order of best record through the playoff teams. And yes, you see that right, the Isiah Thomas traded away this Knicks pick a few years back. He is the gift that keeps on giving.

When a team like the Nets is losing, the common expression is they are getting more ping-pong balls in the hopper. Not exactly.

There are just 14 ping-pong balls in the hopper, in the lottery machine. That gives you thousands of possible number combinations (1, 2, 3, 4 then 1, 2, 3, 5 and so on and so on). The Nets have a big sheet of paper where they get 25 percent of those combinations. The Timberwolves 19.9 percent, and so on.

So with a representative of each team in the room, a four number combination is drawn from the machine. Whatever team has that combo wins the lottery. Then all the numbers go back in, and four new numbers are drawn, that team is second. Then it happens a third time.

After the top three, the draft lottery will follow the record order listed above. So, for example, the Nets can pick no worse than fourth, if there other teams are selected above them.

Those team representatives in the room are sworn to secrecy, and they have to be different than the person on stage for the team. The person representing the team on the broadcast has no idea what the outcome is.

Well, they know the team with the top pick will take Wall. They just don’t know who that will be.

  1. Anonymous - May 17, 2010 at 12:23 PM

    Actually, the Knicks and Clippers finished with the same record, so the Jazz and the Clippers split equally the possibilities that are allocated to the 8th and 9th spot, with the clippers gaining the odd one because the won the coin flip earlier. (That’s why they’ll pick ahead of the Jazz if neither team is in the lottery.)
    It’s
    Clippers 2.3%
    Jazz 2.2%

  2. Kael - May 18, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    Who wrote this article. I’m not complaining about the information, just the errors in the writing. Don’t writers have the same access to spell/grammar check like the rest of us. Don’t writers have editors who are supposed to proof read articles prior to printing. English was my worst subject when I was in school, but even I can spot at least 4 errors with the article above. What makes this worse is that someone got paid to make these types of mistakes in a profession that they are supposed to be proficient.

  3. Ummgoodone - May 18, 2010 at 2:38 PM

    This is PBT. Honestly, who cares?!?!

  4. john - May 18, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    BS, anyone who doesn’t think Stern rigs the Lottery is completely NIEVE and INSANE. %’s mean nothing.

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