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Teams’ NBA Draft Lottery odds (and how it all works)

May 17, 2011, 8:03 AM EDT

nba_2008_draft_lottery AP

Before the Miami Heat try to go out and prove that when pressured they do not always resort to isolation basketball, Tuesday night will be the NBA’s annual draft lottery.

It matters every year, this year for slightly different reasons than normal. Kyrie Irving of Duke is almost certain to go No. 1 overall, followed by Derrick Williams of Arizona. After that, things could really shake up depending on the draft order. There’s a feeling among some scouts that the difference between spot 8 and spot 20 is not that great this year, so you will likely see more of teams drafting for need rather than taking the best player.

This is no envelope in a jar system any more, David Stern is not grabbing frozen envelopes. There are 14 balls in a lottery machine, with the numbers 1-14 on them — that means there are 1,001 potential combinations that can come out (order does not matter), and 1,000 of those combinations are assigned to teams. Then the machine pulls out four balls and the team with that combination gets the first pick. That process is repeated two more times for the second and third picks, after that the draft goes in order of record from worst to first.

Here are the draft percentages:

1. Minnesota Timberwolves 25 percent chance of getting the top pick (they have 250 combinations)
2. Cleveland Cavaliers, 19.9 percent chance
3. Toronto Raptors, 15.6 percent chance
4. Washington, 11.9 percent chance
5. Sacramento Kings, 7.6 percent chance
6. Utah Jazz (from Nets), 7.5 percent chance
7. Detroit Pistons, 4.3% chance
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Clippers), 2.8 percent chance
9. Charlotte Bobcats, 1.7 percent chance
10. Milwaukee Bucks, 1.1 percent chance
11. Golden State Warriors, 0.8 percent chance
12. Utah Jazz, 0.7 percent chance
13. Phoenix Suns, 0.6 percent chance
14. Houston Rockets, 0.5% chance

  1. savocabol1 - May 17, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    Quite possibly the dumbest way to pick the draft order.

  2. drop703 - May 17, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    The draft lottery is broken. There will never be any parody in the NBA if the awful teams can’t get better. Maybe there should be a lottery for the bottom 5 teams but there’s no way that you should win over 35 games and have a chance at the the #1 pick.

    • musilly - May 17, 2011 at 2:28 PM

      Unintentionally brilliant post. If the status quo continues, there will definitely be *parody* in this league.

  3. 1historian - May 17, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    It is indeed a screwed up system and the reason it is the way it is is because (once upon a time) teams that were at the bottom of the league were suspected of dropping games toward the end of the season so they could get the 1st pick.

  4. danvoges - May 17, 2011 at 12:23 PM

    why dont they just write a simple computer program that picks teams based on the assigned percentages?

    this whole assigning teams certain combinations of numbers on balls is hilarious.

  5. jharmon64 - May 17, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    It’s not perfect, but it’s better than teams throwing late season games. Perhaps teams that didn’t make the playoffs which were only a couple games out shouldn’t have any chance at all, but their odds are slim. I’m happy with the system and it’s not dumb by any means.

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