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2014 NBA Draft Lottery Preview: Draft order, protected picks, and lottery probabilities

May 20, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

2013 NBA Draft Lottery Getty Images

The NBA Draft Lottery takes place Tuesday night, and in a year where the talent pool in the draft appears to be deeper than normal, jumping to the front of the line by bucking the odds is less important than it may have been in seasons past.

No pun intended where the Milwaukee Bucks are concerned, who finished with the league’s worst record and hold the highest probability of securing the number one overall pick via the most combination of ping pong balls assigned to their team’s chances.

The results of the lottery will be nationally televised on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, but the actual drawings will take place before then. Here are the particulars of that process, via official release:

“Fourteen ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 will be placed in a drum.  There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. Prior to the lottery, 1,000 of those 1,001 combinations will be assigned to the 14 participating lottery teams.

“The Milwaukee Bucks finished the season with the NBA’s worst record (15-67), so they will be assigned the first 250 combinations. The Phoenix Suns, the best team in the lottery at 48-34, will have only five combinations out of 1,000.

“Four balls will be drawn to the top to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned that combination will receive the number one pick. The four balls are placed back in the drum and the process is repeated to determine the number two and three picks. (Note: If the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls are drawn to the top again.)

“The order of selection for the teams that do not win one of the top three picks will be determined by inverse order of their regular season record. Thus, Milwaukee can pick no lower than fourth, Philadelphia (19-63) no lower than fifth and Orlando (23-59) no lower than sixth.

“The actual Lottery procedure will take place in a separate room just prior to the national broadcast on ESPN with select media, NBA officials and representatives of the participating teams and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young in attendance.”

The actual probabilities that each team has can be viewed in the chart below — use the controls to zoom in for a better look to search the image.

Here’s the order of what the top 14 picks of the draft look like prior to the lottery results (via, along with the explanations of any protected picks:


(Lottery chances: 25.0%)

(Lottery chances: 19.9%)

(Lottery chances: 15.6%)

(Lottery chances: 11.9%)

(Lottery chances: 8.8%)

L.A. Lakers
(Lottery chances: 6.3%)

(Lottery chances: 3.6%)

(Lottery chances: 3.5%)
*This pick will go to the Charlotte Hornets if it ends up being outside of the top 8. There is no more than a 16.78 percent chance of this happening.

(Lottery chances: 1.7%)

New Orleans
(Lottery chances: 1.1%)
*This pick will go to the Sixers, unless it ends up being in the top five. There is no more than a 1.58 percent chance of this happening.

(Lottery chances: 0.8%)
*Orlando receives the less favorable of the Knicks and Nuggets picks. If the draft order holds according to probability, New York would give up its pick to the Magic.

New York
(Lottery chances: 0.7%)
*Orlando receives the less favorable of the Knicks and Nuggets picks. If the draft order holds according to probability, New York would give up its pick to the Magic.

(Lottery chances: 0.6%)
*This pick would go to the Suns if it were to drop out of the top 13. There is no more than a 1.8 percent chance of this happening.

(Lottery chances: 0.5%)

For a visualization and more concise look at each team’s chances of landing which picks, Dan Feldman broke it all down for us here.

  1. blueintown - May 20, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    Brace yourself: the “fixed” cries are coming.

    • willkill4caffeine - May 20, 2014 at 8:24 AM

      If the 76ers don’t get the #1 pick I’m screaming fixed, just because it will make me feel better.

  2. loungefly74 - May 20, 2014 at 8:18 AM

    No whammy…no whammy…STOP!

    well…i guess there is a 0.6% chance the T-Wolves won’t trade Love….

  3. billtetley53 - May 20, 2014 at 8:22 AM

    Its almost a lock that the Lakers get into the top 3, if not the top pick. Blue, people wouldn’t say “fix”, if it didn’t look like it happened all the time.

    I will be the most surprised person in the world if the Lakers dont move up in the order.

    • willkill4caffeine - May 20, 2014 at 8:25 AM

      I’ll boycot the NBA if that happens. Let’s see how long before they crumble without my annual $27 spent on basketball merchandise.

    • aboogy123456 - May 20, 2014 at 8:30 AM

      I think you’re right that the draft is manipulated, but I don’t think the NBA wants the Lakers to get the number one pick. If Lakers get number 1 then people like yourself will be yelling how the draft is rigged for big market teams, and that’s not good for the league.

      • jcmeyer10 - May 20, 2014 at 10:42 AM

        So it will be anti rigged?

    • asimonetti88 - May 20, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      So was it fixed when the Clippers won it, or are they not a big market team despite sharing the same city and stadium as the Lakers?

    • 00maltliquor - May 20, 2014 at 2:25 PM

      @ bill

      I feel the opposite. I think the Lakers will get screwed into a 7-9 pick. If they get anything lower I would be…not even a word in the English language to describe the shock. No way in hell Lakers get anything lower then a 6.

    • sportsfan18 - May 20, 2014 at 8:33 PM

      Lakers are NOT in the top 3…

    • 00maltliquor - May 21, 2014 at 2:58 AM

      I told you bill!! Dammmmmit I wish I was wrong.

  4. aboogy123456 - May 20, 2014 at 8:27 AM

    Lakers fans, we have a 21.5% chance at a top three pick, and that means drafting a potential star that can shape the franchise for the next 10-15 years. If it weren’t for the celtics clearly tanking our chances would be higher, but big night tonight we need some real luck.

    • titansbro - May 20, 2014 at 9:11 AM

      yeah the celtics tanking is the reason, not the other 7-8 teams that were clearly tanking, including the *ahem… lakers

      • aboogy123456 - May 20, 2014 at 9:53 AM

        Is that why the celtics are 0-2 vs the Lakers, 1-3 vs the sixers, and 2-2 vs the Bucks? Also seemed like they were playing significantly worse to end the year.

    • 1historian - May 20, 2014 at 11:59 AM

      Drop the lottery – it’s encouraging the very thing that it was created to stop.

  5. billtetley53 - May 20, 2014 at 8:39 AM

    Aboogy, I wont scream at all. I fully ecxpect it to happen. Its good for NBA business. I dont agree with it, but I understand it.

    • aboogy123456 - May 20, 2014 at 8:57 AM

      But it’s not good for business if the average fan thinks the league is rigged in any way. The Lakers do have a chance at number one, but if that happens then the draft will lose some integrity, because not everyone is like you and I and believes it’s manipulated. I think the NBA also wants small market teams to succeed, because that will help ensure the long term success of the NBA. And the Lakers can still draft a superstar (exum) at number 3 who will be great for their big market.

      • sportsfan18 - May 20, 2014 at 8:34 PM

        Lakers CAN’T draft Exum at #3…

  6. robbieboston - May 20, 2014 at 9:03 AM

    What a stupid system. Basketball is a joke.

  7. kgsmith - May 20, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    The whole league is rigged, not just the Celtics, Lakers or 76ers.. I have never seen a sport where wind hits a player and he drops crying foul or where refs watch a replay and still don’t see what actually happened. Then you get sterling banned for making racist statements but Jim Irsay may be facing felony charges and he keeps his team? Nope, the NBA is not rigged at all..

    • willkill4caffeine - May 20, 2014 at 11:57 AM

      I couldn’t agree more on your flopping point. Case in point, the Spurs. Their slogan should be “Flopping for the Finals since 2001”

  8. blackhercules718 - May 20, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    Any statisticians here? How do they come up with 1001? What is the formula? If 14 balls can be chosen first… then 13 can be chosen 2nd then 12 can be chosen 3rd then 11 can be chosen 4th…I multiplied 14 X 13 X 12 X 11 and got a number way bigger than 1001. What am I doing wrong?

    • blackhercules718 - May 20, 2014 at 11:27 AM

      Wikipedia explains it as such…….

      To determine the winner, fourteen ping pong balls numbered 1–14 are placed in a standard lottery machine and four balls are randomly selected from the lot. Just as in most traditional lotteries, the order in which the numbers are drawn is not important. That is, 1-2-3-4 is considered to be the same as 4-3-2-1. So although there is a total of 24 (4!) orders in which the balls numbered 1-2-3-4 can be picked, they are all treated as the same outcome. In doing this, the permutation of 4 balls from 14 becomes the combination of 4 balls from 14. That is, the total of 24,024 (14! / 10!, or 14x13x12x11) possible permutations is reduced by a factor of 24, to 1,001 combinations (or 14! / (10! x 4!)). Of these, 1 outcome is disregarded and 1,000 outcomes are distributed among the 14 non-playoff NBA teams. The combination 11-12-13-14 (in any order that those numbers are drawn) is not assigned and it is ignored if drawn; this has never occurred in practice.

      (Now I have to figure out why 24,024 is divided by 24)

      In the event a lottery pick is traded to another team, the record of the original team (whose pick it was before the trade) still determines eligibility for the lottery, and assignment of chances.

      As of 2013, with 30 NBA teams, 16 qualify for the playoffs and the remaining 14 teams are entered in the draft lottery. These 14 teams are ranked in reverse order of their regular season record and are assigned the following number of chances

  9. sportsfan18 - May 20, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    Lakers & lottery go together…

    well, they sound good together anyway…

    L & L for Lakers and Lottery…

    La La Land… losers and loonies…

    Oh yeah, WHAT else does L stand for?

    Losses & Losing…

    27 & 55 baby…

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