The NBA Draft Order is determined by the NBA Draft Lottery. How exactly does this work?
The future of the NBA franchise could be completely changed by dropping a few ping pong balls. Isn’t that too crazy?
The NBA Draft is what ultimately determines the rankings for the first 14 picks of the NBA Draft each June. It seems a little complicated when people start to break down the possibilities. Throw in things like protected picks, pick swaps, and other contingencies that trades have developed and it can start to make your head spin.
But, simply the lottery itself: how does that work?
How does the NBA Draft Lottery work?
The NBA Draft Lottery is, at its core, a game of odds. The league uses a lottery machine that contains 14 ping pong balls. Using combinations of 4 numbers, this machine generates 1001 possible combinations, of which 1,000 are randomly assigned to the 14 teams participating in the lottery.
The 14 teams that participate in the lottery are the 14 teams that did not qualify for the playoffs stage.
Odds are that the teams with the worst records (the bottom five) will have more groups assigned to them. Here are the odds for each team based on their record:
- Worst Record: 14% probability of winning (140 certain combinations)
- Second worst record: 14% chance of winning (140 sets selected)
- 3rd Worst Record: 14% chance of winning (140 custom combinations)
- Fourth-worst record: 12.5% chance of winning (125 set combinations)
- Fifth Worst Record: 10.5% chance of winning (105 custom combinations)
- Sixth worst record: 9% chance of winning (90 custom combinations)
- 7th Worst Record: 7.5% chance of winning (75 custom combinations)
- 8th Worst Record: 6% chance of winning (60 custom combinations)
- 9th Worst Record: 4.5% chance of winning (45 custom combinations)
- 10th Worst Record: 3% chance of winning (30 custom combinations)
- 11- Worst Record: 2% chance of winning (20 custom combinations)
- 12th record – worst: 1.5% chance of winning (15 custom combinations)
- 13th Place – Worst Record: 1% chance of winning (10 custom combinations)
- 14th – Worst Record: 0.5% chance of winning (5 sets selected)
Once allotted, the 14 balls are placed in the lottery machine and shuffled for 20 seconds. Balls are removed from the machine with a 10-second mixing process between each de-ball. Once four balls are drawn, the team with that combination is given a choice. If the team that already owns this combo is selected, the score will be discarded, the same is true for the first group that is not set.
The process is repeated for the first four selections of the draft, however, contrary to popular belief, the lottery process is not used for all fourteen choices. Instead, the first four selections are made by lottery, and the remaining ten selections are drawn based on the team’s records (earlier record worst drafts). This means that the team with the worst record cannot draft at least 5th overall.
Why isn’t the NBA draft lottery broadcast?
The NBA Draft Lottery is not broadcast live because it is a rather boring and somewhat complicated process. Since the lottery machine result consists of four random numbers rather than a ball with a team logo on it, it is not intended for TV. Nerds (myself included) would love to see it, but it’s a very secretive event. No one is allowed to bring in their phones, even.
Locate members of the media, team representatives, and NBA officials, there to monitor the drawing. The results are sealed in envelopes to be shown on national television which is the most exciting part.
Changes to the NBA Draft Lottery in recent years
The above lottery odds and process have been in place since 2019. Prior to that, the process was pretty much the same, except that the worst team had higher odds of winning (25 percent, instead of 14 percent). The first year the NBA used a lottery system to determine a draft order was 1985.
Now, with the level odds, it underestimates the value of being the worst team in the league. Ideally, this flexes the tanks. The Play Round is another way the league has battled tanks in order to pick a draft.
Now, getting into post-season is easier than ever with a bit of late-season luck and solid play. For example, this year, the Cavs and Hornets were rewarded with the opportunity to play in the post-season. Even though they lost in play, they still had a chance of making a better choice overall. This gives teams less incentive to shut down star players late in the season if they are on the fringes of the post-season picture.
This article here contains dates on the NBA Draft and NBA Draft in 2023.