The NBA Draft Lottery takes place on 14 May 2019. As previously reported on Sports Shorts, the lottery is the process by which teams are allocated their position in the order for the NBA Draft. This process determines which team will have the number 1 pick, and thus have priority in choosing the best talent available in the draft (hint: Zion Williamson).

The 14 teams that did not qualify for the NBA playoffs consist of the lottery pool. The process is not dissimilar from the conventional lottery that we may enter at home. There are 1,001 possible numerical combinations, which are divided amongst these 14 teams. The team with the worst regular season record receives the most combinations whilst the team with the best regular season record (of those that did not qualify for the playoffs) receives the least amount of combinations.

This is the first year implementing the NBA’s new rules, which grants the worst three teams the same number of combinations (140, which equates to an equal 14% chance of receiving the first pick in the draft). Previously, the worst team would receive the most combinations and the second worst team receiving the second highest number of combinations etc. The rule change intends on deterring teams from “tanking” during the regular season. If a team has a disappointing season and is out of contention for the playoffs, they may choose to “tank”, which involves resting their best players in the hope of finishing with the worst record. This team obtains the best chances of receiving the number 1 pick and thus the opportunity to rebuild the franchise with the best talent of the draft class. The rule change reduces the incentive to finish the season as the worst team in the NBA.

The 2019 lottery odds are as below.

  1. New York Knicks: 140 combinations, 14.0% chance
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers: 140 combinations, 14.0% chance
  3. Phoenix Suns: 140 combinations, 14.0% chance
  4. Chicago Bulls: 125 combinations, 12.5% chance
  5. Atlanta Hawks: 105 combinations, 10.5% chance
  6. Washington Wizards: 90 combinations, 9.0% chance
  7. New Orleans Pelicans: 60 combinations, 6.0% chance
  8. Memphis Grizzlies: 60 combinations, 6.0% chance
  9. Dallas Mavericks: 60 combinations, 6.0% chance
  10. Minnesota Timberwolves: 30 combinations, 3.0% chance
  11. Los Angeles Lakers: 20 combinations, 2.0% chance
  12. Charlotte Hornets: 10 combinations, 1.0% chance
  13. Miami Heat: 10 combinations, 1.0% chance
  14. Sacramento Kings: 10 combinations, 1.0% chance

Fourteen table tennis balls numbered 1 to 14 are mixed and four numbers are selected. Whichever team holds the revealed combination will be entitled to the first pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. This process allocates the top three picks, with the rest of the order reflecting the teams’ regular season record. This year, the number 1 pick is even more coveted than usual as Zion Williamson declared for the draft and could totally transform a franchise, even in his rookie season in the NBA. Zion’s Duke University reached the NCAA’s Elite Eight whilst he averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game at college. Other hot prospects likely to be snatched up in these first picks include point-guard Ja Morant and forward RJ Barrett.

Whilst the Lakers have a mere 2% chance of receiving the first pick, it is not unprecedented. In 2008, the Chicago Bulls received the first pick to draft Derrick Rose despite having a 1.7% chance whilst the Cleveland Cavaliers received the number 1 pick in 2014 also with a 1.7% chance. Zion Williamson could join the franchise, playing with one of the best players to ever play the game, which could solve a number of the team’s problems. This year’s draft lottery is perhaps the most hotly anticipated in recent years.