The NBA lottery can be a complicated beast, yet it is a very effective process.
The NBA Draft Lottery happens tonight. It’s a pretty simple process, but I still hear a lot of people tell me they don’t know how it works. Here’s exactly how it works:
Since 1993, the NBA has used ping-pong balls for the draft lottery. The draft lottery is used to determine the top-three picks for lottery teams.
There are fourteen balls, which are given a unique number from one to 14. All of the balls are then placed into a lottery machine.
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For each of the first three picks, four balls are selected at random.
There are 1,001 possible combinations of numbered balls, the order of which does not matter.
The NBA tosses out one of those combinations and assigns the other 1,000 to different lottery teams.
The highest percentage chance any team can get for the first pick is 25 percent. This year, that team is the Boston Celtics courtesy of the Brooklyn Nets. This means that they will be assigned 250 out of the 1,000 possible combinations. The Miami Heat are at the other end of the spectrum with only a 0.5 percent chance to snag the first overall pick.
After all of the numbers are assigned, the balls are pulled and the draft order is determined. If a team’s assigned combination is pulled after they’ve already won a top-three draft pick, the NBA will continue to pick combinations of balls until three different teams have been selected.
For the teams that did not receive a top-three overall pick this way, the drafting order defaults to the reverse order of how teams finished in the regular season.
For the Minnesota Timberwolves, there is a 5.3 percent chance to win the first overall pick. They also have an 18.3 chance to land one of the top three picks.
If the team doesn’t end up with any of the three lottery picks, the best pick they could get is the sixth pick overall. The worst they can fall to is the ninth overall pick.