Draft Prep: What you need to know headed into the lottery

Darren McCollester

Stats, stats, and more stats.

Who's ready for the draft lottery?  Here's what you need to know.

When: ESPN starts coverage at 8:00 PM EST.  My best guess is that they'll announce the actual selections around 8:20 or so.

What are our odds?

By now you've probably heard that we have a 10.3% chance at getting the top overall pick.  That sounds pretty bleak but I think we'd be happy with any of the top 3 picks.  Our chances of that happening is actually 33.4%.  We have the 5th worst record but our chances of picking 5th are actually only 23.7%.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that our chances of actually slipping a spot and drafting 6th are 34.2%.  (See the odds visualized here)

Why is this?  Because someone's bound to jump up ahead in the lottery and if it isn't us, we'll have to move down.

2014 NBA draft lottery primer: 5 things to know about this year's lottery | Ball Don't Lie - Yahoo Sports

All 14 teams have at least some chance of moving up into the top three, though. When that happens, one of those three-worst-record teams gets bumped out to No. 4, and that does happen with some frequency. In fact, there's been some nature of leap in every lottery since 1996, when the teams with the three worst records in the NBA — the Vancouver Grizzlies, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors — wound up with the top three picks, as Philly took Allen Iverson first overall, the Raptors snagged Marcus Camby second, and the Grizzlies selected Shareef Abdur-Rahim third. In each of the last 17 lotteries, then, some team has gotten a bounce of the ping-pong balls that propelled them into the top three. In nine of those 17, such a bounce has given a team that began the lottery drawing on the outside looking in the opportunity to make the No. 1 pick

So when will we know?  Ultimately not until the envelope is opened, but there are hints as the other envelopes are opened.  Here's the order in which the envelopes would be opened if there are no changes to the draft order.

14. Phoenix Suns
13. Minnesota Timberwolves
12. Orlando (via Denver)
11. Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks)
10. New Orleans Pelicans
9. Cleveland Cavaliers
8. Detroit Pistons
7. Sacramento Kings
6. Los Angeles Lakers
5. Boston Celtics
4. Utah Jazz
3. Orlando Magic
2. Philadelphia 76ers
1. Milwaukee Bucks

If you see any deviation from that order between 14 and 7, that means someone jumped ahead of us.  This is not a good thing.  I'd prefer to see the draft order go exactly as planned until the number 5 envelope comes up and we aren't in there.

The real nail biting will start at the 8th pick.  Technically there's a tiny chance (0.3%) the Celtics could be picking there.  7th seems unlikely too at 8.2%.  Obviously if we pick 6th or 5th we'll know in the next two picks.  If we don't show up there, then we've just jumped up into the top 3 because it is impossible for us to be picking 4th.

So how does it actually work?  SBN has you covered.

Explaining how the NBA Draft lottery works - SBNation.com

Fourteen ping-pong balls will be placed into a lottery machine, and a four-ball combination will decide which team earns the No. 1 pick. The Bucks own 250 out of 1,000 combinations. The Phoenix Suns, who ended the season with the 14th-worst record, have just five combinations in the machine. In the event that two teams have the same record, they both obtain the average number of selections between their two spots. If the average is not a whole number, such as with the Boston Celtics and Utah Jazz this season, a random drawing determines who gets the additional combination. The Jazz won the tiebreaker in April.

tl:dr - It is basically a glorified version of BINGO (old guys circling numbers as ping pong balls are drawn)

Got all that?

Good.  Then NOW you are ready.

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