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What are the odds of the Celtics winning the NBA Draft Lottery?

"Never tell me the odds!" - Han Solo

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Tears were shed, Champions were honored, and the memories will live on forever. But we are still in a rebuilding year and the stark reality of that means that we're more concerned with development, trade assets, and ping pong balls than we are wins.

The draft lottery is a kind of mysterious thing. I'm not even talking about "frozen envelope" conspiracy theories either. I mean when you get the lottery in its current state explained to you, unless you are a Math Club President, it kinda makes your eyes glaze. Well, it does for me at least.

All I care about is that the lower seed we get, the more ping pong balls we get which somehow means we get a better shot at "the prize." Except that in this case, it could be several different prizes. That makes for a deep top-of-the-draft and if you think about it, increases the size of the target, so to speak.

The pundits seem to agree that even though this is the "best draft since (whenever)" there are no sure-fire future MVP's in the mix. There's no LeBron James or Kevin Durant or theoretically healthy Greg Oden in this draft. But there are several guys that are near-locks to become All Stars at least.

So I thought it would be fun to break down some of the odds of winning the lottery.

Here's a link to some boring details about the lottery process. I'm just going to skip most of that and cut to the chase here.

Here's the main chart that you need.

Seed Chances 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th
1 250 .250 .215 .178 .357
2 199 .199 .188 .171 .319 .123
3 156 .156 .157 .156 .226 .265 .040
4 119 .119 .126 .133 .099 .351 .160 .012
5 88 .088 .097 .107 .261 .360 .084 .004
6 63 .063 .071 .081 .439 .305 .040 .001
7 43 .043 .049 .058 .599 .232 .018 .000
8 28 .028 .033 .039 .724 .168 .008 .000
9 17 .017 .020 .024 .813 .122 .004 .000
10 11 .011 .013 .016 .870 .089 .002 .000
11 8 .008 .009 .012 .907 .063 .001 .000
12 7 .007 .008 .010 .935 .039 .000
13 6 .006 .007 .009 .960 .018
14 5 .005 .006 .007 .982

"Wait a minute," you say, "I thought this was going to be easy. That's still confusing."

Ok, ok, you twisted my arm. I'll try to make this more clear.

In most cases, "winning the lottery" means getting the top pick. But I think we can expand that to include a pick in the top 3 or even 5. It might very well be a 6th guy that's just as good or better than the others, but the experts seem to be targeting 5 right now.

So here's a handy guide on the odds of winning a top 3 or top 5 pick based on seed ("seed" meaning order of finish from last on up).

Seed Top 3 Top 5
1 64% 100%
2 56% 100%
3 47% 96%
4 38% 83%
5 29% 55%
6 22% 22%
7 15% 15%
8 10% 10%
9 6% 6%
10 4% 4%
11 3% 3%
12 3% 3%
13 2% 2%
14 2% 2%

Right now, if the proverbial season ended today, we'd be the 4th "seed" on this chart. That's a 38% shot at top 3 and a whopping 83% shot at the top 5 (yes, there's a chance that we could have 3 teams jump ahead of us and push us down as low as 7th.

Of course, the season won't end today, barring some end times event, in which case I'm not sure I'd really care who the C's picked (though to be honest I'd probably still check my smartphone out of habit). We've got a half a season left and ....wait for it... ANYthing can happen! Ok, maybe not anything.

Personally I'm not expecting the Celtics to end up with the worst record in the league. I'm also not expecting them to challenge for the playoffs or even make much of a push for them at this point. I think a trade for future assets or cap flexibility from Danny Ainge is a lot more likely. Still, with Rondo around and a plucky young team and a good head coach, I expect a few mini-runs before the end of the season that could bump us "down" these seeds some. Especially when you consider how many other teams are bunched up around us in the overall standings.

My best guess is that we fall somewhere in the 3 - 8 range. So at worst we'd still have a 10% shot at moving up. That's a long fall down the ladder from 83%. Now it becomes much more clear why teams might be tempted to ..., dare I say it,... tank.

Of course I'm not saying that anyone on the team would not give their best effort. I am, however, saying that guys like Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and just about anyone not named Rondo should maybe put off re-financing their home for at least another month, and perhaps till the Fall, just to be safe.

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