Denton: Inside Look at Draft Lottery and Magic's Odds

By John Denton
May 12, 2013

ORLANDO – In just more than a week the Orlando Magic will head into the NBA Draft Lottery with the best odds at landing the top overall pick. And as Magic Senior Vice President Pat Williams is fond of saying, Orlando ``earned it’’ this past season with a 20-62 record during a transition year.

The lottery process has not been kind in recent years of rewarding the team with the worst record and best odds with the top overall selection. In fact, the Magic were the last franchise with the worst record to win the draft lottery, doing so in 2004 and using the top spot to select Dwight Howard.

This year’s lottery will be held on Tuesday, May 21 in New York City. Teams are assigned four-number combinations, and by virtue of having the NBA’s worst record, the Magic own 250 of a possible 1,000 combinations. They have a 25 percent shot at the No. 1 pick, a 21.5 percent shot at the No. 2 pick, a 17.8 percent chance of getting the No. 3 pick and a 35.7 percent of landing the No. 4 pick. By rule, the Magic can fall no lower than the No. 4 selection in the June 27th NBA Draft.

The Magic have won the NBA Draft Lottery three times, second only to the Los Angeles Clippers with five. The Magic are the only franchise to win the lottery in consecutive years, doing so in 1992 and 1993. They used those picks to acquire Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, who proved to be the foundation on a 1995 team that reached the NBA Finals and a 1996 squad that got to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Magic also got it right in 2004 with the selection of Howard, who has proven to be a much better player than the more established (at the time) Emeka Okafor. Howard helped the Magic get to the 2009 NBA Finals and the 2010 Eastern Conference Finals before forcing a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers last summer.

Orlando had a 21-61 record in 2003-04, also giving them a 25 percent chance of winning the top pick in the NBA Draft. One little known fact is that Orlando not only captured the first pick in that lottery, but it’s four-numbered combination also came up for the No. 2 pick as well. It was disqualified and the Charlotte Bobcats ultimately won the No. 2 pick and the rights to draft Okafor.

Since the NBA went to a heavily weighted lottery system in 1990, the team with the worst record has only gotten the top overall selection just three times. The Cleveland Cavaliers (2003 with LeBron James) and the Magic (2004 with Howard) did it in consecutive years, while the then-New Jersey Nets (1990 with Derrick Coleman) were the only other team to snag the top pick while having the NBA’s worst record.

The Magic pulled off the biggest lottery upset of all time in 1993 by getting the top pick with just a 1.5 percent chance. The 2008 Chicago Bulls were a close second in 2008, getting the No. 1 pick (and Derrick Rose) with just a 1.7 percent chance. Last year, Charlotte had the worst winning percentage in NBA history, but dropped to the No. 2 pick when New Orleans – which had the fifth-best odds – won the lottery.

Again, no team with the NBA’s worst record since the Magic in 2004 has won the lottery. Over the last eight years, teams with the ninth-best odds (Bulls in 2008), eighth-best odds (Clippers traded to Cavaliers in 2011), sixth-best odds (Bucks in 2005 and Blazers in ‘07), fifth-best odds (Raptors in 2006 and Wizards in ‘10), third-best odds (Hornets in 2012) and second-best odds (Clippers in 2009) have won the lotteries.

Here is a quick look at what has transpired over the past eight drafts and how the team with the worst record has failed to win the lotteries:

  • In 2012, University of Kentucky center Anthony Davis was the definitive top overall pick and the Charlotte Bobcats did their best to position themselves to win the lottery by winning just seven games in the lockout-shortened season. However, the Hornets defied the odds and climbed to the top spot despite having just the fifth-best odds at 13.7 percent. The Hornets took Davis, who struggled through an injury-plagued rookie season, while the Bobcats settled for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, a perimeter player with a poor jump shot. Coincidentally, the Blazers got the No. 6 pick in the Gerald Wallace trade with Brooklyn and used it to select eventual Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard.

  • In 2011, the Minnesota Timberwolves limped into the lottery with a 17-65 record and 25 percent odds of getting the top overall pick. The Timberwolves are one of 14 NBA franchises to never select No. 1 overall. As fate would have it, Cleveland won the top selection and used it to pick Kyrie Irving to begin the rebuild following the LeBron James’ defection to Miami. Cleveland did have the second-best odds of winning that season with a 19.9 percent shot at winning first. While Irving won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012 and reached the NBA All-Star Game in 2013, Minnesota’s Derrick Williams has been mostly a flop as a ``tweener’’ forward.

  • In 2010, Washington made the jump from the fifth-best odds to the top pick, one the Wizards used to grab point guard John Wall. The Nets had the worst record at 12-70, but they fell to third in the draft. With Evan Turner going second to Philadelphia and Derrick Favors falling to the Nets at No. 3, that draft has failed to produce a difference-maker of a player in the past three seasons.

  • The 2009 Draft Lottery provided an odd twist as the Sacramento Kings headed in with the worst record and best odds, lost the lottery and still ended up picking the eventual Rookie of the Year. The Clippers, which had the third-best odds that season at 17.7 percent, won the top pick and eventually selected Blake Griffin. Griffin missed his entire rookie season with a knee injury, while Memphis whiffed on the No. 2 pick with Hasheem Thabeet. James Harden went No. 3 overall to the Oklahoma City Thunder, while 2010 Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans was chosen fourth by Sacramento, which fell as low as the rules allow. Golden State might have wound up with the best player in that draft when it picked Steph Curry with the No. 7 selection.

  • In 2008, the Chicago Bulls pulled off one of the biggest lottery upsets in the history of the event. The Bulls were in the lottery despite having a 33-49 record and the ninth-best odds at winning the top overall selection. But when their 1.7 percent chance came in, it put them in position to draft Chicago native Derrick Rose. While Rose went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and the MVP in 2011 MVP, No. 2 pick Michael Beasley bombed in Miami and has since bounced around with Minnesota and Phoenix. But Miami was able to deal Beasley in 2010 to Minnesota for two second-round picks and cash – salary cap room that is used to sign LeBron James and Chris Bosh to pair with Dwyane Wade.

  • The 2007 NBA Draft Lottery took on historic significance because of the supposed prizes that awaited the two teams at the top of the draft. Memphis came into the lottery with the worst record (22-60) and the best odds (25 percent), but left with the No. 4 pick (Mike Conley). Instead, Portland rose up from having the seventh-best odds (5 percent) and got the top pick, which it used on center Greg Oden. The Seattle SuperSonics, who would become the Oklahom City Thunder a year later, had just an 8.8 percent shot at the top overall pick and a 9.7 percent shot at the No. 2 pick. The Sonics/Thunder won the second choice and wisely used it on Kevin Durant, who has become one a perennial all-NBA player and a four-time scoring champ. Meanwhile, Oden was beset with a number of knee injuries and was out of the NBA last season.

  • In 2006, Portland was seemingly in position to win the top spot following a 21-61 season and 25 percent odds to win the lottery. However, the Toronto Raptors climbed up from the fifth spot to win the lottery and pick Italian power forward Andrea Bargnani. The Blazers dropped to second in the 2006 draft and ended up with standout power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Some of the best players from the 2006 NBA Draft came much later with Brandon Roy (No. 6), Rudy Gay (No. 8), J.J. Redick (No. 11 by the Magic), Rajon Rondo (No. 21), Steve Novak (No. 32) and Paul Millsap (No. 47) being drafted after the top picks.

  • The Hawks had the best odds of landing the top pick in 2005, a year after Atlanta native Dwight Howard had been picked No. 1 overall by the Magic. The Hawks not only missed out on the No. 1 pick in 2005, but they compounded their problems by picking small forward Marvin Williams second overall ahead of Deron Williams (No. 3) and Chris Paul (No. 4). Milwaukee entered that lottery with just the sixth-best odds following a 30-52 season, but won the top pick and grabbed 7-foot center Andrew Bogut first. Atlanta not only missed out on Williams and Paul with the No. 2 pick, but it also whiffed on Andrew Bynum (No. 10), Danny Granger (No. 17) and David Lee (No. 30).

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.




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