Chance of winning lottery at 0.8 percent

Saturday, April 10, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

Based on recent draft lottery charts and the fact that the NBA has not announced any changes to its lottery format for 2010, the Hornets should be looking at a 0.8 percent chance of capturing the No. 1 pick on Tuesday, May 18.

Regardless of what happens over the final five days of the regular season, New Orleans (35-45) is now guaranteed to finish with the 11th-worst record in the league, meaning it will have the No. 11 slot entering the draft lottery.

In 2008 – the last time there were no standings ties that convolute the math – the Indiana Pacers were in that 11 hole. The Pacers had 8 combinations out of 1,000 possibilities to win the top pick in the 2008 draft (or 0.8 percent). The Pacers’ odds of getting the second and third pick in ’08 were marginally better, at 0.95 percent and 1.15 percent, respectively.

In other words, the Hornets’ chance of moving up into any of the top three picks of the 2010 NBA Draft is slightly less than 3 percent.

Keep in mind, New Orleans can only come out of the lottery with one of these seven draft positions: 1, 2, 3, 11, 12, 13 or 14. The only way the Hornets could drop down from the 11th pick is if one of the three teams in slots 12 through 14 was able to buck considerable odds and move into the top three. Right now those spots are held by Chicago, Memphis and Houston.

There is a scenario in which New Orleans could fall all the way to the 14th pick at the lottery, but that would require the Bulls, Grizzlies and Rockets to all move up, which is obviously extraordinarily unlikely.

The chart below lists the current odds of each of these teams getting one of the first three picks:
New Orleans first pick 0.80, second pick 0.95, third pick 1.15
Chicago or Toronto 0.70, 0.83, 1.01
Memphis 0.60, 0.71, 0.87
Houston 0.50, 0.59, 0.72

Although the math seems downright discouraging, in 2008 Chicago won the draft lottery despite only a 1.7 percent of doing so (resulting in the Bulls’ selection of Derrick Rose). In 2007, Portland’s chance was just 5.3 percent, but it prevailed and took Greg Oden. Last year’s outcome of the draft lottery was a bit less unexpected, with the Clippers wining the No. 1 pick based on a 17.7 percent chance. Los Angeles selected Blake Griffin.

If you have any draft lottery-related questions, let us know in the comments.