CHICAGO,IL - MAY 16: NBA Legend Brandon Roy of the Portland Trail Blazers accepts the 3rd Pick of the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery at McCormick Place on May 16, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

Blazers Take Top Spot In Draft Rankings Prior To The Lottery With Four Picks

On May 12 in Chicago, the NBA will hold the 2024 Draft Lottery, in which a hopper filled with numbered ping-pong balls will play a large part in determining the future of the franchises vying for a pick in the top four. And with potentially two picks in the lottery and two in the second round, the Draft Lottery serves as one of the best ways this offseason for the Trail Blazers to improve their fortunes, both next season and beyond.

This is the third-consecutive year and tenth in franchise history that the Trail Blazers find themselves hoping that the right numbered balls come up in the right order. Last year, Brandon Roy, who was the Trail Blazers representative the last time they won the Draft Lottery in 2007, returned to that role and, though he wasn’t able to bring home the top overall pick again, did have enough juice to come away with the third overall pick, which the team used to select Scoot Henderson. Portland didn’t buck their odds in 2023 -- they had a 10.5 percent chance of getting each of the top four picks -- but they didn’t underperform their odds either, which qualifies as a victory.

More broadly, the Trail Blazers have participated in the Draft Lottery nine times -- 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2022 and 2023 -- and have come away with the first, third (twice), fourth, seventh, 10th, 11th and 13th (twice) picks. They have outperformed their odds thrice -- in 2005 when they got the third overall pick while having the fourth-best odds, when they won the Lottery in 2007 and in 2023 when they got the third pick with the fifth-best odds -- and underperformed their Lottery odds twice -- in 2006, when they had the best odds yet ended up with the third overall pick and in 2022 in which they had the sixth-best odds but finished with the seventh pick, which they used to select Shaedon Sharpe. And in four years -- 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013 -- the Blazers came away from the Lottery with the exact pick their odds predicted.

So with the history out of the way, let’s get to the present, or at least the near future.

The Trail Blazers, by finishing tied with the Charlotte Hornets for the third-worst record in the NBA this season, have a 13.2 percent chance of getting the top overall pick and a 50 percent chance of getting a top four pick. On the flip side, they have a 6.8 percent chance of getting the fifth pick, a 24.6 percent chance of getting the sixth pick, a 16.4 percent chance of getting the 7th pick and a 2.2 percent chance of getting the eighth pick, which is the lowest they can go.

One thing that is always important to remember about the Draft Lottery is that it only defines the top four picks. As in, the Draft Lottery is held to determine the order of the top four picks, then the rest of the order is set by record. So if a team bucks their odds, the rest of the teams shift one spot worse.

And this year it’s especially important to remember that, due to the unfortunate fact that the Trail Blazers lost the tiebreaker with the Hornets, which affects Portland’s pick in two ways. First, it gives the Hornets a 0.1 percent better chance of getting each of the top four picks, which isn’t much, but you’d still rather have the better odds. But more importantly, losing the tiebreaker means the Hornets are the third team. So for example, if a team, let’s say Memphis with the seventh-best odds, jumps over the Pistons, Wizards, Hornets and Blazers and is the only team to buck the odds to get a top four pick, the Blazers would end up with the fifth pick while the Hornets get the fourth pick (because again, the Draft Lottery only defines the top four picks, which then in turn sets the order for the rest of the teams in the Lottery).

So you don’t want to hear one of the teams above the Trail Blazers called early in the Draft Lottery, as that would mean a team with worse odds ended up with a top four pick, which would mean a worse pick for the Trail Blazers. But if it goes chalk until the top four, you obviously want a team above the Blazers to get called before the Blazers.

Also, there’s the issue of the Golden State Warriors’ first round pick. The Trail Blazers, as part of the trade that sent Damian Lillard to Milwaukee, own Golden State’s first-round pick as long as it doesn’t end up in the top four. The Warriors ended up as the last Lottery team, giving them a 0.7 percent chance of landing the top pick and a 3.4 percent chance of landing a top four pick, so it’s incredibly likely the Trail Blazers will end up with their pick. And you’ll know right away, as if the first team called is NOT the Warriors, that means they jumped into the top four, which means the Blazers would NOT get that pick.

As for second-round picks, we know that the Blazers will have the 40th pick from the Atlanta Hawks. But their first pick in the second round will be defined by where they end up in the Lottery. If the Hornets end up with a better first-round pick than the Blazers, Portland ends up with the 33rd pick (or the third of the second round) which they then send to Milwaukee. And in that scenario, the Hornets would then send the 34th pick to the Blazers.

So if the odds hold, the Trail Blazers will end up with the fourth, 14th, 34th and 40th picks in the 2024 NBA Draft. According to the folks at Tankathon, that combination gives the Trail Blazers the top spot in their Draft Power Rankings, which they base off of “assigning a value to every pick in the draft and ranks teams based on the sum of their pick values. Data from previous draft picks' performance, playing time, and salaries are factored into a pick's score.” Portland’s 2024 Draft value, at least before the Lottery, is listed as 144.71 followed by the Raptors, owners of the sixth, 19th and 31st picks, at 116.67, the Wizards, owners of the second, 26th and 51st picks, at 114.27 and the Pistons, owners of the first and 53rd picks, at 100.79. Again, that all assumes the Lottery plays out exactly as the odds predict.

The NBA Draft Lottery is scheduled to be held on Sunday, May 12 at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN.