Playing The Lottery

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The Luck
The Bucks have only moved up in the draft lottery twice. Of course, both times they moved all the way up.

Since the inception of the weighted draft lottery system in 1990, the Bucks have appeared in the lottery 13 times. They have moved up twice, moved down five times, and stayed in the same spot six times.

Nonetheless, you might say the team has been more lucky than unlucky. After all, the two jumps both landed the team the top overall draft pick. In 1994, the Bucks were slotted fourth in the lottery but nabbed the first pick. And then 11 years later, in 2005, the team moved all the way up from sixth to first despite just a 7.1 percent chance of scoring the top overall draft pick.

The Odds
On May 30, the Bucks will face far longer odds in hopes of netting the number one overall choice. In fact, they have just a 0.7 percent chance at the first overall pick, a 0.8 percent chance at the second overall pick and 1.0 percent chance at the third overall pick. Meanwhile, they have a 93.5 percent chance of staying right where they are – at number 12. If they do stay at 12, it will mark a third straight time staying in their expected slot. 

The Details
The draft lottery will take place on May 30 at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN. The actual draft is scheduled for June 28 at the Prudential Center at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN.

The Surprises
So, has any team ever lucked out quite like the Bucks are hoping to luck out? Not quite. However, back in 1993, the Magic had just a 1.5 percent chance when they grabbed the first overall pick. Orlando picked Chris Webber, whom they flipped for Anfernee Hardaway. More recently, the Bulls in 2008 fortuitously won the first pick – and by extension, Derrick Rose – despite having just a 1.5 chance of doing so.

The Chronology
Time-travel for a minute with me through NBA draft lottery history, Bucks-style.

In the weighted lottery system for the first time, the Bucks had a 7.5 percent of climbing to first. In a top-heavy draft class that featured Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning, this would have been a reasonably great time to luck out. Instead, the Bucks fell slightly to eighth, where they drafted Todd Day. The Magic won the lottery and drafted O'Neal. Maybe next time?

The Magic improbably won the draft lottery again, this time despite having just a 1.5 percent chance. The Bucks had the sixth best chance but instead fell a couple spots to eighth. The Magic drafted Chris Webber first overall, but he was swapped for Anfernee Hardaway (along with three first round draft picks), whom the Warriors had selected third overall. The Bucks selected Vin Baker with the eighth pick.

In the first season of the 13-team lottery system, the Bucks won – and their prize was Glenn Robinson. The Bucks only had a 16.3 percent chance of snagging the top overall pick, giving them the fourth best chance. But they defied the odds and topped the draft board.

With just a 1.5 percent chance at the nabbing the top draft pick for a second year in a row, the Bucks ended up instead with the 11th pick, which was two spots lower than they were slotted in the draft odds. The Bucks drafted Gary Trent and then immediately traded him to the Trail Blazers in exchange for Shawn Respert. The Warriors won the lottery, despite just a 9.4 percent chance, and selected Joe Smith first overall.

The 76ers had the best chance – 33.7 percent -- of winning the lottery and they did just that. In one of the deepest and best drafts in recent history, the 76ers picked Allen Iverson. Because the expansion Grizzlies and Raptors could not win the lottery in any of their first three seasons, the Bucks actually had the second best odds of getting the first overall draft pick, with a 20.2 percent chance. But, technically, they were slotted fourth overall. And they indeed landed fourth, where they selected and then traded Stephon Marbury for Ray Allen and a future first round pick.

After losing David Robinson to an injury for most of the season, the Spurs finished with the third worst record in the league. They proceeded to win the lottery and select Tim Duncan. They have made the playoffs every season since, including four titles – so far. Meanwhile, the Bucks stuck right at 10, picked Danny Fortson, and immediately traded him along with Johnny Newman and Joe Wolf to the Nuggets for Ervin Johnson.

To clear up any lingering misconceptions:  The Bucks never actually had the rights to Nowitzki, and they never could have had him. Rather, they had prearranged a deal with the Mavericks wherein they agreed to select Nowitzki on behalf of the Mavericks in the event he was available. The Mavericks originally had the sixth draft pick, and had the Bucks not promised to select Nowitzki for them, the Mavericks simply would have drafted Nowitzki at six. The Mavericks traded down, gambling that Nowitzki would not get drafted at seven or eight – which he did not – and picked up the 19 pick as a part of the trade. The Mavericks indeed drafted Robert Traylor expressly for the Bucks. Just know that under no circumstance could the Bucks have drafted Nowitzki for themselves.

The Rockets had just an 8.9 percent chance of winning the lottery when they moved all the way up. Yao Ming was the choice, followed by Jay Williams and current Buck forward Mike Dunleavy, who went third overall to the Warriors. The Bucks had just played an even 41-41 season and were the last team in the lottery. They stayed at 13 and drafted Marcus Haislip.

Defying the pinging and ponging odds against them, the Bucks shocked the NBA by scoring the top pick. They only had a 6.3 percent chance of netting the top overall pick and just a 21.4 chance of even landing within the top three. But the stars aligned for the Bucks, opening the door for the team to draft Andrew Bogut.

Falling from third to sixth, this actually stands as the team's largest dip in a lottery. And it was a rough time for all of the first three slotted teams, as each fell out of the top three. Instead, the teams slotted number six (Blazers), five (Sonics), and four (Hawks) improbably grabbed the first three picks, in that order. The first three picks? Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, and Al Horford. The Bucks chose Yi Jianlian sixth overall.

The Bulls leaped eight teams in front of them with better odds – including the Bucks – to win the lottery. Derrick Rose was the pick. Notably, this draft also produced Russell Westbrook (fourth overall), Kevin Love (fifth overall), and Eric Gordon (seventh overall). The Bucks selected Joe Alexander with the eighth draft pick.

Here, Brandon Jennings began what has become a fascinating NBA history at Madison Square Garden – albeit a little late. Jennings was unexpectedly not invited to the "green room" that functions as a draft-night seating area for projected top-15 picks. Jennings initially eschewed showing up to MSG, and he was not in the building when the Bucks called his name with the 10th pick. After hearing news of his selection, Jennings arrived on stage adorning a Bucks cap – just after the 14th pick.

For a second time in a row – though not for the second year in a row – the Bucks were slotted at 10 in the lottery. And for a second time in a row, they stayed right at 10. In a three-team trade, the Bucks dealt the draft rights to Jimmer Fredette as well as John Salmons and Corey Maggette in exchange for Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, and the draft rights to Tobias Harris, the 19th overall pick. welcomes Alex Boeder as a new feature writer. Alex was a contributer to Brew Hoop and SB Nation. You can follow Alex on Twitter @alexboeder or email him at

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