How the NBA Draft Lottery Works

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

Here is a breakdown of how the NBA Draft Lottery works

The NBA Draft Lottery is a weighted system that determines the order that non-playoff teams (or playoff teams that have acquired a lottery pick from a non-playoff team via prior trade) will select in the draft.

There are 1,000 four-number combinations divvied out to each of the 14 draft lottery teams.

The worse record a team had this past season the more four-number combinations they are given. So, the Boston Celtics, who will have the Brooklyn Nets’ pick this year as part of a prior trade, are allotted the most four-number combinations (250 out of 1,000). The Phoenix Suns have the second most (199 out of 1,000) and the Los Angeles Lakers have the third most (156 out of 1,000). Click here for the rest of the order.

14 ping pong balls numbered 1-14 are placed into a glass drum

The ping pong balls will then be mixed for 20 seconds in the drum

The first ball will be drawn and placed in the drum side holding tube

The process will be repeated in 10 second intervals for the second, third and fourth ball

The team that is assigned the first four-number combination drawn will receive the No. 1 overall pick in the draft

The process will be repeated for the No. 2 overall pick and No. 3 overall pick

The lottery is over after the No. 3 pick is determined. The remainder of the lottery teams will select in positions 4 through 14 in inverse order of their consolidated standings.

There are 1,001 possible four-number combinations when you are working with numbers 1-14. No team has been assigned the combination 11, 12, 13, 14. If those four numbers are pulled, the drawing for that selection will be restarted.

For the No. 2 and No. 3 pick drawings: If the four-number combination drawn belongs to a team that had already been chosen for one of the prior picks, the drawing for that selection will be restarted.

If by some chance there are technical difficulties with the glass drum machine, there is a backup option to draw the ping pong balls.

The Orlando Magic have an 8.8 percent chance (88 of the 1,000 combinations) of landing the No. 1 overall pick. They have a 9.7 percent chance of getting the No. 2 pick and a 10.7 percent chance of getting the No. 3 pick.