ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic are hoping that history truly does repeat itself.
Thirty years ago, the Magic pulled off the near impossible when in back-to-back NBA Draft lotteries, they emerged with the No. 1 overall pick.
Those lucky ping-pong balls netted them Shaquille O’Neal in 1992 and then subsequently in 1993, the draft rights to Penny Hardaway and three future first-round picks – courtesy of a blockbuster trade with the Golden State Warriors. That duo instantly morphed Orlando into a 50-win club and helped propel them to their first Finals appearance in 1995.
Now, 30 years later, the Magic have the opportunity to nab the top pick in back-to-back drafts once again.
Last season, Orlando jumped up one spot in the lottery and utilized the No. 1 overall pick to draft Duke’s Paolo Banchero. Like Shaquille O’Neal, who was selected 30 years earlier, Banchero went on to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award.
Armed with the sixth-best odds (9.0 percent) of earning the first overall selection, the Magic are crossing their fingers and hoping the historical trends continue when the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery takes place on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET in Chicago.
The 39th annual lottery will determine the order of selection for the first 14 picks of the draft. Drawings will be conducted to determine the first four picks. The remainder of the lottery teams will select in positions five through 14 in inverse order of their 2022-23 regular season records.
The process for that drawing is as follows: 14 ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 will be placed in a lottery machine. There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. Before the lottery, 1,000 of those 1,001 combinations will be assigned to the 14 participating lottery teams. All 14 balls are placed in the lottery machine, and they are mixed for 20 seconds, and then the first ball is removed. The remaining balls are mixed in the lottery machine for another 10 seconds, and then the second ball is drawn. There is a 10-second mix, and then the third ball is drawn. There is a 10-second mix, and then the fourth ball is drawn. The team that has been assigned that combination will receive the No. 1 pick. The same process is repeated with the same ping-pong balls and lottery machine for the second through fourth picks.
Like last year, the Magic will be represented on stage by head coach Jamahl Mosley for the ESPN broadcast. In the back room – where the actual drawings take place – Orlando will once again send Chief Communications Officer Joel Glass on its behalf to sit alongside NBA officials, representatives of the other teams, select media, and the accounting firm Ernst & Young.
The results of that drawing will determine whether the Magic pick as high as No. 1 or as far back as No. 10 overall with their selection. Here are the odds for where Orlando could potentially pick:
No. 1 – 9.0 percent
No. 2 – 9.2 percent
No. 3 – 9.3 percent
No. 4 – 9.6 percent
No. 5 – N/A
No. 6 – 8.6 percent
No. 7 – 29.7 percent
No. 8 – 20.6 percent
No. 9 – 3.7 percent
No. 10 – 0.2 percent
The process will also determine if the Magic end up with a second lottery pick in this year’s draft. If the Bulls do not jump up into the top four, their pick will convey to Orlando as the final piece of the deal that sent Nikola Vucevic to Chicago – a trade that also netted the Magic Wendell Carter Jr., the draft pick that eventually became Franz Wagner, and Otto Porter Jr.
Regardless of where the Magic land in the lottery, they’re certainly well set up for the future. Along with the reigning Rookie of the Year, Orlando has a promising core that features five other former lottery picks all 25-years-old or younger, and that doesn’t even include other promising young pieces such as Cole Anthony and Caleb Houstan, who were selected slightly later in the draft.
The Magic are also coming off a season where they improved by 12 victories over their prior campaign – the biggest jump in the Eastern Conference – and are armed with plenty of cap flexibility to potentially add pieces through free agency.
“It’s about improving our team every way possible way we can, so that Paolo can reach his potential, all of our guys can, and our team fits and fights as I always say,” said Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman at Banchero’s Rookie of the Year ceremony. “We’ve got to get better. We have a lot of avenues to do that. We have a lot of information to gather before we understand how best to approach it. Where are we going to be drafting? How many picks are we going to have? What are other teams looking to do. So, we’ll get to that point shortly. But right now, we’re about understanding the draft, trying to figure out the landscape, and really build our organization, the infrastructure of our organization, so that we can put Paolo and his teammates in the best possible position to succeed.”
In a draft that features names like Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, and Brandon Miller, having a top pick would certainly help the Magic take the next step.
Now, it’s just a matter of history repeating itself.