CHICAGO – Lottery night can change a franchise’s fortune in an instant.
With the pull of a lucky number, a team’s trajectory can completely swing in the matter of moments.
This concept is no stranger to the Orlando Magic, whose lottery victories were key catalysts in both of their NBA Finals runs.
Their back-to-back pulls of the premier ping-pong ball during the team’s infancy enabled them to select future Hall-of-Famer Shaquille O’Neal first overall in 1992 and then engineer a draft-night trade for Penny Hardaway and three future first round picks in 1993. Those moves instantly morphed the Magic into a 50-win club and helped propel them to their first Finals appearance in 1995.
In 2004, Lady Luck was once again on the side of Orlando as it landed the top pick and subsequently drafted Dwight Howard. The perennial All-Star center went on to win three consecutive NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards for the Magic and vaulted them to two straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances, including a 2009 trip to the NBA Finals.
While it’s still unclear if the 2022 draft class possesses any players of that caliber, the selection order, which will give teams the first crack at attempting to uncover those gems, will be determined on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET in Chicago.
The 38th annual lottery will determine the order of selection for the first 14 picks of the 2022 NBA 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 2021-22 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.
The Magic have a 14-percent chance of landing that coveted No. 1 pick but could end up anywhere between one and six. Regardless of the outcome, in this particular draft class, they feel confident that they’ll end up with a player that can add to an already tremendously talented young core.
“Our goals remain the same, which are to develop these young guys,” said Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman, who’ll be on stage representing the franchise in Chicago. “Everybody says you need stars in this league. Sometimes stars don’t always reveal themselves instantly. We’ve had guys that have had tremendous growth on this team, and I think that this team right now has a lot of potential. We’re talking about like two twenty-year-olds, twenty-three-year-olds, this a young, young team with everything in front of it. And they get along and they fit on the court, and they fit off the court. … We’ll find out (shortly) where we sit in the lottery, and it’ll be an exciting offseason.”
Numerous members of the Magic’s young nucleus are already back at work developing aspects of their game in hopes of making leaps next season. Among that group is Markelle Fultz, who’s excited to be able to focus this entire offseason on his craft rather than having to concentrate on rehab like he did last summer.
“I’m super, super, super, super excited just with the opportunity ahead with the group of guys that we have that get along,” he explained after one his summer sessions. “I’m looking forward to the draft to see who we bring in new and just going into (next season) running, building off the energy that we finished with this year. Although the record wasn’t what we wanted, we started to build great steppingstones, and the way we want to play. I’m just super excited to go into the year with a full summer under my belt, healthy. Just taking it one day at a time and making the best of those days.”
As a former No. 1 overall pick, he’ll be paying close attention on Tuesday to see where the Magic land.
“It’s hard to tell where the balls will lie, but I know wherever we land, we’re going to take the best option and what fits best for our program and organization,” Fultz said. “Again, I’m just really looking forward to seeing where we land, one, but also who we pick up. Just going to be watching, for sure.”
Fans can watch the lottery on ESPN. Those in the Central Florida area can also head down to Harry Buffalo for a watch party presented by Michelob Ultra and in partnership with “The Sixth Man Show” starting at 7 p.m. ET.