Update: The NBA announced the indefinite postponement of NBA Draft Lottery 2020. It was scheduled to be held on May 19 in Chicago.
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The NBA Draft Lottery determines the order of selection for the NBA Draft. Here's how it works:
What teams will participate in the 2020 Draft Lottery?
The 14 teams that did not make the 2020 postseason are eligible for the Lottery.
What is the format for the Draft Lottery?
The NBA Board of Governors approved changes to the lottery system on Sept. 28, 2017.
Under the revamped format, the NBA Draft Lottery will ensure that the team with the worst record will receive no worse than the fifth pick. Under the pre-2019 system, the team with the worst record would pick no lower than fourth.
The new system will level the odds at the top of the NBA Draft Lottery so that the teams with the three worst regular-season records will each have a 14 percent chance of winning the lottery. In the pre-2019 structure, the top seed had a 25 percent of winning the lottery, the second seed had a 19.9 percent and the third seed had a 15.6 percent.
The odds for the remaining participants in the 14-team lottery will be reduced gradually after the top three. For instance, the difference in lottery odds between the first three seeds (14 percent) and the fourth seed (12.5 percent) will be 1.5 percent. The difference between the fourth seed and the fifth seed (10.5 percent) will be 2 percent, and the difference between the fifth seed and the sixth seed (9 percent) will be 1.5 percent.
After drawings are conducted for the first four picks of the NBA Draft, the other lottery teams will continue to pick in inverse order of their regular-season record.
How specifically does it work?
The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago on Tuesday, May 20.
The 36th annual NBA Draft Lottery will determine the order of selection for the first 14 picks of the 2020 NBA Draft. Drawings will be conducted to determine the first four picks in the NBA Draft. The remainder of the “lottery teams” will select in positions five through 14 in inverse order of their 2019-20 regular-season records. The actual lottery procedure will take place in a separate room just before ESPN’s national broadcast. Select media members, NBA officials and representatives of the participating teams and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young will be in attendance for the drawings.
Fourteen 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. The lottery machine is manufactured by the Smart Play Company, a leading manufacturer of state lottery machines throughout the United States. Smart Play also weighs, measures and certifies the ping-pong balls before the drawing.
The drawing process occurs in the following manner: 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.
If the same team comes up more than once, the result is discarded and another four-ball combination is selected. Also, if the one unassigned combination is drawn, the result is discarded and the balls are drawn again. The length of time the balls are mixed is monitored by a timekeeper who faces away from the machine and signals the machine operator after the appropriate amount of time has elapsed.
Darrington Hobson, a partner in the accounting firm of Ernst & Young, oversees the entire lottery process and stuffs and seals the envelopes before bringing them to the studio for the broadcast. The announcement of the lottery results will be made by NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum. A second representative from each participating team will be seated on stage. Neither the Deputy Commissioner nor the team representatives on stage will be informed of the lottery results before the envelopes are opened.
The team whose logo is in the last envelope opened will have the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, to be held on Thursday, June 25 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
What are the odds for each team in the Draft Lottery?
The changes implemented for 2020 will result in the following odds for teams starting with the reverse order of regular season record.
Team > Odds at No. 1 Pick
Team 1 > 14.0%
Team 2 > 14.0%
Team 3 >14.0%
Team 4 > 12.5%
Team 5 > 10.5%
Team 6 > 9.0%
Team 7 > 7.5%
Team 8 > 6.0%
Team 9 > 4.5%
Team 10 > 3.0%
Team 11 > 2.0%
Team 12 > 1.5%
Team 13 > 1.0%
Team 14 > 0.5%
What about picks 15-60?
The Draft selections for the remainder of the first round (No. 15-30) and the entire second round (No. 30-60), are determined by reverse order of regular season record. Each NBA team gets one selection in the first round and one selection in the second round.
Who won the NBA Draft Lottery last year?
The New Orleans Pelicans won the Lottery in 2019. They would ultimately use that pick to select Zion Williamson.
What is the history of the NBA Draft Lottery and when was it first used?
-- 1966-1984: From 1966 through 1984, the NBA team that finished with the worst record in each conference participated in a coin flip. The team that won the coin flip received the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. That team that lost the coin flip received the No. 2 overall pick. The remaining teams picked in inverse order of their regular-season records.
-- June 1984: The NBA Board of Governors voted to adopt a lottery system among the non-playoff teams (or the teams holding their picks through trades) to determine their order of selection in the first round of the NBA Draft, beginning in 1985. Teams would pick in inverse order of their regular-season records in the second round (or, before the draft was reduced to two rounds in 1989, in all succeeding rounds).
-- April 1986: Under a procedural change adopted by the Board of Governors, the lottery would determine the order of selection for the first three teams only. The remaining non-playoff teams would select in inverse order of their regular-season records. Therefore, the team with the worst record would be assured of picking no worse than fourth, the team with the second-worst record no worse than fifth and so on.
-- October 1989: The NBA Board of Governors adopted a weighted system, beginning with the 1990 NBA Draft Lottery, which included 11 teams due to expansion (Charlotte and Miami joined the NBA for the 1988-89 season and Minnesota and Orlando followed in 1989-90). The team with the worst regular-season record received 11 chances at the top pick (out of a total of 66), the second-worst team got 10 chances and the team with the best record among the non-playoff teams was given one chance.
-- November 1993: The NBA Board of Governors approved a modification that, effective with the 1994 NBA Draft Lottery, increased the chances of the teams with the worst records to win one of the top three picks while decreasing the chances of the teams with the best records. The new system increased the chances of the team with the worst record of drawing the first pick from 16.7 percent to 25 percent, and it decreased the chances of the team with the best record among lottery teams from 1.5 percent to 0.5 percent.
-- October 1995: The NBA Board of Governors increased the number of teams participating in the lottery from 11 to 13 to account for the addition of expansion teams Toronto and Vancouver. Starting in 1996, the team with the worst record would continue to have a 25 percent chance of winning the first pick. Teams two through six would have slightly fewer chances, team seven would have the same chances and teams eight through 12 would have slightly more chances. The number of chances for team 13 did not change.
-- 2004: The 2004 NBA Draft Lottery increased to 14 teams with the addition of the Charlotte Bobcats. However, as part of their expansion agreement, the Bobcats were locked into the fourth position in the 2004 NBA Draft and therefore did not have a chance to receive other picks in the lottery.
-- September 2017: The NBA Board of Governors approved changes to the lottery system effective with the 2019 NBA Draft, reducing the odds so that the teams with the three worst records would share the same chance (14 percent) of receiving the No. 1 overall draft pick. The odds for the remaining participants in the 14-team lottery would be reduced gradually after the top three. Drawings would be conducted for the first four picks of the NBA Draft. The other lottery teams would continue to pick in inverse order of their regular-season record.