For just the second time in the last decade, the Pacers will take part in the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night (8:30 PM ET on ESPN). After losing in the new Play-In Tournament, Indiana enters this year's 14-team lottery with the 13th-best odds of securing the first overall pick.
The most likely scenario on Tuesday would be that the Pacers stay put and keep the 13th pick in the draft. That outcome has a 92.9 percent chance of occurring. Indiana does, however, have a 4.7 percent chance of jumping into the top four in the 2021 NBA Draft (scheduled for July 29), including a one-percent chance of snagging the top overall pick. There is also a 2.3 percent chance that the Pacers fall to 14 in the draft order (that scenario would occur if Golden State, who has the 14th-best odds in the lottery, jumps into the top four and the Pacers do not).
Since the Pacers last participated in the lottery in 2015, the NBA has made some reforms to the process. Previously, the lottery only determined the top three picks in the draft as opposed to the top four. The league also leveled the odds at the top of the lottery, giving the teams with the three worst records in the league the same 14-percent chance of landing the top pick and slightly increasing the odds for all remaining teams to win the lottery.
Those changes have created more volatility in the lottery, with one team jumping up five or more spots in each of the three times the lottery has been held since it was reformed. The most dramatic changes took place in 2019, when the Lakers had the 11th-best odds and won the fourth pick, the Grizzlies jumped from eighth to second, and the Pelicans moved from seventh to first.
Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, the Pacers are guaranteed to have their highest draft pick since 2015, when they entered the lottery with 11th-best odds and stayed there, ultimately selecting Myles Turner with their pick.
A little luck would make it a very historic night. The Pacers have not had a pick higher than 10th in the draft since 1989, when they took George McCloud with the seventh overall pick, a remarkable fact that is a testament to Indiana's consistent competitiveness over the last three-plus decades.
The Pacers have not picked inside the top four since 1988, when they took Rik Smits with the second overall pick. Indiana has picked second three times (taking Wayman Tisdale in 1985 and Steve Stipanovich in 1983), but has never had the top pick in the draft.
For the 2021 lottery broadcast, each team will have a representative (usually an executive, coach, player, or someone with historical ties to the franchise) watching remotely. The Pacers will be represented by the great Nancy Leonard, the wife of the late Hall of Famer Slick Leonard who also worked in team's front office and played a vital role in keeping the Pacers in Indianapolis with a 1977 telethon.
The order of the picks in the 2021 NBA Draft will be revealed in reverse order. If the Pacers do not come up as owners of the 14th or 13th pick, fans will quickly know that Indiana has moved into the top four.
The actual lottery drawing takes place shortly before the lottery broadcast. The league will place 14 ping pong balls into a machine and pull them out one at a time to achieve a four-digit combination. The NBA divides 1,000 possible combinations between the 14 teams (the Pacers, with the second-lowest odds, receive 10 of those combinations). Once a combination is drawn, the team that owns that combination receives the first pick. The process is then repeated for picks two through four ("if a combination is drawn belonging to the team that already won the first pick, they keep drawing until they secure a combination belonging to a different team).
A representative from each team attends the actual drawing, but all present are sequestered until the lottery broadcast airs to prevent the results from leaking.
In addition to their first-round pick, the Pacers also own two selections in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Indiana's own selection, the 44th overall pick, actually has been traded to Brooklyn, but the Blue & Gold own the picks that previously belonged to Milwaukee (the 54th overall pick) and Utah (the 60th overall selection).