Pelicans get another shot at beating odds during Thursday’s lottery

New Orleans only has roughly a 6 percent chance of earning a top-four draft pick during Thursday’s 2020 NBA Draft Lottery.

Of course, the Pelicans only had a 6 percent chance of winning last year’s lottery. We all know how that turned out for the Crescent City.

New Orleans (28-36 before seeding games) and Sacramento (28-36) are awaiting the results of a coin flip tiebreaker Monday that will finalize those two teams’ pre-lottery “slots” – the winner of the flip will be placed at 12, the other at 13 – but the Pelicans and Kings already have a basic understanding of their percentage odds in Thursday’s virtual event. Based on the standard chart, the team in pre-lottery slot No. 12 has the following odds of picking in the top four (keep in mind, these are not exact odds, due to the tie between New Orleans and Sacramento):

First pick: 1.3 percent

Second pick: 1.4 percent

Third pick: 1.6 percent

Fourth pick: 1.8 percent

By adding those up, it means that in a normal year the club with the 12th-best odds has an overall 6.1 percent chance of landing in the top four of the draft, which will be held Friday, Oct. 16. The team placed at No. 13 pre-lottery will have essentially the same odds, with the tiebreaker effectively only deciding where the Pelicans and Kings will pick if neither move into the top four.

Nearly three years ago, on Sept. 28, 2017, the NBA’s Board of Governors approved changes to the lottery format, making it less likely that the team with the league’s worst record would win the lottery (the No. 1 pre-lottery slot went from 25 percent odds of prevailing down to just 14 percent). Those changes were enacted in 2019, which turned out to greatly benefit three teams that were not near the top of the lottery chart in terms of odds. New Orleans defied its 6.0 percent odds and No. 7 pre-lottery slot to move all the way up and earn the right to draft Zion Williamson, while Memphis jumped from No. 8 to No. 2 and selected Ja Morant. The Lakers also secured a top-four pick, winding up fourth on the draft board despite a pre-lottery slot of 11.

In 2020, the pre-lottery order looks like this, based on won-loss record prior to seeding games in Orlando:

1)      Golden State (14.0 percent chance of winning lottery)

2)      Cleveland (14.0)

3)      Minnesota (14.0)

4)      Atlanta (12.5)

5)      Detroit (10.5)

6)      New York (9.0)

7)      Chicago (7.5)

8)      Charlotte (6.0)

9)      Washington (4.5)

10)   Phoenix (3.0)

11)   San Antonio (2.0)

Tied-12) New Orleans and Sacramento (1.3) ... exact slots will be determined by Monday coin flip

14) Memphis (0.5)