David Stern opens the envelope rewarding the Orlando Magic with the No. 1 pick in 1993

Seventh-slotted Pelicans hope to join list of teams beating odds at lottery

by Jim Eichenhofer

As will be the case for three Southwest Division teams, the New Orleans Pelicans have a 6.0 percent chance of winning the annual NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday, a victory that would yield the coveted No. 1 overall pick on June 20. Sounds like poor odds, right? Well, over the course of the past three decades, a handful of teams have entered lotto night with an even worse chance of being rewarded, yet came away celebrating the top prize. The following is a look at the biggest “upsets” in the 34-year history of the lottery. Every team on this list held a pre-lottery slot worse than seventh (the Pelicans hold the No. 7 pre-lottery slot, the result of an April tiebreaker drawing vs. division rivals Memphis and Dallas). Incidentally, a year ago, Sacramento owned the seventh pre-lottery slot, but the Kings moved up to the second pick:

2013: Washington moves from eighth pre-lottery slot to third pick

In a draft year that proved to be very unproductive in hindsight, the Wizards caught a break by eventually landing forward Otto Porter at No. 3, despite just 3.9 percent odds of doing so.

2001: L.A. Clippers move from eighth to second

During a lengthy stretch of lottery appearances, the Clips defied 3.4 percent odds by placing as the runner-up at the event. The pick turned out to be Tyson Chandler, but he was traded to Chicago, which yielded Elton Brand, who eventually led his squad to a rare run to Game 7 of the conference semifinals in ’06.

2014: Cleveland moves from ninth to first

The Cavaliers have had uncanny luck at the lottery, with this positive fortune – only 1.7 percent odds – turning into Andrew Wiggins, which was turned into Kevin Love via a trade with Minnesota. Love helped the Cavaliers make four straight NBA Finals trips, including an epic comeback vs. Golden State and title in ’16.

2008: Chicago moves from ninth to first

With the exact same odds Cleveland would carry in ’14, the Bulls were able to jump to the No. 1 spot, where they landed Chicago native Derrick Rose. The guard won MVP in ’11, the youngest player to ever do so at just 22.

1990: Seattle moves from 10th to second

The SuperSonics had just a 3.0 percent chance of winning the event, but “settled” for second place. Hall of Fame guard Gary Payton was the pick. Paired with Shawn Kemp, the duo led Seattle to a trip to the ’96 NBA Finals vs. Michael Jordan’s Bulls.

1993: Orlando moves from 11th to first

Back when the lottery format was much simpler from a mathematical standpoint, the Magic only had one ping-pong ball placed in the hopper, out of 66 total balls. Despite that 1.5 percent chance, Orlando prevailed, paving the way for the acquisition of Penny Hardaway. By Hardaway’s second season, the Magic were in the NBA Finals, but were swept by Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets.


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