Date: Tuesday May 17, 2022
Time: 7 p.m. CT
Location: Chicago, IL
By Nick Gallo | Broadcast Reporter and Digital Editor | okcthunder.com
On Tuesday night at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, 14 ping-pong balls, numbered one through 14, will be placed in a lottery machine. Four balls will be randomly drawn by NBA officials, and the four-number combination will be one of the 1,000 that are assigned to each of the 14 NBA Draft lottery slots based on their records during the 2021-22 season.
That combination on the first draw will reveal which team receives the number one overall pick in June’s NBA Draft, then that process will be repeated three more times to reveal the teams who select two through four. The Thunder holds two of the 14 lottery slots, with 48.1 percent and 7.2 percent chances respectively to have their lottery combination revealed as one of the top four picks.
There’s much fanfare heading into lottery night, but Thunder General Manager and Executive Vice President Sam Presti made clear that it’s all just “a game of chance”.
“You have absolutely no control over it,” Presti said.
The Thunder’s own selection in the lottery has the fourth-best overall odds, with a 12.5 percent chance of being selected first, a 12.2 percent chance of being selected second, an 11.9 percent chance of being selected third and an 11.5 percent chance of being selected fourth. The Thunder also owns the LA Clippers lottery spot, which currently has the 12th-best odds, at a 1.5 percent chance at number one, a 1.7 percent chance and number two, a 1.9 percent chance at number three and a 2.1 percent chance at number four.
The teams whose lottery combinations do not come up in those four selections will then be positioned in reverse order of their records from last season for draft picks 5-14 in the lottery. In the scenario where neither of the Thunder’s lottery spots gets selected, the lowest each of the team’s picks could fall are eight and 14 respectively.
The Thunder’s lifeblood is the layering in of young talent through the draft, and certainly hopes for an outcome that allows the team to select towards the top of the draft. But it is understood in Oklahoma City that it must remain optimistic and make the most of wherever their pick lands.
“For us it's a much bigger night than maybe for other teams that have different avenues to their team building, but we'll work through it no matter what happens,” said Presti. “We showed that last year.”
“Last year we got a pretty bad outcome in terms of the outcome of the drawing, but I don't think we got a bad outcome from the night,” added Presti, referring to the fact that the Thunder’s pick slipped from fourth to sixth, but the Thunder selected Josh Giddey there and he ended up being a four-time Western Conference Rookie of the Month thanks to his talent and hard work as well as the tutelage of the Thunder development staff.
As the Thunder enters the second draft of this next generation of the team, it will have two more picks to work with in addition to the lottery selections, at number 30 and number 34 overall. The Thunder can also utilize all four of those picks as assets to move up, to pursue draft picks in future years or create additional value for the organization. Ideally, the team will also find players in this draft that align with the identity the group is cultivating.
“I like the idea of adding to the group that we have for continuity reasons,” said Presti. “For me the most important thing is we've got to find somebody that fits our program and really can connect with what we're trying to do, and that we also can connect with them.”
Instead of worrying about where exactly these lottery picks are going to land and trying to control an uncontrollable, the Thunder is focused on generating the qualities of winning basketball and finding the right way to do that in Oklahoma City. Much of that will come down to the foundations for work ethic and team-oriented basketball that is being established by the players the Thunder already has.
“Luck favors the persistent,” said Presti. “The team will move forward more next season in my opinion based on the guys that are on the current roster and them improving more than what happens in the lottery.”
Instead of having an emotional reaction to the outcome of the Thunder’s two selections on Tuesday night, Presti and the front office will evaluate the results then respond as they prepare for the chance in June to welcome in new players to the Thunder family.
“After the lottery happens, we sit down and we assess exactly where we are and then we figure out how to play the ball from there,” Presti said.