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Making The NBA Draft Lottery Easier To Understand

by Kyle Ratke, Digital Content Manager

Digital Content Manager

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The NBA Draft Lottery is certainly unique, and almost impossible to figure out for the average fan.

There’s ping pong balls, that’s the only thing that most people know for sure, but after that, things get confusing.

Side-note: Does anyone know what they do with the ping pong balls after? I’m sure college students would love them to play… ping pong, of course.

Being that we’re nearing the biggest lottery in Minnesota Timberwolves history, we figured we’d go through the different scenarios heading into the lottery.

As you probably know, the Wolves have the highest chance to get the No. 1 pick after finishing with an NBA-worst 16 wins. The Wolves will have 250 of 1,000 number combinations available. To put that into perspective, the team with the best record in the lottery (the Thunder) have just five combinations.

Fourteen ping pong balls numbered 1-14 are placed in a standard lottery machine. Four balls are randomly drawn to determine the winner of picks one through three. Each team in the lottery is assigned a certain four-number combination.

Still confused? Let’s simplify it.

Here are Minnesota's odds going into the draft:

1st Pick: 25%

2nd Pick: 21.5%

3rd Pick: 17.8%

4th Pick: 35.7%

The Wolves cannot fall further than the fourth pick in the draft. Other teams with a greater than 10 percent chance to get the No. 1 pick are the Knicks (19.9), 76ers (15.6) and the Lakers (11.9). In total, there are 14 teams with a chance to get the No. 1 pick (all non-playoff teams).

If we’ve learned anything from the lottery, though, it’s that anything can happen.  In 1993, the Magic had a 1.52 percent to get the No. 1 pick. And they got it. In 2008, the Bulls had a 1.7 percent chance of getting it and they ended up with the top pick and Derrick Rose. And just last season, we saw the Cavaliers get the No. 1 pick (for the third time in four years) after having just 17 out of 1,000 ping pong combinations. The Cavaliers took some kid named Andrew Wiggins.

The Wolves have never had the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Other information you need for the draft and the lottery:

  • The lottery will take place on May 19 in New York City. It will air on ESPN. It will start at 7:30 p.m.
  • The draft will be held on Thursday, June 25 at the Barclays Center in New York. The two-round draft will start at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN.
  • Below is the full graphic of odds going into the NBA lottery from our friends at Canis Hoopus.

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