What You Need To Know About The NBA Draft Lottery

The Timberwolves secured the No. 13 pick in the NBA Draft on June 26. The surprise of the Draft Lottery was Cleveland, which moved up and will pick No. 1 overall for the third time in four years.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
by Mark Remme
Web Editor
@markremme

Tonight is a big night for the Timberwolves and other organizations around the NBA. This is the moment of finality teams have been waiting for as they get prepared to begin their offseason moves. The NBA Draft Lottery is the event that solidifies where teams will sit in the draft, where they’ll pick from or what assets they’ll have to make moves prior to the end of Draft night.

The 2014 NBA Draft Lottery will air tonight at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN from the Disney/ABC Times Square Studios in New York City. Each team sends a representative to the Draft Lottery; the Wolves’ representative is General Manager Milt Newton.

A few things to note about the Draft Lottery: First off, the Timberwolves are slotted 13th this year—giving them a very, very small percentage chance of any type of mobility. Their three options are they could stay put (96.02%), move up to a top three position (2.18%) or drop back to No. 14 (1.8%). In the event they do fall back to 14 (which means Phoenix, slotted No. 14, won one of the top three spots), the Wolves would actually forfeit their 2014 first round pick due to the terms of the Wes Johnson-to-Phoenix deal a couple summers ago. There’s a very small percentage chance that happens, though.

The way the Draft Lottery works is like this: The 14 teams that did not make the playoffs are “slotted” in an order from worst record to best record. The team with the worst record during the season has the top lottery slot, with a 25 percent chance of obtaining the No. 1 overall pick. Each team that follows has a smaller chance of winning the top pick based on their record.

Contrary to popular belief, the Lottery only pertains to the top three selections in the draft. If your team is selected for the No. 1, 2 or 3 pick, you are bumped up to the top of the Draft order in the spot through for which you were chosen. If you leapfrogged a team (say, you moved up to No. 3 from the sixth spot), all the teams that were slotted ahead of you are bumped back a position. The Lottery does not determine the order of the entire 14 teams, only the top three spots and any teams that are pushed back due to a team jumping into the top three.

Of the 2.18 percent chance the Wolves have of moving into the top three, they have a 0.6 percent chance of snagging the top draft pick. In NBA Draft Lottery history, the only team to move up from No. 13 to nab a top three spot was Charlotte in 1996. But it has been done.

The biggest upset in Draft Lottery history was in 1993, when the Orlando Magic were slotted 11th with a 41-41 record and won the top overall selection despite entering with just a 1.52 percent chance. That’s the year Orlando swapped the No. 1 overall pick, Chris Webber, for Golden State’s third overall pick: Penny Hardaway. In 2008, the Chicago Bulls received the top overall pick despite entering the lottery with a 1.7 percent chance—the second largest upset ever. They selected Derrick Rose that year.

In 20 years of this current lottery system, only the 2004 Orlando Magic and the 2003 Cleveland Cavaliers entered the Draft Lottery with the best odds and have won the top overall pick.

The Wolves have never improved their Draft Lottery position—they’ve remained in their slotted position seven times and have received a worse draft pick eight times (that doesn’t include when the Wolves acquired lottery picks through trades).

But should the Wolves not move tonight, they are still in a deep draft class that could, with the right pick, produce a pretty strong player at the No. 13 spot. And in case you think it’s impossible to get a quality player at No. 13, history suggests otherwise: Karl Malone (1985), Kobe Bryant (1996), Jalen Rose (1994), Richard Jefferson (2001) and Corey Maggette (1999) were all selected 13th overall.

What the Draft Lottery allows teams to do is begin fully preparing for what they can and can’t do this offseason. If a team is in the Lottery, they can’t fully prepare for where they’ll draft until they know where they’ll be officially picking. They can’t fully commit to making moves until they know what assets they have.

So tonight’s event, while short and sweet, makes a huge impact on how NBA teams begin preparing for their next moves. Tune in to see where the Wolves land tonight.

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