10 Fun Facts About the Draft Lottery

NEW YORK — The draft lottery is tonight, and here is a primer on everything you need to know as we all wait to find out who will get the right to choose Anthony Davis of Kentucky with the No. 1 overall pick.

We’ll do it in the form of  Top 10 list, for two reasons: People love Top 10 lists (thank you, David Letterman), and if you really need to know more than 10 things about the lottery, we kindly suggest you take a nice long walk around the neighborhood, or go down to the gym and shoot a few buckets or find some other way to take the edge off.

Without further ado …

1. WHICH TEAM HAS THE MOST AT STAKE? That’s easy. It is the Brooklyn Nets. They traded their own No. 1 pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace, but the pick is top 3 protected. So that means that if any of the Nets’ 75 combinations (out of 1,000) of ping-pong balls come in (there is a 25.1 percent chance of that happening, as not just the No. 1 overall pick, but No. 2 and No. 3 also are determined by random draw), they have an extremely valuable asset they can include in a package for Dwight Howard. And if they can get Dwight Howard, Deron Williams is likely to stay. But if the Nets don’t get D-12, Williams could end up choosing to play for Dallas, and the Nets could be left with nothing to show for all their wheeling and dealing over the past two seasons.

2. WHICH TEAM HAS THE SECOND-MOST AT STAKE? That would be the Golden State Warriors, whose pick was traded to New Jersey long ago and was subsequently sent to Utah as part of the king’s ransom the Nets paid to acquire Williams two Februarys ago after they lost out on Carmelo Anthony. The pick has top 7 protection. In other words, if it lands in the top 7, the Warriors keep it. If it is No. 8 or higher, the Jazz get it. The Warriors have the 7th best chance of winning — 12.66 percent. But if the board comes up, starting at No. 14, with any of the following teams missing — Houston, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Portland, Minnesota (owned by New Orleans), Detroit or Toronto — Golden State fans will be on edge wondering if the No. 8 envelope carries their logo. If it does, the pick belongs to Utah.

3. WHO WILL WIN IF THE FIX IS IN?:  That’s a stupid question, because the NBA bends over backward to ensure as much transparency as possible. The drawing is supervised by the accounting firm Ernst and Young, there are neutral observers along with representatives of each of the teams in the ping-pong ball room, and there can’t be any bent envelopes like there were in the 1985 Patrick Ewing lottery (click here for the video evidence). But if the fix were somehow to be in, the Hornets would win because it was David Stern who vetoed their original Chris Paul to the Lakers trade and signed off on the subsequent Clippers deal because it included Minnesota’s unprotected pick (which has a 3.97 percent chance of landing in the top 3.)

4. HOW OFTEN DOES THE FAVORITE WIN THE LOTTERY? This is a question of particular concern to Bobcats fans, who have a 25 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick and a 64.19 percent chance of landing in the top 3. Since the current lottery format was adopted in 1994, the No. 1 pre-slotted team hasn’t retained the No. 1 pick since Orlando did it in 2004. The No. 1 pre-slotted team has dropped out of the top three 11 times, most recently in 2009 (Sacramento).

5. HOW OFTEN DOES A LONG-SHOT COME IN? Under the current format in place since ’94, only six teams slotted seventh or lower have moved up to the top three. The most recent time it happened was last year, when Cleveland owned the Clippers’ pick and moved from No. 8 to No. 1 and took Kyrie Irving. The team slotted 14th has never moved up, the No. 13 team has moved up only once (Charlotte to 3rd in 1999), the No. 12 team has never hit, the No. 11 team has moved up only once (Orlando, 1993, No. 1 overall), the No. 10 pick has moved up once (1990, Charlotte, to 2nd), the No. 9 pick has moved up once (Chicago, 2009, to No. 1 overall); and last year was the first time the No. 8 pick moved up to No. 1.

6. HOW CERTAIN IS IT THAT DAVIS WILL BE CHOSEN FIRST? That’s a virtual lock. The Kentucky freshman has a defensive presence that many are comparing to Bill Russell, the greatest defensive big man ever. He was profiled on this site by Adam Zagoria early this season, every mock draft on the Internet has him going No. 1, and he has been added to the Team USA roster for the 2012 Olympics — although he still has to make the team when they cut down to the final 12. But this is the first time Jerry Colangelo has put a college player on the senior team, rather than the U.S. Select Team.

7. WHAT WILL BE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR?: What is it the real estate folks say? Location, location, location. After years of being held at the NBA-TV studios in Secaucus, N.J., the lottery is moving the middle of Manhattan this year, Times Square to be exact, because the studios in Secaucus no longer exist (that money pit was closed as part of Turner Sports taking over a big part of NBA.com and NBA Entertainment). And unlike in past years, commissioner David Stern will not be doing his lottery news conference from inside a portable tent. (They used to put one up in the parking lot in Secaucus to house the festivities).

8. WHO WILL BE CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT? Same as always, the team that hasn’t been there for a decade and a half, the team that wears silver and black and is currently engaged in the NBA’s Western Conference finals. The San Antonio Spurs haven’t been in a draft lottery since 1997, when they won it (and took Tim Duncan), and they have been in only three draft lotteries all-time. But that is not the fewest. The Lakers hold that distinction with just two appearances (1994 and 2005), while their hallway rivals, the Clippers, have been in it an NBA-high 22. But the Clippers will not be in it this year, nor will the Timberwolves, who haven’t missed one since 2004.

9. WHO WILL BE IN THE ELGIN BAYLOR SEATS? Baylor was such a fixture when he was running the lottery, it became a running joke that he had a permanent seat. Among the representatives this year are Irina Pavlova, the Russian colleague of Mikhail Prokhorov, who will be representing Brooklyn; Nick Gilbert, the 15-year-old son of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert who will be without his lucky bow tie;  Adrienne Maloof-Nassif, the sister of better known Sacramento Kings owners Gavin and Joe Maloof, and active players Wes Mathews (Portland), Chandler Parsons (Rockets),  and Brandon Knight (Pistons).

10. WHO IS GOING TO WIN IT? How the heck should I know? All I know is that everyone attending, myself included, is a winner by not having to drive out to Secaucus.


  1. Chris says

    What do you guys envision the Hornets lineup looking like next year? hard to tell who’d they pick at 10, maybe a damien lillard, jeremy lamb or jared sullinger? and hopefully they’ll keep gordon..

  2. Little bear says

    A quick correction: the Cavs last year were also the #1 pre-slotted team, but fell to the 4th pick. It was their 8th pre-slotted pick from the Clippers that got them the #1 pick.


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