• Matthew Daniel
  • March 20, 2023

How Does the NBA Draft Lottery Work & NBA Draft Lottery Odds 2022

NBA Draft Lottery Explained: Find out Who Won & Who Lost in 2022.

The NBA Draft Lottery remains one of the league’s strangest yet most exciting parts, deciding the fortunes of billion-dollar corporations and the world’s finest basketball prodigies by pure chance.

The lottery’s erratic nature always places others on the other end of the luck spectrum. This year’s draught also clearly separated the league’s big- and small-market clubs. 

The NBA Draft Lottery decides the order of selection in the NBA Draft. On Tuesday, May 17, the Orlando Magic won the No. 1 selection in the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery in Chicago for the fourth time in team history. This is how it worked:

Winner: Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic Chief Communications Officer Joel Glass brought ping pong balls into the drawing-room from the years when Orlando lucked into top picks like Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, and Dwight Howard, and the good luck charms worked. The Magic got the No. 1 selection in the lottery for the fourth time in club history.

For most NBA executives, Auburn forward Jabari Smith is the most sought-after talent in this draught class. Smith may complement Orlando’s backcourt, particularly No. 5 selection Jalen Suggs and No. 8 pick Franz Wagner, in the frontcourt.

Free Men Playing Basketball Stock Photo

Loser: Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers weren’t the only club to tumble in the draught order from their pre-lottery standing—Detroit and Indiana did as well—but they had a lot more at stake.

Portland is still determined to rapidly retool a contender around All-Star point guard Damian Lillard. A pingpong ball stroke of luck might have provided a major chip for the Blazers’ aspirations of partnering Lillard with a legitimate running companion. The No. 1 pick, or even a top-four choice in a deep class, would have given different trade alternatives for Portland’s front management to bolster the team.

Which Teams have the Most Lottery Wins?

Since 1985, a few clubs have had the good fortune (or bad luck) of winning several NBA Draft Lotteries.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have five lottery triumphs (two of those top picks acquired by trade). They are followed by the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers, and Philadelphia 76ers, who have each received the No. 1 overall pick three times since 1985.

The Magic, Cavaliers, and Sixers are the only clubs to have received back-to-back No. 1 overall choices since the lottery’s introduction in 1985.

The Worst 14 Clubs Have a Chance at No. 1 Overall.

Instead of automatically awarding the first draught pick to the club with the worst record, the random number generator offers all 14 teams who did not make the playoffs a chance to make the first pick.

The lottery simply determines which team receives the first four choices. The franchise’s previous season record determines the remaining choices.

The raffle includes 14 ping pong balls, each with a number ranging from one to fourteen. When four balls are picked without regard for the order in which they are drawn, there are a thousand possible number combinations.

What is the Draft Lottery Format?

On September 28, 2017, the NBA Board of Governors authorized improvements to the lottery system. The NBA Draft Lottery will ensure that the team with the lowest record receives no lower than the fifth choice under the new model (which began with the 2019 Draft). The team with the worst record would have picked no lower than fourth under the pre-2019 system.

The new approach will equalize the chances at the start of the NBA Draft Lottery, giving the clubs with the three lowest regular-season records a 14% chance of winning.

The top seed had a 25% chance of winning the lottery under the pre-2019 system, the second seed had a 19.9% chance, and the third seed had a 15.6 percent chance.

NBA Lottery Picks: What are the Best Odds for the Bottom Three?

The three weakest teams will each be assigned 140 of these four-number combinations (think of each number as a lottery ticket), giving them a better chance of getting the first draught choice than the other eleven teams. All three will have a 14 percent chance of getting the first pick.

The first ping pong ball combination drawn will receive the first draught pick, and the next three ping pong ball combinations will receive the second through fourth-round picks.

After the top four picks are determined, the other ten picks (numbers five through 19) will be made in inverse order of their regular-season record.

Only NBA officials, a member of the media, and a representative of the Ernst & Young accounting firm will be present when the balls are pulled behind closed doors before the ESPN broadcast. Representatives from each of the 14 teams will participate in the lottery remotely.

Ernst & Young will place the results in sealed envelopes, which will then be delivered to the studio where they will be made public.


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