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The Draft Lottery – What is it?

The Draft Lottery is one of the most important events for the teams with worsts records for the season to rebuild their team with the Top Picks or the Best Players. A look at the Draft Lottery of NBA 2019.

Last updated: 03.06.2019
Draft Lottery 2019 | Sports Social Blog

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Lottery, in general, is defined as a type of gambling where the winners are chosen by drawing lots from amongst those who have paid the money for getting eligible for the same.

NBA widely known as the National Basketball Association is a pool of opportunities for the young kids who are coming out of college to pursue their dream of playing in the NBA. But how do they usually get drafted to the teams they play for.

Every year there is an annual event which is held by the NBA known as the NBA Draft where the eligible players like the amateur US College Basketball players and the other eligible international players get drafted by the various NBA teams. However, the Draft Order is not the same every year. As mentioned there is an event called the Draft Lottery. Here the teams who have missed out on the Playoffs in the current year participate in the Lottery Process. Every year Top 8 Teams of both the conferences play the playoffs and the rest 7 accounts for the eligibility of a Draft pick.


This Lottery pick enables the teams with worsts records for the season to rebuild their team with the Top Picks or the Best Players in the US College Basketball and the International Players which would become a part of their rebuilding process.

When the Draft Lottery Started way back in 1966, the NBA Team with the worst records from both the conferences had an opportunity to go for the 1st Pick. This was decided over a coin flip. The winner would get the 1st Pick and the one who loses gets the 2nd Pick and rest of the picks were distributed in inverse order of their regular season awards.

However, in 1989 with expansion of NBA, they came up with a weighted system which included 11 teams where the team with the worst regular season record would receive 11 chances at the top picks and the second worst team would get 10 chances and the team with the best record of non-playoff team was given the 1 pick.

A few more modifications were brought in the year 1993 where the chances of teams with the worst record to win one of the Top 3 picks got gradually increased to about 25% from 16% and gradually decreased the chances of the team with the best record with lottery teams to 0.5%. This basically gave in the teams with the worst record to compete for the bottom position which therefore increased the Tanking phase. Tanking can be known as the situation where the teams deliberately lose matches to get the worst record and automatically stand a chance to get one of the Top 3 Picks.

However, when this situation was noted by the NBA, in September 2017, the Lottery Officials made changes to the Lottery system effective from 2019 where the odds were reduced down to 14% to the Top 3 teams with the worst records. The odds were gradually lowered down when it came down from the worst to best for the teams who have not qualified for the playoffs.

The Draft Lottery of 2019 took place on 14th May 2019. Fourteen ping pong balls which were numbered from 1 – 14 were placed in the lottery machine where about a total of 1001 combinations four balls were drawn out of 14 which accounted for the Top 4 Picks. Here were the odds of the teams for the 1st Pick before it was announced officially.

The Lottery balls are placed in the machine and are allowed to be mixed for almost 20 seconds, the 1st ball is removed. After the 1st ball is removed the remaining balls are mixed for about 10 seconds and the 2nd ball is drawn. This goes on till the 4th ball is picked and the team that has assigned that combination will receive the 1st round pick.

Post the Top 14 Picks, the rest of the Draft Picks from 15 – 60 happens according to the regular season data from worst to best where every team gets a 1st and a second round pick.

This method played a huge role in 2019 where there were chances of the teams with not the worst records in the regular season also had an opportunity to get a 1st Lottery Pick and such was the Scenario which that Happened.

Before New Orleans Pelicans there were 6 more teams who had a worse record in comparison to the Pelicans in the Regular season. Pelicans just had a 6% chance for the 1st Pick where the rest of the teams had between 9% – 14%. However, it was the matter of luck which helped them to gain the 1st Round Pick for just a second time in their Franchise history.

Here’s a look at the Overall Draft Lottery Standings –

  1. New Orleans Pelicans

  2. Memphis Grizzlies

  3. New York Knicks

  4. Los Angeles Lakers

  5. Cleveland Cavaliers

  6. Phoenix Suns

  7. Chicago Bulls

  8. Atlanta Hawks

  9. Washington Wizards

  10. Atlanta Hawks

  11. Minnesota Timberwolves

  12. Charlotte Hornets

  13. Miami Heat

  14. Boston Celtics

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