Every team's odds of winning the 2016 NBA draft lottery

May 17, 2016

While the NBA playoffs have been reduced to the final four teams, those teams who didn't make the postseason are preparing for their championship on Tuesday.

Well, most of them are, anyway. Unfortunately for the likes of the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, not every lottery-bound team has possession of its pick in 2016.

So how does the NBA determine its draft order, and what are the odds your favorite team wins the lottery? It's simple math, my friend:

How does the draft lottery work?


The 14 teams that fail to make the postseason -- or the teams to which they trade their draft rights -- take part in the lottery. One representative from each franchise is in the room where the secretive process takes place.

Fourteen table-tennis balls, each numbered 1-14, are placed in a machine that mixes them and sends them flying for at least 20 seconds. To determine the draft order, four of the balls are removed from the hopper at random, for a total of 1,001 possible combinations. One of those combinations is eliminated before the process begins -- 11-12-13-14 -- while the other 1,000 combinations are distributed among the lottery teams based on record. The worst team in the league gets 250 combinations, the second-worst 199, third-worst 156, on down to five for the "best" of the lottery teams.

The first four balls are chosen, and the team that matches the combination -- say, 1-4-8-13 -- wins the lottery and the first overall pick. Then the four balls are placed back in the machine, and the process is done once again. If the second combination also belongs to the team that was already selected, the result is ignored and the process repeated until a combination is pulled for a different team. That franchise gets the second pick. The process is then completed once more to determine the third pick, with all subsequent draft picks going according to record, from worst remaining team to best.


Will the Lakers be lucky enough to hear their name called on Tuesday?

What are my team's chances at the first pick?

For the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers, and San Antonio Spurs there is a zero percent chance of winning the lottery -- either because your team made the playoffs or traded away the rights to its pick this year.

In descending order from best to worst, here are the remainder of the draft lottery odds, with a quick breakdown of other potential draft slots:

1. Philadelphia 76ers: 25 percent chance of No. 1 pick

Because of all the chances that a team leapfrogs its draft slot, the most likely outcome for the team with the worst overall record is actually picking fourth (35.7 percent). There's also a 21.5 percent chance of picking second and a 17.8 percent chance of acquiring the third pick.

2. Los Angeles Lakers: 19.9 percent chance of No. 1 pick

Los Angeles has an 18.8 percent chance at the second pick and 17.1 percent chance at No. 3. Outside of those top three slots, the Lakers would lose their pick to the Sixers. Combined, there's a 55.8 percent chance the Lakers keep their pick.

3. Boston Celtics: 15.6 percent chance of No. 1 pick

Likeliest pick: Fifth (26.5 percent)

Worst pick: Sixth (4.0 percent)

4. Phoenix Suns: 11.9 percent chance of No. 1 pick

Likeliest pick: Fifth (35.1 percent)

Worst pick: Seventh (1.2 percent)

5. Minnesota Timberwolves: 8.8 percent chance of No. 1 pick

Likeliest pick: Sixth (36.0 percent)

Worst pick: Eighth (0.4 percent)

6. New Orleans Pelicans: 6.3 percent chance of No. 1 pick

Likeliest pick: Sixth (43.9 percent)

Worst pick: Ninth (0.1 percent)

7. Denver Nuggets: 4.3 percent chance of No. 1 pick

Likeliest pick: Seventh (59.9 percent) -- Denver's lottery situation is a bit complicated, as detailed in the trade section below. Basically, the Nuggets have their own pick's shot at the No. 1 pick based on Denver's 33-49 record, plus even better odds at the first pick thanks to the Knicks and the Carmelo Anthony trade. But the Nuggets only get to keep one of those two picks.

Worst pick: Tenth (0.01 percent)

8. Sacramento Kings: 1.9 percent chance of No. 1 pick

9. Toronto Raptors: 1.9 percent chance of No. 1 pick

10. Milwaukee Bucks: 1.8 percent chance of No. 1 pick

Because the Kings, Nuggets (again, see the trade section below) and Bucks all finished the 2015-16 season tied at 33-49, the odds of eighth, ninth and tenth in the lottery will be averaged and split among these three teams, with a series of coin flips used to determine which team got the remaining combinations for the numbers pulled from the lottery.

11. Orlando Magic: 0.8 percent chance of No. 1 pick

12. Utah Jazz: 0.7 percent chance of No. 1 pick

13. Washington Wizards: 0.6 percent chance of No. 1 pick 

14. Chicago Bulls: 0.5 percent chance of No. 1 pick

Each of the final four teams in the lottery has a worse than two percent chance of claiming a top-three pick. The likeliest draft slot for each of these teams is their position heading into the lottery, with little room to move up or to be passed.


What lottery picks have been traded?

The Lakers' pick is the most valuable draft position that is on the line, thanks to the trade for Steve Nash back in 2012. If L.A. should fall outside the top-three, then the pick is conveyed to the 76ers, who acquired the rights to the pick in a move that brought Brandon Knight to Phoenix. The pick is once again top-three protected in 2017 and unprotected in 2018.

The Celtics have the third best odds at the first-overall pick because they own the Nets' pick going back to the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade. Boston can also swap picks with Brooklyn in 2017, and the Nets outright owe their 2018 first-rounder to the Celtics. Oops.

The Nuggets have the right to swap their pick with the Knicks, assuming New York wins a higher pick in the lottery, from the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011. The lesser of those two picks is conveyed to the Raptors due to New York's 2013 acquisition of Andrea Bargnani, which is why Toronto is on the lottery odds list above.

The Suns could have two lottery picks thanks to the Washington Wizards, who sent a top-nine protected pick to Phoenix in the Markieff Morris trade.