Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Examining the History of Recent Draft Lotteries

The Orlando Magic finished with the 3rd-worst record in the league. The NBA Draft Lottery can yield Orlando the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or #6 pick. Obviously Magic fans want to cross their fingers for #1. The Magic have a 15.6% shot at the first overall pick, and 46.9% odds at the pick staying in the top 3. Here's a realistic scenario below:

But that's not the only lottery pick General Manager Rob Hennigan will have at his disposal. We can thank the Dwight Howard blockbuster deal as well as Denver and New York not reaching the postseason this year. The second Magic lottery pick is the Worst of the Nuggets or Knicks (WoNK) that will be determined once we know the Lottery results on May 20th. The WoNK pick will either be 2, 3, 12, 13, or 14. Odds are it'll be #12. In most drafts you couldn't really get excited about picking from that spot. This summer is different as we're looking at a much deeper draft class than last year.

Play around with the 'Sim Lottery' feature at Tankathon and you can see how unrealistic it would be for both Denver AND New York to both jump into the top 3.

In the above situation, Orlando would end up with the #3 and #5 picks and the Magic would be in Draft scenario heaven. I don't even want to admit how much time I spent trying to get the above to occur. The odds of this happening are under half a percent. But still possible. I honestly feel like I have a better chance at winning the Florida Mega Millions now.

Below is a chart of the past 9 Lotteries and the results that were yielded:

Not since 2004 has the team with the worst record actually ended up with the #1 pick. That team of course was the Orlando Magic who would go on to draft Dwight Howard. Maybe the Milwaukee Bucks are due to get lucky. You can see it's not any better having the 2nd-worst record either (sorry, Philly). Not since 2006 has the 2nd-worst team in the league had the 2nd pick or better.

The Magic are in that intriguing 3rd spot entering the Draft Lottery. Looking at the chart I created, two of the 9 years the pick stuck at #3. The two times the pick did move up they were #1 (including the Cleveland Cavaliers last year). But, 5 of the nine times the pick has dropped. Worse, three times it dropped to 5th or worse. Going from 3 to five or six is the difference between going from Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Dante Exum, or Joel Embiid and more towards the likes of Marcus Smart, Julius Randle, and Noah Vonleh.

Notice the #5 and #6 pre-Lottery spots. For each, 4 of the last nine years have seen them actually improve their draft position. So that's encouraging news for the Boston Celtics (5th pick) and the Los Angeles Lakers (6th pick) who have wishes of getting lucky.

Take a peak at the #11 and #12 spots where Denver and New York are and you can see that in the past 9 years that NO ONE from the tenth pick or worse has moved into the top 3. No one. It'd be ridiculously rare for one of the 11th or 12th selection to move into the top 3, but both? It would take a miracle. The Wikipedia odds table below shows how highly unlikely it is for the WoNK to move up.

The chances that the Knicks stay still at #12 are 93.5% and 2.5% to leap up into the top 3. Denver's odds of remaining at #11 are 90.7% and 2.9% to get into the top 3. Again, the Magic need both to get into the top 3 for that pick be better than twelfth.

To clarify:

This scenario would mean the Magic get the #2 and #12 pick. Denver would have the Knicks' #1 pick. Again, Orlando wants both Denver and New York to jump into the top 3. Maybe Pat Williams has some new lucky charms to take up north next month.

Based on the historical figures, Magic fans should be more than content with the #3 and #12 spots. The WoNK pick is highly likely to remain at #12, while Orlando's odds of staying put at #3 are unlikely. Now whether that move will be up or down is the question. The past 9 years say Orlando will do worse than the 3rd pick. That same history shows though that if the Magic do move up from the 3rd spot, it'll be to snatch that #1 pick. I think everyone in Orlando would be more than satisfied with that outcome.


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  3. correction again lol. Chances of Orlando getting 2 top 6 spots:
    .008x.008+.008x.01+.009x.01 = 0.000234 x 100% = 0.0234%