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How does the NBA lottery work? NBA lottery explained

06 Mar | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
How does the NBA lottery work? NBA lottery explained

From ping pong balls to No.1 picks, here's everything you need to know about the NBA draft lottery.

What is the NBA draft lottery?

Every year, college and international basketball players enter the NBA through the draft. Teams take it in turns picking players, to whom they then have the rights to sign.

The lottery is the NBA’s method of deciding the order that teams pick in the draft.

How many teams are in the NBA lottery?

The lottery features the 14 teams that missed the playoffs in the previous NBA season.

How does the NBA lottery work?

The lottery is carried out using a standard lottery machine and ping pong balls.

The balls are numbered 1-14, and four balls are randomly selected, meaning there are 1,001 possible outcomes. The combination 11-12-13-14 is disregarded (it has never been drawn, and would be ignored should it ever be) and the remaining 1,000 combinations are distributed between the 14 teams.

The 14 teams are ordered based on how many games they won in the regular season.

The team with the worst record takes the No. 1 slot, the second-worst team takes No. 2, and so on.

The lottery is weighted so that the worst teams have the best chance of landing the top pick, as they receive the most combinations.

The chances of each team landing the top pick are as follows:

  1. 14.0% chance (140 combinations)
  2. 14.0% chance (140 combinations)
  3. 14.0% chance (140 combinations)
  4. 12.5% chance (125 combinations)
  5. 10.5% chance (105 combinations)
  6. 9.0% chance (90 combinations)
  7. 7.5% chance (75 combinations)
  8. 6.0% chance (60 combinations)
  9. 4.5% chance (45 combinations)
  10. 3.0% chance (30 combinations)
  11. 2.0% chance (20 combinations)
  12. 1.5% chance (15 combinations)
  13. 1.0% chance (10 combinations)
  14. 0.5% chance (5 combinations)

If two teams have the same record at the end of the regular season, they receive the average number of combinations for the slot they occupy. For example, if the 10th and 11th teams have the same number of wins, they would receive 25 combinations each.

The balls are put into the machine and four are drawn out to determine which team gets the top pick. They are then placed back into the machine and the process is repeated for the second, third and fourth picks.

The teams that don’t receive a top-four pick are then awarded picks based on their regular season record, with the worst receiving the fifth pick, next-worst receiving the sixth and so on.

How have the lottery odds changed?

Prior to 2019, the worst team in the league received a 25 per cent chance of winning the top pick in the draft, which incentivised teams to lose in the regular season.

The NBA combatted this by changing to the current system, with flatter odds that make it more likely that better teams receive a high pick in the draft.

Can lottery picks be traded?

NBA teams can trade draft picks, giving another team the right to select a player in their slot.

When is the NBA lottery?

The lottery is typically held in the third or fourth week of May, just over a month after the regular season ends and the playoffs begin.

The draft takes place around a month later.

The 2023 NBA draft lottery takes place on 16 May.

Where is the NBA lottery held?

The lottery is held in a different American city ever year. The 2023 lottery is in Chicago.

What is a lottery pick?

A lottery pick is any of the top 14 picks in the NBA draft. It can also refer to any player taken with a top-14 pick.

For example, the No. 9 pick in the draft is a lottery pick. Jeremy Sochan – who the San Antonio Spurs selected with the ninth pick in 2022 – could also be referred to as a lottery pick.

Who won the NBA lottery 2022?

The Orlando Magic won the draft lottery in 2022. The Magic were one of the three teams with the highest chance of winning the lottery, along with the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Each team had a 14 per cent chance. 

They selected Duke power forward Paolo Banchero with the top pick.

Visit Betway’s NBA betting page.