Welcome to Part Two of a five-part look at the 2008 NBA Draft from the perspective of the Charlotte Bobcats. Part One was a basic look at the Bobcats’ needs as they stand currently. In Part Two we take a detailed look at the draft lottery process which determines where the team will pick. Part Three will be an examination of the Bobcats’ options if they should luck out in the lottery and move up into one of the top three picks, while Part Four will be a look at the team’s possible choices if they stay in their spot with the eighth pick. At the end of this odyssey, Part Five will consider the Bobcats’ second round pick.
The draft lottery can be a confusing beast. The 2008 lottery is right around the corner — Tuesday, May 20 — and as usual, there are some impact players at the top of the draft. So here’s a primer.
The draft lottery has gone through several machinations through the years, as this helpful page on NBA.com details. Since 1987, the “lottery” has only been used to determine the top three picks — picks four through whatever are simply determined by dropping the remaining teams in reverse order of their records (such that the team with the worst record is assured of picking no lower than fourth). Since 1990, the NBA has used what it calls a “weighted lottery” system, whereby the teams with the poorer records have higher chances of obtaining a high pick. Beginning in 1994, the NBA has weighted the lottery even more heavily in favor of the worst teams.
That’s the Cliffs Notes version. Here’s the nitty gritty. There are fourteen lottery balls (labeled 1-14… duh). To determine the winner, four balls will be pulled from the hopper at 10 second intervals. Like any lottery, the order the balls are picked is not important, just the combination (in other words, 4-3-2-1 is the same as 1-2-3-4). Thus, there are a total of 1001 combinations that can result. One combination (11-12-13-14) is ignored and not assigned, giving us 1000 combinations.
The 1000 combinations are randomly assigned to the teams in weighted fashion — the current weighting calls for the worst team to receive 250 combinations, thus giving them a 25% chance of winning the first pick. Moving down the list, the 2nd worst team is assigned 199 combinations (19.9%); the 3rd worst team 156 combinations (15.6%) and so on to the 14th worst team, which only gets 5 combinations (0.5%). This is easier to understand via graph.
Teams with the same record split the difference between the two spots. For instance, the Timberwolves and Grizzlies tied for third worst record this year. Third worst would mean 156 combinations, while fourth worst would mean 119 combinations. The average of 156 and 119 is 137.5 – these “half” chances are combined and the extra combination is given to the winner of a coin flip. Thus, the T-Wolves will have 138 combinations this year; the Grizz 137. Same thing happened right behind them with the Knicks and Clippers tying for the fifth worst record — the Knicks won the tiebreaker there and will have 76 chances to the Clips 75.
Here are the lottery teams this year, from worst to fourteenth, followed by the number of lottery combinations awarded and corresponding chance of winning the #1 pick:
1. Miami Heat — 250 (25%)
2. Seattle Supersonics — 199 (19.9%)
3. Minnesota Timberwolves — 138 (13.8%)
4. Memphis Grizzlies — 137 (13.7%)
5. New York Knicks — 76 (7.6%)
6. Los Angeles Clippers — 75 (7.5%)
7. Milwaukee Bucks — 43 (4.3%)
8. Charlotte Bobcats — 28 (2.8%)
9. Chicago Bulls — 17 (1.7%)
10. New Jersey Nets — 11 (1.1%)
11. Indiana Pacers — 8 (.8%)
12. Sacramento Kings — (.7%)
13. Portland Trailblazers — 6 (.6%)
14. Golden State Warriors — 5 (.5%)
So the Bobcats, with the eighth-worst record in the league this year, will have 28 out of 1000 combinations in the lottery. And here’s the nitty gritty. There is a 2.8% chance we will win the lottery and get the #1 pick; a 3.3% chance at the #2 pick; and a 3.9% chance at the #3 pick. In total, that gives us a 10% chance at moving up in the lottery.
The most likely scenario is that the top three spots will be taken by teams with better chances, leaving the Bobcats with the #8 pick — the chance of that is 72.5%.
Unfortunately, there is a 16.8% chance that one of the teams behind us could move up into the top three, which would bump us back into the #9 spot. There is a slight (0.8%) chance that two teams behind us could move up, bumping us back into the #10 spot. For completeness, it has to be noted that there is an exceedingly small chance that the first three picks could all be won by teams behind us, which would push us all the way back to pick #11.
So now we wait until the evening of May 20th, when the results of the lottery will be revealed in the usual gleefully cheesy ceremony during halftime of a playoff game. Get your lucky charms ready!
In the meantime, check out ESPN’s Lottery + Mock Draft Simulator — Chad Ford, you’re my hero! (Except for that awful intro rap).