The ping pong balls will bounce three months later than usual when the NBA Draft Lottery takes place on August 20th. This year’s gathering of rebuilding teams will not be held in person. Instead, representatives from the fourteen teams will convene virtually.
This is the second year of the NBA’s shifted lottery odds. Prior to last year, the team with the worst record possessed a 25% chance of obtaining the first pick. The second-worst team followed with a 19.9% chance and the third-worst team came in with a 13.8% chance. Now, the teams with the three-worst records have an equal fourteen percent chance of winning the lottery. For the team with the worst record, not only have the odds worsened for getting the top pick, the odds of falling to the fifth pick are just shy of 48%. Under the previous model, the worst team could slip as far as fourth and that had less than a 36% chance of happening. Essentially, the team with the worst record is in worse shape heading into this new lottery than with the previous model.
Using last year as an indicator, this new lottery format conjures unpredictability. Heading into the 2019 lottery, the three worst teams in order were the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns. The Knicks fell to third while the Cavaliers and the Suns plummeted to fifth and sixth respectively. The Pelicans started the lottery with the seventh-worst record and ascended to the top pick. The Grizzlies had the eighth-worst record and climbed to second. The Lakers had just a 2.8% chance of attaining the fourth overall pick but managed to anyways.
There is no Zion Williamson-like prize awaiting the team that draws the first overall pick this season. There is no clear, slam-dunk option either. The team with the worst record has left the lottery with the top pick just four times in the last ten years. Keep in mind, the worst team had a 25% chance of winning the lottery for the first nine of those 10 years.
This season, Cleveland finished with the worst record in the East and second-worst record in the NBA with nineteen wins. As a result, the Cavaliers are one of the three teams with a fourteen percent chance of getting the first pick. That also means that Cleveland can fall as far as sixth. They have a twenty percent chance of doing so. The Wine and Gold have a 27.8% chance of to picking fifth for the second straight year.
If Cleveland wins the 2020 Draft Lottery, it will be the fourth time since 2011.
Photo via NBA.com