The NBA's current 1000-combination lottery system has been used for each draft since 1994. The format wasn't identical every year — the number of possible outcomes assigned to each team used to be slightly different, and from 1996 to 1998, the expansion Raptors and Grizzlies were ineligible to win the first overall pick, altering the lottery process. But essentially, the NBA draft lottery is in its 19th season in its current form.
With 2012's lottery scheduled for tonight in New York, let's take a look back to see how the first overall pick has been won in past seasons. Listed below are the winning teams, their place in the lottery standings, their odds at the first overall pick, and the players they selected….
1994: Milwaukee Bucks (T-2nd), 16.3% – Glenn Robinson
1995: Golden State Warriors (5th), 9.4% – Joe Smith
1996: Philadelphia 76ers (1st), 33.73% – Allen Iverson
1997: San Antonio Spurs (2nd), 21.6% – Tim Duncan
1998: Los Angeles Clippers (2nd), 22.56% – Michael Olowokandi
1999: Chicago Bulls (3rd), 15.7% – Elton Brand
2000: New Jersey Nets (7th), 4.4% – Kenyon Martin
2001: Washington Wizards (3rd), 15.7% – Kwame Brown
2002: Houston Rockets (5th), 8.9% – Yao Ming
2003: Cleveland Cavaliers (T-1st), 22.5% – LeBron James
2004: Orlando Magic (1st), 25% – Dwight Howard
2005: Milwaukee Bucks (6th), 6.3% – Andrew Bogut
2006: Toronto Raptors (5th), 8.8% – Andrea Bargnani
2007: Portland Trail Blazers (T-6th), 5.3% – Greg Oden
2008: Chicago Bulls (9th), 1.7% – Derrick Rose
2009: Los Angeles Clippers (T-2nd), 17.7% – Blake Griffin
2010: Washington Wizards (T-4th), 10.3% – John Wall
2011: Cleveland Cavaliers (8th), 2.8% – Kyrie Irving
What do these results tell us about this year's lottery? Not necessarily a whole lot, except that if you're the Bobcats, you can't be overly confident about your chances, even with 250 of the possible 1000 outcomes. Since 1994, the team with the best odds at the first overall pick has landed it just three times.