As we noted on Monday when we passed along the full breakdown of the odds for each team in this year’s NBA draft lottery, the league has adjusted its format for 2019 and beyond, smoothing out the odds and making four picks – instead of three – available in the lottery.
While it’s simple enough to read the numbers in a chart and observe differences from previous years, it’s a little trickier to pin down exactly how those new odds may impact the results we see on lottery night in two weeks. So, to help create a clearer sense of what sort of results we should prepare for on Tuesday, May 14, we’re going to focus on four different scenarios today.
The four scenarios listed below are more likely than not to occur. That doesn’t mean that they’ll all happen, or that any of them will happen, for that matter. But the odds are at least slightly in favor of them happening, which wouldn’t necessarily have been the case in previous years.
Let’s dive in…
1. The No. 1 overall pick is more likely to go to a team in the 5-14 range (45.5%) than to the Knicks, Cavaliers, or Suns (42%).
Under the NBA’s old lottery format, the odds heavily favored the league’s very worst teams — the top three teams in the lottery standings combined for a 60.5% chance at the No. 1 overall pick, while the teams in the 5-14 range had a combined 27.6% chance at that top selection.
The new format has made tanking to the bottom of the NBA standings a less favorable proposition. The system essentially took 185 ping-pong ball combinations (out of 1,001) from those top three lottery teams and re-assigned them to rest of the clubs behind them in the lottery.
In other words, it’s not at all safe to assume that Zion Williamson will end up on one of the league’s very worst teams.
2. The Knicks are more likely to pick No. 5 overall (47.9%) than in the top three (40.1%).
No team benefits less from the league’s adjusted lottery format than the Knicks, who in past years would’ve had a 25% chance at the first overall pick, a 64.3% chance to be in the top three, and a 0% chance of falling below No. 4.
Now, the Knicks are significantly more likely to finish out of the top three altogether (59.9%), despite their league-worst 17-65 record. In a draft that’s considered fairly top-heavy, that could be trouble for New York — the team may end up deciding between the likes of Darius Garland, De’Andre Hunter, and Jarrett Culver rather than getting a shot at Williamson, Ja Morant, or R.J. Barrett.
3. The Bulls are more likely to pick No. 6 overall (25.7%) than in the top two (24.7%).
The Bulls‘ odds of securing a top-two pick as the No. 4 seed in the lottery are technically a tiny bit higher this year than they would’ve been in the old format. That’s the good news.
The bad news? Because four picks are decided by the lottery now instead of just three, Chicago is far more likely to move out of the top five altogether. In the old format, the Bulls’ odds of picking outside of the top five would have been 17.2%. Those odds are now at 44.7%.
4. The Grizzlies’ pick is more likely to be sent to the Celtics (42.6%) than to be No. 8 overall (31.2%).
When the Grizzlies finished second in a lottery tiebreaker conducted at the end of the regular season, it locked them into the No. 8 spot in the lottery standings, which didn’t look like great news for the franchise.
After all, Memphis’ 2019 first-round pick was traded to Boston with top-eight protection. If it stays in the top eight, the Grizzlies keep it, but they’d actually prefer to have it convey to the Celtics this season to avoid the risk of sending an even more favorable pick to the C’s in a future draft.
The good news for the Grizzlies is that the absolute worst-case scenario – the pick staying at No. 8 and remaining with Memphis – isn’t nearly as likely as it would’ve been in previous years. Because the smoothed-out odds make a lottery shakeup more likely, there’s a decent chance the pick slips to No. 9 or lower (42.6%) or that it jumps into the top four (26.2%). Either of those outcomes would be just fine with the Grizzlies.
In previous years, the odds of the Memphis pick jumping into the top three (or four) would’ve been just 10%. The odds of it remaining at No. 8 would’ve been upwards of 70%.
Information from Tankathon.com was used in the creation of this post.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.