How does the NBA Draft Lottery work?

2022 NBA Draft
2022 NBA Draft / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The San Antonio Spurs are heading to the NBA Draft Lottery for a fourth consecutive year after finishing the season with their worst record since before the turn of the 21st century. While all their losing earned them the best odds at landing the first overall pick, the league uses a complicated procedure comprised of contraptions and ping-pong balls to decide who falls where in the pecking order, and we could all use a little refresher on how this whole operation works.

How does the NBA Draft Lottery work?

The Draft Lottery is on May 16 at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, where league officials, representatives from the 14 teams that missed the playoffs, spokespeople for accounting firm Ernst & Young, and select media members will fork over their electronic devices and gather in a secluded room for the randomized drawing.

A league official will put 14 ping pong balls (numbered 1-14) into a lottery machine and conduct four separate drawings. The participating team will each receive their share of the 1000 possible combinations based on their record, with the Spurs, Pistons, and Rockets holding equal odds (14%) of securing the first pick since they finished bottom three in the NBA.

For the first pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the lottery machine will scramble the ping pong balls for 20 seconds before a league official draws the first ball. The machine mixes the remaining 13 balls for ten seconds before the second drawing. This process happens two more times, and the franchise with that four-number combination wins the Wembanyama sweepstakes.

The designated league official will place all the ping pong balls back into the lottery machine and repeat that procedure for the second, third, and fourth picks. After deciding the top-four selections, the remaining lottery picks (5-14) fall to the rest of the non-playoff organizations in the inverse order of their regular-season records.

Okay, that was a lot to keep track of, so here is how the odds for the first overall pick look after the NBA settled all the lottery tiebreakers:

NBA Draft Lottery Odds for No.1 Pick

  • Detroit Pistons (14%)
  • Houston Rockets (14%)
  • San Antonio Spurs (14%)
  • Charlotte Hornets (12.5%)
  • Portland Trail Blazers (10.5%)
  • Orlando Magic (9%)
  • Indiana Pacers (6.8%)
  • Washington Wizards (6.7%)
  • Utah Jazz (4.5%)
  • Dallas Mavericks (3%)
  • Chicago Bulls (1.8%)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (1.7%)
  • Toronto Raptors (1%)
  • New Orleans Pelicans (0.5%)

All those events transpire hours before Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum steps in front of a camera to announce the results to an ecstatic nationally televised audience. Spurs fans who want to watch all the drama unfold live can tune into ESPN at 7:30 PM CT.

While waiting to find out which pick San Antonio earns in the 2023 NBA Draft will be a nail-biting affair, the Silver and Black faithful can take at least some solace in the fact they can't slide any further than the seventh pick in a talented class that is top-heavy with star-caliber prospects.

Next. 5 Worst free agent signings in San Antonio Spurs history. dark