The 2017 NBA draft lottery takes place in New York City on Tuesday, cementing the order of selections for the first round of the June 22 NBA draft. (Until the NBA’s general managers get to wheeling and dealing with draft-night trades that completely change the face of the proceedings, anyway.) Here’s what you need to know to be fully prepared for this year’s edition of the NBA’s annual ping-pong-a-palooza:
1. When is the 2017 NBA draft lottery?
The 2017 NBA draft lottery takes place on Tuesday, May 16, 2017, at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City. The results will air on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. ET before Game 2 of the Western Conference finals series between the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs. It’ll also be available on the WatchESPN app.
Again: Before the game, not at halftime.
The actual drawing of the ping-pong balls, though, happens earlier. We’ll explain that in a bit.
2. Which team has the best chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick?
The NBA employs a weighted lottery system, meaning the team with the worst record has the best odds of receiving the top pick. This year, that was the Brooklyn Nets, who finished a league-worst 20-62. EXCEPT!
The Boston Celtics, who went 53-29 this season and finished with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, own the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets as a result of the
The Nets have cratered as the Celtics have climbed over the past few years, putting Boston in the enviable position of having the chance to add a game-breaking young talent to the core of a
The Celtics have a 25 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick. Here’s a full breakdown of the odds of picking in the top three for all 14 non-playoff teams:
3. How have past trades and pick swaps affected this year’s lottery?
For starters, there’s that 2013 swap that gives Boston the best odds of landing the top overall pick and drops the Nets down to the No. 27 spot in the first round. (The Celtics aren’t done reaping the rewards of the KG/Pierce trade, either; they’ll get Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick next year, too. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving.)
The next biggest lottery-shakeup storyline involves the Celtics’ longtime rivals on the left coast, the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. enters Tuesday’s drawing with the third-best odds of earning the No. 1 overall pick, and a 46.9 percent chance of landing a top-three pick.
That means they’ve got a 53.1 percent of falling outside the top three, though. That would be very, very bad news for the Lakers.
If the Lakers’ pick doesn’t land in the top three, though, it goes to the Philadelphia 76ers, thanks to a pair of past trades — the
On top of that, if the Lakers send their first-round pick to the Sixers this year, they’ll also have to ship their 2019 first-rounder to the Orlando Magic, to satisfy the terms of the
The Lakers have dodged protected-pick bullets in each of the last two years, hanging onto the selections that allowed them to pick D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram rather than having to convey their pick to the Sixers. Will the odds favor them yet again?
Other trade-related info to know:
• If the Sacramento Kings’ first-round pick lands in the top 10 and ahead of the 76ers’ own choice, the Sixers have the right to swap picks and take the higher selection, thanks to the
• If the Kings’ pick lands at No. 11, though, it goes to the Chicago Bulls, thanks to a complicated multi-year sequence of events that
• If the Pelicans’ pick lands outside the top three, it will go to the Kings to satisfy the terms of the DeMarcus Cousins-Buddy Hield trade consummated
• Add up the previous three possibilities, and there’s a very small but very grim prospect that Sacramento fans will have to sweat out. If three teams leapfrog the Kings, bumping them down from the No. 8 spot outside the top 10 … and if one of those teams is the Pelicans, and if New Orleans can jump all the way up into the top three … then the Kings would wind up with no first-round draft picks, despite entering Tuesday night in line to make two top-10 selections.
Again: a super-small chance, about 1-in-21,191,
Past trades impact the draft order outside the lottery, too:
• The Portland Trail Blazers will get the Memphis Grizzlies’ selection (20th overall) thanks to three deals: a
• The Nets will pick 22nd overall thanks to the Washington Wizards, who sent their 2017 first-rounder to Brooklyn in exchange for scoring swingman Bojan Bogdanovic.
• The Toronto Raptors will take the No. 23 pick, which originally belonged to the Los Angeles Clippers, but got
• The Magic will take the Raptors’ 25th pick, which Toronto sent Orlando for big man Serge Ibaka back in February.
• The Blazers will take the Cavs’ 26th pick, which they got from Cleveland in January. Portland gave back the Cavs’ 2018 first-rounder — which they’d received last year as payment for taking Anderson Varejao’s contract off Cleveland’s hands — to help facilitate the Cavs’ trade to import Kyle Korver. (You’re not allowed to trade away your first-round draft pick in consecutive years, so Cleveland needed to have its 2018 pick back to be able to give the Atlanta Hawks a 2019 first-rounder.)
• The Lakers will take the Houston Rockets’ No. 28 overall pick, which Daryl Morey packaged with Corey Brewer and sent to Magic Johnson in exchange for Lou Williams.
• The Utah Jazz will take the Golden State Warriors’ No. 30 pick, completing the terms of the 2013 deal that allowed the Dubs to clear up the cap space to sign Andre Iguodala. That worked out pretty OK for Golden State.
4. Who’s in the running for the No. 1 spot?
The top prospect on just about everyone’s board appears to be Markelle Fultz, who earned First-Team All-Pac-12 and Third-Team All-America placement in his lone season at Washington, despite the Huskies going a
The 19-year-old averaged 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks in 35.7 minutes per game. He can create shots for himself and others out of the pick-and-roll, get to the rim and pull up confidently from 3, and work off the ball as a catch-and-shoot option alongside another ball-handler. He’s 6-foot-4 with a near-6-foot-10 wingspan and the tools to become a quality defender at either backcourt position. Athletic playmakers with size who can handle, shoot and pass are rare and valuable, and Fultz has the potential to be a difference-maker right away.
Some other notable prospects who will likely hear their names called early on draft night:
• Lonzo Ball: The 6-foot-6 UCLA point guard lacks Fultz’s sheer athleticism and burst to the rim, but made his bones in Westwood with preternatural court vision and playmaking gifts. In his lone year on campus, Ball helped lift the Bruins to a 31-5 record, UCLA’s most successful season in nine years, thanks in part to all-around contributions — 14.6 points, 7.6 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 1.8 steals in 35.1 minutes per game — that merited unanimous First-Team All-American honors.
He believes he’s a
• Josh Jackson: There’s a lot to like about a 6-foot-8 swingman who stuffs the stat sheet like Jackson did during his lone year at Kansas, averaging 16.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.7 steals in 31.8 minutes per game on his way to the Big 12’s Freshman of the Year award. The 20-year-old Jackson showcased tantalizing upside as a slasher and supplementary playmaker on offense, as well as rare gifts as both an on-ball and team defender that would seem to make him a perfect fit for an NBA in which you can never have too many versatile, athletic perimeter stoppers.
Prospective suitors will have to do their due diligence, however, on allegations that Jackson
• Jayson Tatum: The smooth-scoring Duke forward bounced back from a
• De’Aaron Fox: The tough, fast, defensive-minded Kentucky point guard opened eyes when he
• Jonathan Isaac: The ACC All-Freshman selection only averaged 26.2 minutes per game on a deep Florida State team, but he showed flashes of a remarkable collection of skills in that floor time. The 6-foot-11 combo forward averaged 12 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 1.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game, and shot just under 35 percent from 3-point range on nearly three attempts per game as a freshman. He’s still reedy at 205 pounds, and he’s far from a finished product, but his combination of size, touch, feel for the game and capacity to stall pick-and-rolls and defend on the perimeter could make him an excellent
Other names to remember: Dennis Smith Jr., the explosive point guard out of N.C. State; Lauri Markkanen, a Finnish 7-foot shooter out of Arizona; Frank Ntilikina, a long-limbed, 6-foot-5-inch, 18-year-old point guard who led France’s under-18 national team to a title at the FIBA U18 European Championships in December.
5. So, what does the lottery actually do?
The 14 teams in the running for picks 1 through 14 all get called “lottery teams,” but the lottery only really locks in the top three picks. Picks No. 4 through 14 are determined by inverse order of the teams’ regular-season records; teams with worse records get higher picks.
As detailed earlier, all 14 teams have at least some chance of moving up into the top three. If one of the lower-likelihood teams rises up, one of the three-worst-record teams gets bumped out to No. 4. (The Celtics, owners of the highest odds of landing the No. 1 pick, can’t fall lower than No. 4, and the Suns can’t drop below No. 5.)
This happens pretty often. In fact, there had been some type of leap in every lottery since 1996 … before last year’s drawing, which saw every selection stay exactly where the odds projected it to be for the first time in the event’s history.
The actual lottery drawing to determine those top three spots takes place before the TV broadcast, with select media members, NBA officials and representatives of the participating teams and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young attending the drawing.
Each team in the running for the top pick gets assigned a collection of four-number sequences. Each number in the sequence corresponds to a number on a ping-pong ball, labeled 1 through 14. The ping-pong balls all go into an air-powered machine — think of the
There are 1,001 possible four-ball combinations, assigned to each team in order of their lottery odds. For example, the Celtics, via the league-worst Nets, have the best lottery odds at 25 percent, so they get the first 250 combinations. The Heat, who finished with the best record among non-playoff teams at 41-41, will get only five combinations.
Whichever team was assigned the four-number combination that pops out first gets the top pick. The order in which the four balls come out doesn’t change the result; 1-2-3-4 is the same as 4-3-2-1. The balls then go back into the machine to repeat the process to determine which team gets the second pick. After the four balls are drawn and No. 2’s figured out, we start over again for the third pick.
I’m not sure I believe that watching a 13-minute video of ping-pong balls being sucked up through a tube will allay the fears and anger of conspiracy theorists convinced that the NBA rigs the draft every year. Just in case it might, though: here’s what the 2016 drawing looked like.
Lots of people have suggested
That means that — for now, at least — the ping-pong balls and “Grab That Dough” machine are here to stay. It’s a good thing you know all about it, then.
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