The NBA lottery is tonight. The Pelicans finished the season with a 34-48 record, good for 10th worst in the NBA. As such, they have very small odds of winning one of the top three selections in the NBA Draft. If New Orleans does not select in the top three their pick will be conveyed to Philadelphia, a result of the Jrue Holiday trade last year at the draft. It is important to understand exactly how the lottery works.
There are 1,001 possible lottery combinations, 1,000 of which are assigned. Each team is assigned a specific number of combinations, determined by both their standing (being the worst team of all-time and being the worst team this year are equal, for instance) and the NBA rules on the lottery. For our purposes I will focus on the odds given to New Orleans. The Pelicans will have 11 possible combinations, making their chance of winning the lottery 1.1%. Below are their chances for all possible selections in the draft, pulled from the Milwaukee Bucks NBA.com site.
The lottery is only held for the first three picks. After that all teams not selected are ordered by their record. It is for this reason that the Pelican draft pick cannot fall 4th through 9th or 14th. As with other years I suspect the lottery will be announced in reverse order, beginning with the 14th selection. For this reason it is important to know that order.
Adam Silver will open envelopes and announce teams. Let me jog your memory how this unfolds.
Look at that smile on Monty's face at 2:26. Do you remember where you were? I was screaming and running around my house like a crazy person. Watching that video even now gives me chills.
The drama will be taken care of much more quickly this year. The 10th pick in 2012 was unveiled just 0:47 into the lottery special (they cut out a commercial break between picks 4 to 14 and announcing the top three if my memory serves). In an ideal world we will hear Phoenix, Minnesota, New York, and Denver in order. Then, the big surprise would be that the Cleveland Cavaliers are selecting 10th. This would ensure the Pelicans would keep their selection (the draft pick traded to Philadelphia is top 5 protected). Drama would then shift to where in the top three New Orleans will pick.
Alternatively, the 76ers (if announcing picks traded, a la the Minnesota pick announcement in 2012) could be announced at 13th (incredibly unlikely), 12th (quite unlikely), 11th (pretty likely), or 10th (the most likely scenario). If that occurs the debt is paid, and New Orleans moves on. What Philadelphia does what that pick is of no consequence to Pelican fans.
History of the Lottery
The last time a team in 10th or worse moved up into the top three of the lottery was 1999, when the Charlotte Hornets finished 13th (the best lottery team at the time, as there were only 29 teams in the league) yet jumped up to 3rd. That team had just a 0.50% chance of winning the lottery. Other significant leaps include the Clippers moving from 8th to 1st in 2011, the Bulls moving from 9th to 1st in 2008, the Clippers moving from 8th to 2nd in 2001, and the Magic jumping from 11th to 1st in 1993.
In total the Charlotte Hornets/New Orleans Hornets/New Orleans Pelicans have moved up in the NBA lottery four times (2012, 1999, 1992, 1991) and have moved back four times (2013, 2005, 1990, 1989).
As I have mentioned before, even if the lottery does not break the Pelicans' way, they could still benefit. Of particular interest will continue to be where Detroit and Milwaukee fall in the lottery. Detroit is currently slotted for the 8th pick. If they are jumped (hopefully by the Pelicans!) and slide to 9th the pick goes to the Charlotte Hornets (yeah, it'll take some getting used to). If the Pistons move up who they end up drafting may have some effect on if Greg Monroe sticks around.
In Milwaukee's case, they are guaranteed to select in the top four of the draft. If they fall, and how far, could effect who is available (specifically, not Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker). Should the Bucks selected third or fourth (the most likely options) Joel Embiid is going to be tantalizing (pending medical history). Like the rest of the top prospects Embiid did not attend the NBA Draft Combine at all, so there are not solid numbers on his dimensions. According to Draft Express Embiid possesses a 7'5" wingspan. Milwaukee could select Dante Exum or Marcus Smart instead. I personally do not see them selecting Julius Randle, but they may believe John Henson can play center in the NBA, or simply want to select who they believe to be the best player available.
Open Thread Time
Let's hear your predictions, hopes, dreams, and reactions below. Can lottery luck strike New Orleans twice?