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The NBA draft lottery will be held in Chicago on Tuesday night, and if you’re wondering how the lottery works, well, you’re in the right place.
A few weeks ago my dad called me and asked if the NBA still used pingpong balls to decide the draft order, and my answer was, “Yes! Though maybe not in the way that you’re thinking.”
The 14 teams that did not make the playoffs are entered into the draft lottery. On the night of the draft, 14 pingpong balls numbered one through 14 are placed in a lottery machine. There are 1,001 possible number combinations when four balls are drawn. Prior to the lottery, 1,000 of the 1,001 combinations are assigned to the 14 lottery teams.
The number of combinations assigned to each team are determined by reverse order of regular-season record. The three teams with the worst records are given 140 number combinations and then the combinations decrease along the way from the team with the fourth worst record to the 14th.
The number of combinations assigned to each team in this year’s draft lottery are as follows: Detroit (140), Houston (140), San Antonio (140), Charlotte (125), Portland (105), Orlando (90), Indiana (75), Washington (60), Utah (45), Dallas (30), Chicago (20), Oklahoma City (15), Toronto (10), New Orleans (5).
The team that was assigned the number combination that matches the first four balls drawn gets the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. The team that was assigned the number combination that matches the next four balls drawn gets the No. 2 pick and this continues through the No. 3 and No. 4 pick.
The remaining lottery teams that did not get a top-four pick continue to pick in inverse order of their regular-season record.
During the drawing, if a team’s number combination is drawn a second time after already being awarded a lottery pick, those balls are reset to draw for a different team. If the 1,001st combination, which was not assigned to a team, is drawn, the balls are reset for another draw.
This whole process takes about 10 minutes and is done in a separate and private room just before the NBA broadcasts the results of the lottery. Inside the lottery drawing room the NBA allows a small number of media members and representatives from each team along with NBA staff and security.
After the top four draft picks are decided by the lottery, the results are put into envelopes and delivered to the ESPN studio where the results will be announced during a live broadcast. Video of the actual lottery itself is later shared by the NBA digitally, but the broadcast on ESPN is not the actual lottery process, only a reveal of the results of the lottery.
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How to pass the time in the offseason
The NBA playoffs have been incredible this year and I’ve been watching each and every day.
One of my favorite parts about the playoffs is seeing the unsung players have breakout moments and get to bask in the spotlight for a moment, and there’s been a ton of that in these playoffs.
From Austin Reaves and Lonnie Walker IV with the Los Angeles Lakers to Bruce Brown Jr. on the Denver Nuggets, there’s been so much to love about the role players that are making deep playoff runs.
But the stars are also providing a lot of interesting narratives. From LeBron James and Stephen Curry to MVP Joel Embiid and former two-time MVP Nikola Jokic and of course, Miami’s leading man, Jimmy Butler, there’s no shortage of star power leading the way.
The playoffs really are a different beast and it’s a joy to watch basketball at this time of year.
This week on ‘Unsalvageable’
Check out “Unsalvageable,” hosted by Deseret News Utah Jazz beat reporter Sarah Todd and lifelong Jazz fan Greg Foster (no, not that Greg Foster).
This week the crew recaps the latest NBA happenings and then predicts just about everything wrong as they look forward to the rest of the playoffs.
New episodes come out every week. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher and anywhere else you stream podcasts.
Stat of the week
Utah Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen did not get an All-NBA selection this year, but among forwards who received votes but did not make an All-NBA team, Markkanen was the highest points getter, with 49 points (31 third-team votes, six second-team votes). He had the second-highest point total of all players who received votes but did not make a team, behind only Anthony Davis (65 points).
From the archives
- Will Dwyane Wade run for Florida senate? (Deseret News)
- Grading the Jazz: Jordan Clarkson showed a new side of his game (Deseret News)
- Grading the Jazz: Collin Sexton showed improvement despite limitations (Deseret News)
- Vivint Arena signage comes down ahead of upcoming name change (KSL.com)
Around the league
The Denver Nuggets beat the Phoenix Suns to advance to the conference finals.
Jayson Tatum’s fourth quarter boosts Celtics, forces a Game 7 against Sixers.
ESPN analyst and former player Mark Jackson apologizes for leaving Jokic off MVP ballot.
May 16 | 6:30 p.m. | NBA draft lottery | ESPN
Full NBA playoffs schedule here.