How Does the NBA Draft Works

The NBA Draft Lottery plays a crucial role in shaping the future of NBA teams but do you know How does the NBA draft Works? The higher a team’s position in the lottery, the better their chances of securing top-tier talent to enhance their roster.

Fourteen numbered ping-pong balls are mixed in a Smart Play Company lottery machine, and four balls are drawn to determine the top four draft picks.

If a team’s ball comes up more than once, the result is discarded and a new combination is selected.

In this article, we provide you with a comprehensive guide to the NBA Draft Lottery, including its history, format, and how it works. Let’s dive in!

What is the NBA Draft Lottery?

The NBA draft lottery is an annual event that determines the draft order for the teams that missed the playoffs the previous year.

The lottery started in 1985 and gives non-playoff teams a chance to get higher draft picks.

The lottery winner would get the first selection in the draft.

How Does the Lottery Work?

Only the top four picks are decided by the lottery and are chosen from the 14 teams that do not make the playoffs.

The team with the worst record has the best chance of obtaining the first pick.

After the top four positions are selected, the remainder of the first-round draft order is in inverse order of the win–loss record for the remaining teams.

The lottery does not determine the draft order in the subsequent rounds of the draft.

History of the NBA Draft Lottery

Earlier drafts followed the reverse order of win-loss record, but a special territorial pick rule allowed a team to draft a player from its local area.

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From 1947-1965, teams were drafted in reverse order of their win-loss record.

From 1966-1984, a coin flip was used to determine the first overall draft pick. In 1966, the NBA introduced a coin flip between the worst teams in each conference to determine who would obtain the first overall draft pick.

In 1985, the NBA introduced the lottery system to counter accusations of teams deliberately losing games to secure the worst record. That year, the Rockets and several other teams were deliberately losing their regular season games.

Starting from 1987, only the first three picks were determined by the lottery.

In 1990, the weighted lottery system was introduced to give the team with the worst record the best chance of landing the first pick.

Since 2019, the NBA implemented a new lottery system giving the worst three teams equal odds at the first overall pick and expanding the lottery to the top four picks.

How is the Lottery Process Executed?

The lottery is normally held during either the third or fourth week of May.

The pool of lottery contestants consists of the 14 teams that do not make the playoffs.

The winners of the top four picks are determined by a process that involves 14 ping-pong balls numbered.

the lottery process executed

Controversies Surrounding the Lottery

In 1985, the New York Knicks were the first winner of the lottery and speculation arose that the NBA had rigged the lottery so that the Knicks would be assured to get the first pick.

In 2014, the NBA Board of Governors voted on a proposed reform to the lottery to disincentivize having the worst record in the league.

In 2016, Dikembe Mutombo tweeted a congratulatory message to the Philadelphia 76ers for receiving the first pick hours before the lottery was conducted.

In 2017, Lakers executive Magic Johnson assured head coach Luke Walton that the Lakers would acquire a top 3 pick for the 2017 NBA draft.

Changes were made to the lottery system in 2019 to disincentivize high-loss seasons by flattening the odds of getting the top pick.

Expansion Franchises and the Lottery

In 1995, the Toronto Raptors and the Vancouver Grizzlies were not eligible to obtain the first overall pick in the 1996, 1997, and 1998 drafts.

The Raptors won the 1996 lottery but were forced to settle for the second pick.

The Grizzlies won the lottery in 1998 and had to pick second in the draft.

The Raptors did not pick first until 2006.

The Grizzlies have yet to hold the first selection.

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When is the Lottery Held?

  • The lottery is normally held during either the third or fourth week of May.
  • In 2020, it was held on August 20 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The date of the lottery varies each year, so mark your calendars to stay updated on future events.

NBA Lottery Process

14 balls are placed in a lottery machine and 4 are randomly selected after remixing. The order of the balls is immaterial.

1,001 possible combinations with 1 invalid combination. 1,000 combinations are distributed to the contestants according to their assigned odds.

Contestants assigned combinations according to the seed’s odds.

Teams cannot win multiple picks except through trades.

Chances of Winning

Each seed has a specific percentage chance of winning the first pick.

Ties are broken by taking the average of the total number of combinations each team occupies.

14% chance for the top 3 seeds, decreasing for lower seeds.

Teams with the same record receive the average of total combinations and a coin flip to determine the extra combination.

Lottery Ceremony

The drawing of the ping-pong balls is conducted in private and observed by independent auditors and representatives from each team.

The results are presented in a televised unveiling in reverse order.

Not showing the ping-pong balls live has led to conspiracy theories.

Speculation of the draft being fixed persists

Lottery Winners

The largest upset in the lottery occurred in 1993 when the Magic won with a 1.5% chance.

Since the lottery was introduced in 1985, only 21 of 30 NBA teams have won the lottery.

The Los Angeles Clippers have won the most lotteries with 5, followed by the Magic with 4.

Only 7 teams with the worst record have won the lottery since the weighted system was introduced in 1990.

The NBA Season During COVID-19

The NBA season was suspended in March 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic

Later, the season restarted in July with teams that were not invited to the NBA Bubble, playing between 63 and 67 games until the suspension.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the 2019-20 NBA season was shortened to 72 games.

The NBA Draft Lottery Has Undergone Changes Over the Years

The NBA draft lottery has undergone changes over the years to prevent teams from tanking.

In 2017, the NBA Board of Governors approved changes to the draft lottery system.

The NBA Board of Governors implemented changes to the lottery system, starting with the 2019 NBA Draft, to level the odds at the top of the lottery.

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Under the revised format, the three teams with the worst regular-season records each have a 14 percent chance of winning the lottery.

Prior to this change, the team with the worst record had a 25 percent chance of securing the top pick.

This modification aimed to enhance fairness and competitiveness in the lottery process.

Conspiracy Theories Surround the NBA Draft Lottery

Conspiracy theories have surrounded the NBA draft lottery for years.

In 2016, Dikembe Mutombo suggested that the draft lottery was rigged.

The NBA has denied these claims.

The draft lottery has been reformed multiple times in an effort to increase fairness.

The NBA Draft Lottery is an Important Event in the NBA Calendar

The lottery determines the order of the top picks in the upcoming NBA draft.

The team with the worst record has the highest chance of securing the top pick.


How is the NBA lottery selected?

A four-number combination is made using individual ping pong balls to choose the top pick. The first overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draught is then given to the team that best fits the selected combination. The second through fourth picks are then decided using the same procedure as before.

What is the purpose of the NBA lottery?

The NBA Draught Lottery is a procedure to choose the non-playoff clubs’ draught positions in the forthcoming NBA Draught.

How do NBA teams pick players?

The drawing process occurs in the following manner: All 14 balls are placed in the lottery machine and they are mixed for 20 seconds, and then the first ball is removed. The remaining balls are mixed in the lottery machine for another 10 seconds, and then the second ball is drawn.

What do NBA players get for winning?

Each member of the winning team has received $100,000 since 2018, while the losers have received $25,000 each.

What do you get if you win the NBA?

The prize money for winners is not predetermined by the NBA. There is no prize for the winners but there is a player playoff pool.

What do you win when you win the NBA?

The NBA championship-winning team does not get any cash prizes.

How are NBA division winners decided?

Following are the criteria utilized as a tiebreaker: Better record in games between tied teams; head-to-head record. Division record; superior record when playing opponents from its own division (but only if the clubs are in the same division). Record in games played against other teams in the same conference; better record overall.

How many rounds are in the NBA draft?

Two rounds.

How many NBA teams?


Golam Muktadir is a passionate sports fan and a dedicated movie buff. He has been writing about both topics for over a decade and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with his readers. Muktadir has a degree in journalism and has written for several well-known publications, including Surprise Sports.


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