Oct 27, 2010; Newark, NJ, USA; NBA commissioner David Stern speaks during a league announcement that 2011 NBA Draft will be held at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

2012 NBA Draft: Predicting the Lottery


The NBA Draft Lottery is tonight and if there is one thing everyone loves it’s mock drafts. Now although we can’t really mock anything without a set order, we can do one thing: mock the order of the order we will eventually end up mocking.

Bradley Beal is one of many NCAA players watching the NBA Draft Lottery to see how things will stack up and where they could potentially be playing pro ball.

Got it?

The NBA Draft is unique from all other American sports in that it’s draft is randomized — to an extent. In the NFL and NHL the worst teams pick first and so on down the list. But in the NBA, as to avoid an Indianapolis Colts situation, the worst team isn’t promised the first pick.

Rather they have to win the lottery.

But because it’s literally like every single state lottery drawing the worst team may end up with any number of selections. Last year the Minnesota Timberwolves finished with the highest chance to win the lottery and they ended up drawing the second overall pick. We’ve seen teams get insanely lucky before (we’re looking right at the Bulls and Wizards and their No. 1 draws).

If one thing is certain it’s that the randomness of the lottery actually makes it exciting. Hate David Stern and his stupid lottery system all you want, but he has literally made NBA nerds all over the world geek out over ping pong balls inside a steel cage.

As far as this year’s lottery chances go here’s how they stack up:

TEAM

RECORD

LOTTERY CHANCES

 Charlotte Bobcats

7-59

25.0%

 Washington Wizards

20-46

19.9%

Cleveland Cavaliers

21-45

13.8%

New Orleans Hornets

21-45

13.7%

 Sacramento Kings

22-44

7.6%

 Brooklyn Nets

22-44

7.5%

 Golden State Warriors

23-43

3.6%

 Toronto Raptors

23-43

3.5%

 Detroit Pistons

25-41

1.7%

 New Orleans Hornets

21-45

1.1%

 Portland Trailblazers

28-38

0.8%

 Milwaukee Bucks

31-35

0.7%

Phoenix Suns

33-33

0.6%

 Houston Rockets

34-32

0.5%

The Bobcats are clear cut favorites, but nothing is promised. I don’t think they’ll win the lottery but I like to throw caution to the wind and root for the worst possible scenario for ESPN.

Now the Brooklyn Nets are listed because although they aren’t on ANY mock drafts at the moment, there is a 7.5 percent chance that they will be come Thursday morning.  Right now the Portland Trailblazers own the right to Brooklyn’s first round pick but it’s top-3 protected which means if Jay-Z and company draw picks 1-3 then Brooklyn retains it’s first round draft pick and will select first, second or third on June 28th.

The only way Portland can get the pick (and the reason they are on every single mock draft at the moment) is because if Brooklyn doesn’t get the first, second or third pick it goes to the Blazers. There’s a 93.5 percent chance of that scenario happening so it’s a pretty safe bet to assume Portland will have two lottery picks.

But stranger things have happened.

One other possible shakeup is with the Golden State Warriors and the seventh overall pick. Right now the Utah Jazz own that pick but they only own it if it falls out of the top 7 as it’s a top-7 protected pick. If you’re deciding on whether to bet that Brooklyn or Utah gets to retain their first round pick in 2012 I’d go heavily towards the Jazz getting a pick. It’s not a certainty that it’ll happen but right now it’s more realistic than the Nets getting a top 3 selection.

Now on to the mocking of the lottery.

We constructed the mock of the lottery much like a science experiment so if I were you I’d try to finagle this into some sort of extra credit reading to turn in on Thursday. First let’s start with our hypothesis — a hypothetical prediction of what the gut is saying in terms of how the lottery will stack up.

Given the lottery’s history of never being kind to the worst team that year, it’s been made clear (literally I stated it a few paragraphs up) as to who we think will win this year’s lottery and hit the jackpot.

Pippen Ain’t Easy Hypothetical Lottery Prediction

Pick

TEAM

CHANCE OF DRAWING SELECTION

1

 Washington Wizards

19.9%

2

 Charlotte Bobcats

21.5%

3

 Sacramento Kings

10.6%

4

 Cleveland Cavaliers

22.6% 

5

 New Orleans Hornets

35.1% 

6

Portland Trailblazers

43.9%

7

Golden State Warriors

59.9% 

8

Toronto Raptors

72.4%

9

 Detroit Pistons

81.3% 

10

 New Orleans Hornets

87.0%

11

 Portland Trailblazers

90.7% 

12

 Milwaukee Bucks

93.5% 

13

 Phoenix Suns

96.0%

14

 Houston Rockets

98.2%

Yes, the Wizards will win the NBA lottery and couple two former Kentucky freshman on the floor. This would be a pleasant but not a needed surprise for the Wizards and it would be just about the worst thing for the Bobcats. Not because they’d get a subpar prospect, grabbing Bradley Beal or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or even a Thomas Robinson at No. 2 would serve them well. It would be devastating because it would prove that everything that could cosmically go wrong for the Bobcats went wrong for the Bobcats.

Plus the Bobcats picking second means the pressure goes right back on MJ’s shoulders to not make the wrong pick — which if history has shown anything means he’s picking Harrison Barnes with the defense that he’s got UNC ties.

One scenario that I’m really leaning towards is the Raptors drawing the third selection thus bumping everyone down a peg and the Warriors out of the lottery. This would give the Utah Jazz their first round selection back and they’d be in line at eighth overall to grab a top prospect.

Here’s a team that made the playoffs but still is in dire need of a youth booster. Should the Warriors lose big and have their pick fall out of the top seven then Utah will be sitting very pretty at No. 8.

No one really loses in this hypothetical outside of the Nets (who will lose no matter what the stage, game or location) and the Warriors who miss out on the lottery.

And now that we have what we think will happen out of the way, let’s move onto the actual experiment itself: the NBA Lottery simulation. Below are the results of ten lottery simulations which will give a little bit more of a statistical outlook on how the lottery will play out. The chart marks the number of times out of the 16 simulated drawings that a team pulled a certain pick.

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

CHA

 8

5

3

WAS

 5

 5

 2

 3

 1

CLE

1

 1

 9

 4

1

NO

1

 3

 3

 1

 7

1

SAC

2

5

 4

4

 1

POR

1

 10

4

1

GS

1

3

11

TOR

13

3

DET

 13

3

NO

1

13

2

POR

1

 14

1

MIL

15

1

PHO

 1

15

HOU

16

So from the looks of it, the Bobcats do have the best shot at getting the lottery even when the 25 percent chance is put through a vigorous simulation. But it’s nowhere near guaranteed as 5 teams drew the No. 1 pick including the Phoenix Suns. The only other team in the top 5 consistently drawn in one spot was the Cleveland Cavaliers at 4th overall

Basically, if the statistical simulation of the lottery shows us anything it’s that we will not know a thing about how the draft stacks up until after those envelopes are cracked open and the teams are officially announced. Stay tuned to Pippen Ain’t Easy through the lottery and all the way up to the draft for the best NBA Draft coverage out there.

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