How does the NBA Draft Lottery work? Bulls need luck on their side

Victor Wembanyama, 2023 NBA Draft Lottery (Photo by Christian Liewig - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
Victor Wembanyama, 2023 NBA Draft Lottery (Photo by Christian Liewig - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images) /

Now that they’ve been eliminated from the play-in tournament and their 2022-23 season is officially in the books, the Chicago Bulls must now turn toward planning for the offseason if they want to experience a better fate next time around. With the draft set to take place first, now is the time to cross our fingers and pray the Bulls luck on lottery night.

Since the Bulls’ pick is top-four protected, it’s absolutely essential that they make a leap upward if they wish to keep their pick. Otherwise, their pick will convey to the Orlando Magic, who received the rights to Chicago’s 2021 and 2023 first-round picks in the trade that brought Nikola Vucevic to the Windy City.

How does the NBA Draft Lottery work?

This year’s draft lottery will, ironically, take place in Chicago at the McCormick Center on May 16. Considering the Bulls don’t own the rights to their pick unless they hit the jackpot to move into the top four, there’s a strong likelihood a great many local fans head home disappointed.

In a private room sealed to the media, an NBA official will place an appropriate number of ping pong balls according to their placement in the standings. The highest percent odds any one team can have to win the top pick is 14%, which goes to the NBA’s three-worst teams: the Pistons, Rockets, and Spurs. You can find every team’s odds of securing the top pick below.

After four ping pong balls have been drawn, the remaining non-selected teams will fill in draft spots 5-14 according to their record this season. Following the drawing, a representative from each team will draw the results from an envelope, starting with the 14th pick and finishing with the 1st overall selection. This is part of the event that is televised and you are likely familiar with.

NBA Draft Lottery Odds for No.1 Pick

  • Detroit Pistons (14%)
  • Houston Rockets (14%)
  • San Antonio Spurs (14%)
  • Charlotte Hornets (12.5%)
  • Portland Trail Blazers (10.5%)
  • Orlando Magic (9%)
  • Indiana Pacers (6.8%)
  • Washington Wizards (6.7%)
  • Utah Jazz (4.5%)
  • Dallas Mavericks (3%)
  • Chicago Bulls (1.8%)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (1.7%)
  • Toronto Raptors (1%)
  • New Orleans Pelicans (0.5%)

It’s no secret that Victor Wembanyama is the highly sought-after prize of this year’s draft class, and will almost certainly be drafted first overall regardless of who wins out in the lottery. Entering with the 11th-best odds, it doesn’t look likely that he’ll be donning a Bulls cap by night’s end. That being said, I wouldn’t count Chicago out completely just yet; after all, the Bulls only had a 1.7% chance to win the first overall pick in 2008 with Derrick Rose, so it’s entirely possible that history may repeat itself here.

Chicago Bulls odds of keeping this year’s draft pick?

Even if it’s a swing-and-miss on Wembanyama, there are several prospects in this year’s draft that make the prospect of winning the lottery and jumping into the top four extremely enticing. The G League Ignite’s Scoot Henderson and Alabama’s Brandon Miller headline a group of excellent up-and-coming talent, either of whom would drastically impact the Bulls right from day one.

After winning a tiebreaker coin flip against the Thunder, Chicago’s adds in the lotto slightly improved at each slot. The Bulls will now have a 2% chance at securing the second pick, a 2.2% chance at 3rd overall, and 2.5% at the 4th pick. This brings Chicago up to an 8.5% shot at keeping their pick, which is still not great, but at the very least it’s better than what their odds would have been had they lost the tiebreaker coin flip.

We may be grasping at straws here hoping for a big change over the summer, but for what it’s worth, it only took me four spins on Tankathon for the Bulls to keep their pick!

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