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When Is the NBA Draft Lottery?

The NBA Draft Lottery is a yearly event where the teams pick their next star in a process of ping-pong balls. It is not a sure thing that the number 1 draft pick will be the actual number 1 pick, but it is a big chance to get the number 1 pick.

It’s one of the most talked-about clichés in all of sports: who will get drafted first, second, third, and so on. But, in the wake of the 2016 NBA Draft Lottery, which will be held on May 19, the question of when the first pick will be called is once again being asked. After finishing the year with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers are now in a position to have the first pick in the draft.

For the second year in a row, the NBA draft lottery is taking place later than usual. The pandemic, which usually occurs in May during the NBA playoffs, has thrown the NBA schedule into disarray. Last season, the draw was not made until August. This time, however, it will be earlier, as the league returns to the regular schedule for the 2021-22 season.

Last year, the Minnesota Timberwolves won the lottery as one of four teams most likely to win the coveted No. 1 seed. As a result, Minnesota selected Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, whose promising debut earned him a controversial second place finish behind Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Three teams have the best chance of success this year. The volatility of the NBA is evidenced by the fact that two of these teams were playoff teams in 2020 that were beginning a rebuilding phase (*cough* tanking *cough*).

Who has the best odds in the NBA lottery?


The definition of the 2019 NBA Draft lottery odds has changed.  The changes were intended to solve the problem that caused the lottery in the first place. Specifically, teams have structured their schedules to lose as much as possible to maximize their chances of getting the first pick.

In the modified system, the teams with the three worst point totals have an equal chance of getting the first pick. A lottery will then determine the top four candidates. The Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic have a 14 percent chance of getting the first pick, 13.4 percent chance of getting the second pick. The odds of these teams making the third and fourth picks are 12.7% and 12% respectively.

The Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers have an 11.5 percent chance of moving into first place. Other proportions are:

  • Minnesota Timberwolves (9%)
  • Toronto Raptors (7.5%)
  • Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans (4.5% each)
  • Charlotte Hornets (1.8%)
  • San Antonio Spurs (1.7%)
  • Indiana Pacers (1%)
  • Golden State Warriors (0.5%)

Lottery in progress

The NBA draft lottery is scheduled for the 22nd. June 2021. | Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The first four picks for the 2021 NBA Draft will be pulled at 8:30 p.m. EDT 22. June. This was before Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Phoenix Suns.

Deals can affect all three teams in the draw. If the Rockets don’t finish in the top four, they will trade with the Thunder. Oklahoma City gets the #5 (the lowest level Houston can give up) and sends the #18. Miami Heat pick to the Rockets.

If the Timberwolves don’t make the top 3, the Warriors will pick Minnesota’s top contender. Similarly, Chicago’s first round pick will go to the Magic if the Bulls aren’t in the top 4.

NBA lottery set up to combat tanking


Prior to 1985, the first pick of the NBA Draft was determined by tossing a coin. The teams with the worst records in the Eastern and Western conferences had secured the top two spots. The team with the worst record should have made the decision. These upheavals have shaped the course of the NBA over the years.

But the final straw came in 1984. The Rockets won the tender after a 14-68 season in 1983 and brought in coveted big man Ralph Sampson from the University of Virginia. They got better with Sampson as their center and were just 1.5 games away from the final playoff spot in the West at the All-Star break.

But the Rockets chose a different option. Houston went 11-27 the rest of the way and, after the then Kansas City Kings and San Diego Clippers, finished in the bottom half of the West. They win the toss (again) and pick Hakeem Olajuwon, giving Twin Towers the start (Olajuwon plays center, Sampson becomes a 7’4 power forward).

The rules of the NBA draft lottery were simple. First, all non-Wednesday teams had a 14.3% chance of getting the first pick. Then of course they had a chance to finish 7th. The records didn’t matter. This was traumatic for the perpetually bad organizations that were able to get into the draft via the lottery.

The first weighting system was introduced in 1990 and has been modified over the years to allow franchises to find new and interesting ways to beat the system.

Fourteen teams enter a lottery for a chance to win a gold ring. Eventually, for better or worse, you get it.

Historical data provided by Basketball Reference.

COMPARED TO: Report on Zion Williamson and his family looks like a nightmare for Pelicans fans

Frequently Asked Questions

Who won the NBA Lottery 2021?

The NBA Lottery 2021 will be won by the New York Knicks.

What time and channel is NBA draft lottery?

The NBA draft lottery will be on Tuesday, May 14 at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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