How Does NBA Draft Lottery Work: How The Top Pick Order Is Decided

So what exactly is going on with all those ping pong balls.
Publish date:

The NBA draft lottery is a ping pong drawing to determine which of the 14 teams that missed the playoffs will have the top three picks in the draft.

Each team's odds at landing the top pick are based on each team's regular-season record. The team with the worst record have the best odds and the team with the best record among those that missed the postseason have the worst odds. Tiebreakers will be used if teams end up tied with the same record to decide which will have the more advantageous spot in the draft lottery order.

There are 14 ping pong balls numbered 1-14 that are put in a glass drum. They are mixed around for 20 seconds before the first ball gets drawn, and then 10 second intervals are used to space out the drawings of three additional balls.

Each team is given its own list of combinations that those four balls could create, and the team whose combination is picked gets that pick. There are 1,000 combinations that are used and the combination of 11-12-13-14 is not used, so if it is drawn for one of the picks, they draw again to determine which team gets that pick.

The teams with the better odds are given more combinations than the teams with worse odds.

After the first three picks are decided, the remaining draft ordered is decided based off what each team's lottery odds were. The team with the highest lottery odds is guaranteed at top four pick and the team with the lowest odds will end up with the 14th pick unless it gets one of the top three picks.

The 2018 NBA Draft Lottery will be held on May 15.