The Minnesota Timberwolves have the best chance to win the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery, followed by the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers, but that doesn’t mean any of those teams will get the No.1 overall pick. Plenty of teams that barely missed the playoffs and had poor odds to get the top selection have ended up having the ping-pong balls bounce their way.
Just last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Draft Lottery, despite having just a 1.7 percent chance of doing so. Eight teams finished with a worse record than the Cavs, and they still got the opportunity to draft Andrew Wiggins, whom they ultimately traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love.
The 1993 Orlando Magic were the most fortunate team in the lottery’s 30-year history. Finishing with a .500 record and the No.9 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Magic got the No.1 pick with a 1.52 percent of winning the lottery. They ended up selecting Chris Webber, whom they traded to the Warriors for Anfernee Hardaway and three future first-rounders. In the previous season, Orlando won the lottery with a 15.15 percent chance and drafted Shaquille O’Neal.
Two other teams have entered the lottery with less than a three percent chance of winning and left the event with the first overall pick. In 2008, the Chicago Bulls had a 1.7 percent chance and ended up drafting Derrick Rose with the No.1 pick. Three years later, the Cleveland Cavaliers owned the Los Angeles Clippers’ pick, eventually turning their 2.8 percent chance of winning the lottery into Kyrie Irving.
The 2000 New Jersey Nets took Kenyon Martin first overall after entering the lottery with a 4.4 percent chance of winning. The Portland Trail Blazers would’ve been better off getting the No.2 selection in 2007, but their 5.3 percent chance of winning the lottery netted them Greg Oden at No.1 overall.
It’s been a decade since the team with the NBA’s worst record won the lottery. After winning a league-low 21 games in the 2003-2004 season, the Magic took Dwight Howard with the top pick. The previous season, the Cavaliers turned the worst record in basketball into LeBron James.
The lottery system has changed multiple times since it was first initiated in 1985. During the first four years, each non-playoff team had an equal chance to win the No.1 pick. From 1990-1993, a weighted system was put in place, with the league’s worst team given 11 out of 66 chances to get the top spot, followed by the NBA’s second-worst team with 10/66 odds, and so on. After the Magic improbably won the lottery in 1993, the NBA made it more difficult for the best non-playoff teams to win it.
The lottery system with the current odds has been in place since 2013. The team with the worst record has a 25 percent chance of getting the top pick, followed by a 19.9 percent chance, a 15.6 percent chance and an 11.9 percent chance for the next three teams, which are ranked in order of the league’s worst records.
The four best teams that don’t make the postseason all have less than 1 percent chance to win the lottery. If the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns or Oklahoma City Thunder win the lottery, the 1993 Magic would no longer have the worst odds of any lottery-winning team.