The NBA Draft Lottery is fast approaching and the Denver Nuggets are in the Lottery for the first time since 2003. They received the 3rd pick in the draft that year after tying for the worst record in the league and selected Carmelo Anthoney. The Lottery will take place on Tuesday, May 20th during the 2014 NBA Playoffs and the fate of the 14 teams that have chance for the coveted #1 pick will be decided that night. What are the odds that the Nuggets could get lucky and have their ping pong ball chosen for the #1 pick? Has a team with the 11th worst record (as Denver has this year) ever gotten lucky and received the first pick? Is there historical evidence that this is nothing more than a dog and pony show because the NBA has already chosen the team that will get the first pick? I will try and answer these questions for you and not make it even more convoluted than it already is.
First…..The Nuggets current odds with the 11th worst record are a dismal 0.8% chance of having their ping pong ball fall to the rack first. The one thing the Nuggets have going for them is they really have 2 chances to get the #1 pick as they own the Knicks #1 selection this year if it is better than Denver’s. The Knicks sit at 12th worst just behind the Nuggets with a 0.7% chance to get the first pick. But if the Knicks logo is on the ball that falls into the rack first, the Nuggets would get that pick and Orlando would get the pick that the Nuggets end up with. I know this sounds a little confusing but the Nuggets receive the Knicks pick this year if it is better than theirs due to the picks received in the Carmelo Anthoney trade. Orlando receives Denver’s pick or the Knicks pick, whichever is worse due to the Aaron Afflalo trade. Got it? Maybe not, but suffice it to say that the Nuggets will get the better of the 2 picks and the Magic will get the lesser of the 2.
Second….A team has gotten the first pick in the draft with the 11th worst record before. The 1993 Orlando Magic had the 11th worst record in the league and had a 1 out of 66 chance to get the first pick. The stars were shining brightly on the Magic that night because their ball fell out of the hopper and the Magic were given the first pick in the draft that year. With that pick, they chose Chris Weber of the University of Michigan with the pick and subsequently traded him to the Golden State Warriors.
Third….There are many who feel that in the past, the NBA Draft Lottery was “Rigged” so that higher profile teams, larger market teams, or teams with another star got the pick. Not because the ping pong balls fell their way, but the League had made sure they received that pick. The best example of this is the very first Lottery in 1985. The New York Knicks had been a dismal franchise for several years coming into the 1985 offseason. Patrick Ewing was the runaway consensus #1 pick that year after a stellar career at Georgetown University. The Knicks had the 3rd worst record in the league and a 14.29% chance to receive the pick. But when the logo of the team that received the first pick was shown on national TV during the NBA Finals that year, it was that of the New York Knicks. The Knicks went ahead and selected Ewing with that pick and it turned around the franchise in the league’s largest market.
Lastly….I did some research into the lottery and what place the team that received the first pick was in that season. As a result of that research, I came up with some information that should give Nuggets fans at least a little hope that the ball could fall to the Mile High Crew. There have been 5 occasions where a team had the 7th worst record or lower and received that first pick. These are listed below in chronological order:
1986-The Los Angeles Clippers had the 7th worst record and a 14.29% chance of getting the first pick and received it in the lottery. They used that pick to select North Carolina big man Brad Daugherty who they traded to the Cavaliers.
1993-See above. The Magic had the 11th worst record and a 1 out of 66 chance to get the first pick but got the it and selected Chris Weber.
2000-The New Jersey Nets had the 7th worst record in the league and a 44 out of 1000 chance to get the coveted pick and already had Jason Kidd so they received the first pick in the lottery and used it to choose former Nugget Kenyon Martin.
2008-The Chicago Bulls had the 9th worst record in the league and only a 17 out of 1000 chance at the first pick that year but were lucky enough to receive it. They used that pick to choose future League MVP Derrick Rose.
2011-The Los Angeles Clippers had the 8th worst record in the league and a 28 out of 1000 chance at the first pick but received it anyway and used it to select Kyrie Irving and then traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the right to choose Blake Griffin.
Now here is a complete list of the spot that each team that received the first pick was in when their ping pong ball fell out of the hopper first:
The team with the worst record has only gotten the first pick 4 times since 1985. The 1988 LA Clippers (Danny Manning), the 1990 New Jersey Nets (Derrick Coleman), the 2003 Cleveland Cavaliers (LeBron James) and the 2004 Orlando Magic (Dwight Howard). The 2nd worst record has gotten the first pick 4 times, the 3rd worst a lottery high 7 times, (Including the last 2 years), the 4th worst only 1 time, the 5th worst a confounding 5 times and the 6th worst has gotten the pick 3 times.
Based on all of this, I am going to hold out hope that the sun shines on the Mile High City on the 20th of May and the first ping pong ball to roll out of the hopper will be that of……Your Denver Nuggets!!! We can only hope! Follow us @Nugg_Love.