Friday, September 22 2023
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The 2023 NBA Draft Lottery is set for Tuesday night, and fans are close to finding out who will win the right to draft French sensation Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 overall pick in June. The Pistons, Spurs and Rockets all have a 14% chance to land the top pick, the best odds of any team, but 14 non-playoff teams are hoping the ping pong balls bounce their way on Tuesday in Chicago.

Wembanyama has been touted as the most talented potential No. 1 overall pick since LeBron James. The 19-year-old, 7-foot-2 Frenchman plays for the Metropolitans 92 in the top-tier men’s professional league in France. Other intriguing prospects in this year’s draft include G League Ignite standout Scoot Henderson and Alabama freshman Brandon Miller.

But before we get to the 2023 NBA Draft, which will take place on June 22 following the conclusion of the NBA Finals, let’s break down some key details about Tuesday’s lottery. If you haven’t been keeping up with how the NBA has changed the draft lottery, or you just forgot, here’s a little refresher before the lottery happens on May 16.

When is the Draft Lottery?

The 2023 NBA Draft Lottery will take place on Tuesday, May 16 ahead of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. It will air at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN and be streaming on fubo (try for free).

How does the draft lottery work?

Until four years ago it used to be that the team with the worst record automatically claimed the No. 1 spot in the upcoming draft lottery. It would encourage teams that were headed nowhere fast to rack up as many losses as possible in hopes of securing that top spot on the draft board. Prior to the change, the team with the worst record had a 25% chance of landing the No. 1 pick, followed by a 19.9% chance for the second-worst team and a 15.6% chance for the third-worst squad. However, in 2019 the league decided to flatten the odds in hopes of discouraging tanking and to create a bit more excitement around the draft lottery.

Now, instead of a team tanking its way to the top of the lottery, the three teams with the worst records all have a 14% chance of getting the No. 1 pick. The team with the worst record is also guaranteed a top-five pick as well. But just because those three teams have the inside track on landing the top pick, doesn’t mean they’ll get it. Five teams with the worst records all have at least a 10% chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick. Nine of the 14 lottery teams will also have at least a 20% chance of landing in the Top 4 of the lottery, which can create chaos. 

In the first year of the league’s new lottery system, the New Orleans Pelicans, who entered the night with the seventh-best odds to get the first pick, jumped all the way up to the No. 1 spot. They passed the three teams that had a 14% chance of getting it, a shocking development that resulted in New Orleans drafting heralded prospect, and now two-time All-Star, Zion Williamson. That year’s draft lottery was proof that anything can truly happen, regardless of the odds. 

What’s the selection process for the lottery?

This is where things get a bit more technical. Ping pong balls numbered 1-14 are put inside a machine, symbolizing the 14 lottery teams. Within those 14 balls, there’s a possibility of 1,001 four-number combinations. Those combinations are then split up between the 14 lottery teams. To determine the No. 1 pick, individual ping pong balls are selected to create a four-number combination. The team that matches up with the combination chosen is then awarded the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. That same process is then done again to determine picks second through fourth. 

Once that process is completed to determine the top four picks of the draft, the remaining order (spots 5-14) is set in inverse order of their 2022-23 regular season record. In other words, the teams with the worst remaining records pick higher than those who finished with better records. 

What are the odds for the draft lottery?

The Pistons finished with the NBA’s worst record (by five games) in 2022-23, and Detroit, Houston and San Antonio will all have a 14% chance at the No. 1 selection.

Team Record Winning % Top-four pick (%) Top overall pick (%)

Detroit Pistons





Houston Rockets





San Antonio Spurs





Charlotte Hornets





Portland Trail Blazers





Orlando Magic





Indiana Pacers





Washington Wizards





Utah Jazz





Dallas Mavericks





Chicago Bulls





Oklahoma City Thunder





Toronto Raptors





New Orleans Pelicans





Hoping your team has some lottery luck on Tuesday? CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn took a dive deep into lottery history to see what teams have the most (and least) luck with the selection process.



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