The NBA Lottery Night: Where Will Victor Wembanyama Land?
Basketball continues to evolve at an incredible pace, and a new star is set to make his mark in the NBA. Victor Wembanyama, the latest global sensation in basketball, is expected to be the number one pick at the upcoming NBA Draft. The anticipation around his selection has sparked tremendous excitement, reminiscent of the fervor seen in 2003 for LeBron James and in 2019 for Zion Williamson.
The anticipation culminates tonight with the NBA Draft Lottery, the annual event that will determine which team gets the first pick in the draft. Wembanyama, the French phenom, has already acknowledged the lack of suspense regarding his draft position, stating on social media: "10 days before knowing my future team. It's really crazy."
According to the odds, the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, and Detroit Pistons are the front runners with the highest chances of winning the lottery, giving them the opportunity to select Wembanyama as their top pick.
When and Where?
The lottery takes place in a small room in Chicago, devoid of cameras but in the presence of an NBA official, a journalist, and a notary. It is scheduled for 02:00 French time, just before the start of the Western Conference Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers. The event will be aired live on BeIN Sports, with some lucky fans getting the chance to watch alongside Wembanyama on the Champs Élysées.
Who Participates in the Lottery?
In theory, the lottery involves the franchises that didn't qualify for the playoffs, namely the 14 teams with the worst records. Positions and corresponding chances of acquiring the first pick are allocated based on regular-season performance. The worse a team's regular-season record, the better their odds of landing the first pick.
The advent of the "play-in" has slightly disrupted the usual order, as the NBA must wait for the play-in eliminations to determine the lottery teams. Thus, the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, and New Orleans Pelicans find themselves among the lottery teams this year.
What are the Rules?
In an effort to deter "tanking" during the regular season, the NBA revised its lottery rules in 2019. Now, the three teams with the worst records each have a 14% chance of securing the first pick. Previously, the team with the worst record had a 25% chance, with the second and third worst having a 19.9% and 15.6% chance, respectively. This change means that the team with the worst record now has a one in seven chance of winning the lottery, down from one in four.
The second change in the lottery rules is that the first four picks are now determined by the lottery, up from three. This means that the team with the worst regular-season record could potentially only have the fifth pick. Detroit finds itself in this position this year.
How is the Lottery Conducted?
The NBA employs a lottery machine akin to those used in lotto drawings, with 14 ping-pong balls, numbered 1 to 14. There are a total of 1,001 possible combinations (ignoring the order of the balls). These combinations are allocated to teams based on the desired probability, with the Rockets, Pistons, and Spurs each assigned 140 combinations, while the Pelicans receive just 5.
To determine the first pick, the balls are mixed for twenty seconds, and each ball is sucked up at ten-second intervals. Once the first team is known, the balls are returned to the machine, and the