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NBA Draft Lottery: Odds and Ends

Aaron talks Draft Lottery odds and breaks down possible outcomes in advance of May 15th

NBA: NBA Draft Lottery Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

“Then put your little hand in mine, there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb. I got you babe...I got you babe.”

This whole Magic fan experience is just a simulation of the movie Groundhog Day, correct?

It has to be. We are all Bill Murray waking up to Sonny and Cher on the radio each morning; same time, same song, same channel.

Seriously, it seems like I just wrote this story. And I did, this time last year.

Here we are again, awaiting the NBA Lottery results this coming Tuesday night. We are forced to tune in before two teams who are light years ahead of Orlando (developmentally) play in their conference’s final. We are once again relegated to our hopes and prayers, and our faith paying off with just one lottery ball cooperating.

It just takes one, there’s no doubt about that. But realistically, there are other more likely alternative outcomes that will play out Tuesday night for the Magic during the lottery.

Here are a few:

1) Most likely lottery scenario: 6th pick (35.9% chance)

According to, Orlando currently holds a 35.9% chance to come away with the 6th pick in this year’s lottery. These odds are the most likely outcome of any of Orlando’s possible outcomes in the lottery.

Does that sound strange? Why would a team with the fifth-best odds have a most likely scenario of selecting sixth? Remember, the true draft lottery only affects the top three selections. The remaining picks outside of the top three are rewarded to teams in ascending order based off of won-lost records from last season (lowest winning percentage to highest). In other words, just one team jumping Orlando by getting rewarded with a top-three pick in the lottery would push the Magic to sixth.

The following is a list of sixth overall selections in the NBA Draft over the past ten years:

2008 - Danilo Gallinari (drafted by New York)
2009 - Jonny Flynn (drafted by Minnesota)
2010 - Ekpe Udoh (drafted by Golden St.)
2011 - Jan Vesely (drafted by Washington)
2012 - Damian Lillard (drafted by Portland)
2013 - Nerlens Noel (drafted by New Orleans, traded to Philadelphia)
2014 - Marcus Smart (drafted by Boston)
2015 - Willie Cauley-Stein (drafted by Sacramento)
2016 - Buddy Hield (drafted by New Orleans)
2017 - Jonathan Isaac (drafted by Orlando)

The sixth pick has turned into an All-Star just once in the last ten years (Lillard, three-time All-Star). On the other hand, two of the last ten sixth-picks are currently out of the NBA (Flynn, Vesely).

2) “So you’re saying there’s a chance”: Top-3 pick (29.2% chance)

Heading into the lottery with the fifth-worst record, the Magic own the fifth-best odds of winning the first overall selection in the 2018 NBA Draft (8.8%). Of course, the Orlando Magic organization has previously been awarded the #1 overall selection on three past occasions. Orlando drafted Shaquille O’Neal first overall in 1992, Chris Webber first in ‘93 (who was traded on draft night for Anfernee Hardaway), and Dwight Howard first in 2004. All three of those draftees turned into franchise-changing players.

According to, the Magic possess a 9.7% chance of being rewarded with the second pick and a 10.7% chance of landing the third pick.

The last game of the 2017-2018 regular season had huge lottery implications for the Magic. Orlando, the Atlanta Hawks, and the Dallas Mavericks all entered their final contents of the season with identical 24-57 records.

Orlando was victorious to close out their regular season, defeating the Washington Wizards in what many fans deemed to be a devastating night. Of course, Atlanta and Dallas dropped their contests. The win over the Wizards decreased Orlando’s odds of winning a top-three pick by roughly eight percent, the top overall pick by nearly four percent, and disqualified them from earning the fourth pick whatsoever.

3) Know your (recent) history

Teams that finished with the fifth-worst record in the league in the last ten years AND their subsequent lottery results:

2008 - New York Knicks, 6th pick (Danilo Gallinari)
2009 - Minnesota Timberwolves, 6th pick (Johnny Flynn)
2010 - Washington Wizards, 1st pick (John Wall)
2011 - Sacramento Kings, 7th pick (Bismack Biyombo, traded to Charlotte)
2012 - Sacramento Kings, 5th pick (Thomas Robinson)
2013 - New Orleans Pelicans, 6th pick (Nerlens Noel, traded to Philadelphia)
2014 - Boston Celtics, 6th pick (Marcus Smart)
2015 - Orlando Magic, 5th pick (Mario Hezonja)
2016 - Minnesota Timberwolves, 5th pick (Kris Dunn)
2017 - Orlando Magic, 6th pick (Isaac)

In the last decade, the organization that entered the lottery with the fifth-worst record in the NBA has ended up with the 5th, 6th, or 7th pick in the draft 90% of the time. None of the prospects selected in those drafts in that range (5th-7th) have made an All-Star team in their respective NBA careers.

The one occurrence in the last decade where the team with the fifth-worst odds ended up with a top-three pick resulted in the selection of a perennial All-Star point guard (Wall).

Keep in mind, the Seattle Supersonics entered the draft lottery in 2007 with the fifth-best odds (fifth-worst record). The Sonics were awarded the 2nd overall selection, a pick they used to select future Hall of Fame forward Kevin Durant.

Since the inception of the NBA lottery system in 1985, the team with the fifth-worst record in the NBA has won the lottery five times (‘91 - Larry Johnson, ‘95 - Joe Smith, ‘02 - Yao Ming, ‘06 - Andrea Bargnani, and ‘10 - John Wall).

Magic fans, tune in Tuesday night to ESPN at 7:30 PM EST to find out where Orlando will be selecting in the lottery this upcoming June. Follow along with the discussion below, and feel free to comment below as well!