Heading into Wednesday's NBA Draft lottery drawing there's still confusion as to how the process works and how the proceedings will affect the Trail Blazers. For those who want to get up to speed on what will happen (and what to root for) on Wednesday, this post should help you out. Everyone else, double check and add on as necessary.
The Initial Order
The easiest way to envision the lottery is a bunch of school children lined up for lunch, just like you used to do back in the day. It's a special event today. They're serving cake. The person in the front of the line will get to choose whichever piece they like, the second person picks next, and so on. Right now the order looks like this:
- Charlotte Bobcats
- Washington Wizards
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- New Orleans Hornets
- Sacramento Kings
- New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets
- Golden State Warriors
- Toronto Raptors
- Detroit Pistons
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Portland Trail Blazers
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Phoenix Suns
- Houston Rockets
This order was determined by regular season record with coin flips breaking ties. The teams with the worst records get to go in front...if you prefer, the hungriest kids get to choose cake first so they can get the biggest pieces.
Click through to read about the drawing, the odds, the effect on the order, and what Blazers fans should watch for.
However, we're not done yet! The principal, accompanied by school security and professional accounting firm, is going to stand in front of all 14 students on Wednesday and draw ping pong balls lottery-style to select three names. Those three students will be immediately promoted to the front of the line. The first name drawn goes first, the second goes second, and the third slides in third. This should clear up one of the points of confusion. Not all the names will be shuffled by random drawing. Only three lucky kids will get to cut to the front of the line.
In addition to claiming the initial front spots in line, the hungriest kids (worst records) also have the most chances of getting selected for one of the three lucky spots. The lottery can generate 1000 possible combinations. Charlotte, the worst team in the league, holds 250 of those 1000 combos. They have a 25% chance of hearing their name called for that top spot...far better than any other team. By comparison the 14th place Rockets only have 5 combinations out of 1000.
Put another way...the top 4 teams in the order combined have 724 of the possible 1000 combinations. The bottom 4 teams in the order combined have only 26. Chances are good that teams at the top will stay at the top. But there's always a shot that a lower-ranked team will sneak in with a miracle draw.
In any case, on Wednesday David Stern and company will draw the three lucky names.
How the Drawing Affects the Order
This is another point of confusion for some. Again the lunch line analogy will come in handy. When those three names are drawn those three teams will cut the line and take positions 1, 2, and 3. As would happen in an actual lunch line, people behind them might be shoved back a little to make room.
Whether your team gets moved back or not depends on who gets promoted to those top spots. If only teams ahead of you in line already get promoted it doesn't affect you at all. If you're 7th in line you'll still be 7th whether the first 6 are sorted 1-2-3-4-5-6 or 2-1-4-3-5-6. You never moved either way. The people in front of you just changed around a little. However if a team behind you gets promoted then you get pushed back a spot, because now an extra person has been added in front of you. When lucky #8 gets to go to the front of the line the order is 8-1-2-3-4-5-6. 7 people are now in front of you instead of the original 6. Therefore you get shoved back to 8.
What This Means for the Blazers
The Blazers stand 11th in the lunch line right now. As we just explained, that doesn't mean they'll be 11th after Wednesdays' drawing. They could be one of the lucky three whose names get called for the top spot. Alternatively they could get pushed back 1, 2, or 3 spaces if one or more of the names behind them get called. Therefore their possible range of picks is: 1, 2, 3 (if their name is called to cut to the front) or 11, 12, 13, 14 (if it's not).
The Blazers have 8 combinations out of 1000. The chances of them being called to the front are remote. The three teams behind them combined have 18 chances out of 1000. The odds are long against any of them being promoted, let alone 2 or 3. Therefore the Blazers will probably select 11th. But it's not a complete lock.
The more interesting situation is the New Jersey/Brooklyn pick at #6. The Blazers acquired that pick as compensation for Gerald Wallace in a mid-season trade. However that pick is top three protected. That means if any of New Jersey's 75 combinations out of 1000 win them a spot in the top three, the Blazers will not receive that pick. They'll have to wait another year and get the Nets' 2013 first round selection.
New Jersey's possible range of picks are 1, 2, 3 if their name gets called to cut to the front or 6, 7, 8, 9 if it doesn't depending on how many people behind them get to cut in front. But Portland only gets the pick if it ends up 6, 7, 8, or 9.
What Portland Fans Should Watch For
The picks are revealed in reverse order on TV, from #14 to #1. Blazer fans will want to watch the reveals from #14 to #11 carefully, as those are in Portland's probable range. The Blazers logo will likely be drawn from an envelope at #11. If it comes up in envelope 12-14 it means teams behind the Blazers got lucky and moved up the line, pushing Portland back.
The absolute most spectacular thing that could happen on Wednesday would be for 3 other teams to be revealed in envelopes 12-14 and then the Blazers to be absent from envelope #11. That would mean that the Blazers' combination had been chosen and they were one of the lucky three promoted to the front of the line. If you don't see Portland in the first four envelopes they have a Top 3 pick, guaranteed.
Blazer fans then get to take a break at Envelope 10, as there's no way Portland could be involved in that pick. After that it's pins and needles time again, this time watching for the New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets to be revealed.
Here the rooting is inverted. You don't want to see the Blazers logo in envelopes #14-#11 because its absence would mean Portland got promoted. You do want to see the Nets logo somewhere between envelope #9 and #6 because that would mean the Nets didn't get promoted and Portland got their pick. If New Jersey/Brooklyn is not announced between spots 9 and 6 that means they got promoted and Portland will not get their pick.
The greatest, most fantastic outcome for the Blazers would be their pick boosted to #1, nobody else behind the Nets moving forward, and Portland claiming the #7 pick from New Jersey. (The Blazers would bump them down one spot from #6 by moving ahead of them.) The worst outcome for the Blazers would be seeing their own name drawn between 14 and 11 and then having the Nets promoted to the Top 3, robbing the Blazers of that pick. They'd then exit the building with a single low lottery pick and nothing else.
The lottery will be televised on ESPN at 4:00 Pacific on Wednesday. Tune in that day to see what happens and talk about it in our own live discussion thread.