Blazers odds for keeping their 1st round draft pick

As many (everyone perhaps?) who frequent this site know, our first round pick is owed to the Bobcats in the event it is used to pick #13 or higher in this year's draft. Much discussion has taken place about the value in having the 12th worst record this season to guarantee we keep our pick. While the points made in considering the value of winning and having one less cap hold in the offseason vs. the opportunity cost of losing the pick are always fun and interesting there has been one detail I have yet to see get much, if any, mention.

This detail is the draft lottery. While every non-playoff bound fan base dreams of striking it big in the lottery, moving up to get a young premiere player, rarely does much thinking occur with respect to a team's pick moving back from the lottery's outcome (i.e. when a team who was supposed to pick behind them moves into the top 3). This is most likely due to the fact that under most circumstances a team will only move back one or two places, having minimal effect on the available talent. But when such an outcome can cause the selection to be lost entirely it becomes more worthwhile to ponder. Below is a table I found on that demonstrates the odds of a team having a certain selection at the conclusion of the lottery based on where they rank in reverse winning percentage.

The first column on the left denotes a team's place in the lottery, as designated by reverse winning pct. and any tie-breakers that need to be employed while the second column gives the number of winning combinations (out of a total of 1000) that are given to each placement. The top row lists the available picks (#1-#14) and the intersection of a row and column gives the odds of receiving the pick listed at the top of the column given the lottery placement listed in the most left entry of the row. For example the team with the worst record (the team with the 1 ranking), actually has the greatest odds of receiving the #4 pick with a 35.7% chance of getting it.

(note: this table is technically for last year's draft, but I don't believe the lottery odds have been changed. If I am mistaken please let me know in the comments.)

# 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th
1 250 0.250 0.215 0.178 0.357
2 199 0.199 0.188 0.171 0.319 0.123
3 156 0.156 0.157 0.156 0.226 0.265 0.040
4 119 0.119 0.126 0.133 0.099 0.351 0.160 0.012
5 88 0.088 0.097 0.107 0.261 0.360 0.084 0.004
6 63 0.063 0.071 0.081 0.439 0.305 0.040 0.001
7 43 0.043 0.049 0.058 0.599 0.232 0.018 0.000
8 28 0.028 0.033 0.039 0.724 0.168 0.008 0.000
9 17 0.017 0.020 0.024 0.813 0.122 0.004 0.000
10 11 0.011 0.013 0.016 0.870 0.089 0.002 0.000
11 8 0.008 0.009 0.012 0.907 0.063 0.001 0.000
12 7 0.007 0.008 0.010 0.935 0.039 0.000
13 6 0.006 0.007 0.009 0.960 0.018
14 5 0.005 0.006 0.007 0.982

Now what does this mean for this years blazers? Well, firstly finishing with the 12th worst record does not guarantee the 12th pick but actually has the possibility of being #1, #2, #3, #12, #13, or #14 (very very slim chance, but possible). Moreover we can use the table to quickly peg the odds of the blazers keeping their pick at 96.1% and the odds of moving up into one of the top 3 picks as 2.5% for such a record. This is obviously quite favorable when compared to a 13th place seeding, which would result in a 2.2% chance of keeping the pick (odds of Blazers moving into top 3 from 13th position).

Anyway, just wanted to share this thought with everyone and point out that if we finish 12th in lottery ranking we do not automatically keep our pick and actually have a greater chance of losing it than of picking in the top 3 (3.9% vs. 2.2%), although both are relatively unlikely and the safe money still is on us picking #12.

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