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Blazer's Edge Mailbag: All About the Lottery

A primer on the ins and outs of the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery.


The first part of today's Blazer's Edge Mailbag deals with the lottery drawing. The festivities will commence at 5:30 Pacific this evening. Here are the answers to your lottery-based questions.


Can you give us the lottery odds for the Blazers finishing with each pick, 1st through 14th?


That's easier than you think. The Blazers have 11 combinations out of the 1000 possible combos distributed to the 14 lottery teams. NBA officials will draw three combinations total. Teams in possession of those three combinations will move to the 1, 2, and 3 spots in the order. Everyone else will line up behind them by record, worst record towards the front of the line and best at the back. Only three teams are determined randomly. Everyone else will stay in the same order relative to each other.

Starting from the 10th spot by record before the drawing, the Blazers can only finish in spots 1-3 (if one of their combinations is drawn) or in spots 10-13 (if none of their combinations hit). You either go right near the head of the class with a lucky hit or you stay where you are. The Blazers could move down as far as 13 because teams currently behind them in line could get the lucky draw and leap ahead, pushing Portland back.

If that last part is confusing, just line up 14 pennies and turn all but the 10th to tails. The 10th one (heads) represents Portland. Pick any three pennies besides Portland to shift to the 1, 2, and 3 spots (in that order). If all the pennies you picked were already ahead of the "heads" penny then that penny will remain 10th in line. For each penny you moved up from behind the heads penny it will move back one spot. Now you see the possible range of motion. 1-3 or 10-13. 4th-9th and 14th just aren't possible.

During the lottery reveal you'll want to watch the 13th-10th envelopes. If the Blazers are revealed in one of those slots then you know Portland's pick. If not, they're guaranteed a Top 3 position.

Here are the percentage chances of the Blazers ending up with each pick:

1st--1.1% 2nd--1.3% 3rd--1.5%


11th--8.8% 12th--0.2% 13th 0.1%


Since the beginning people have accused the NBA of rigging the lottery. Patrick Ewing went to the Knicks. LeBron went to his home state with Cleveland. New Orleans won last year just after they were purchased. Who's that team this year? Is it time to rig again?


It's got to be Sacramento, right? So if the Kings get the lucky draw you know the league is rigged. If they don't then you know the NBA is trying to throw us off the trail by not doing the obvious thing this year, which is further proof that it's rigged.


We keep hearing that this is a weak draft. I've also heard people say that nobody should want the #1 overall pick this year. Two part question. Do the Blazers even want a top 3 pick and if they got it what would they do?


You always want to secure the most options possible. If I told you that you had to travel to Topeka as quickly as you could by commercial bus, would you feel more able to complete your task if I gave you the phone number for one bus company or the whole phone book? Would you be more successful if I handed you $50 to purchase your ticket or $500? More options equal more power.

In the draft, options are defined by pick order. The team at #1 can pick anyone they want. Each team after loses one possible candidate for each space they're behind in line. 9 players will be off the board by the time Pick #10 comes along. Fewer options equals less value.

The Blazers would be foolish to prefer #10 to a Top 3 pick. But that doesn't mean they'd use that Top 3 pick to draft a player.

In common parlance "weak draft" translates to "no immediately evident superstars". That's probably true of this draft. Several draftees could be good, though. When the playing field levels out like that, the players selected 6th or 9th might turn out just as good as the guys going 2nd or 4th.

If the Blazers get a Top 3 pick the first question they should ask is whether they see a probable star in the bunch. If so they should draft him and call it good.

If the Blazers don't believe this year's draft crop will provide a high-percentage star then this would be the ideal year to trade the pick for more useful resources. Somebody out there will covet a high pick. I'd call up the #4-7 pick holders and see if anybody wants to trade up. I can still get a good guy at those spots and maybe get an extra player. If the deal were sweet enough I could also trade for veteran players or future picks without getting a lottery pick back this year.

This should tell you exactly why the Blazers should covet a high pick even in a "weak" draft. If I get #1 or #2 I'm burning up the phone lines to see who wants to make an offer. Doing that with the 10th pick just won't yield the same results.

Note: Our sister site in Utah, SLC Dunk, covers all the numbers and odds in this post. Check it out if you're so inclined. Also all you stat-oriented folks will love this numerical goop that's way over my head at CanisHoopus.

--Dave (