How NBA fans should hope the Draft Lottery shakes out

If you’re an unabashed fan of an unsuccessful team, you know how you’d like to see the NBA Draft Lottery line up if your team hasn’t traded away its future (sorry, Nets fans).

Of course you want the team you support to be gifted the opportunity to take a potentially franchise-altering player with the first pick. As for NBA fans without allegiances, or for those whose teams have no combinations on lottery night, deciding on the ideal teams to pick in the top three can be a more subjective exercise.

You may be a person who is staunchly against tanking, and therefore wants one of the teams which narrowly missed the playoffs to rise up the draft board rather than seeing an intentionally bad team get rewarded. Maybe you’re a die-hard proponent of teams bottoming out to boost their odds, and want to see the league’s worst franchises get the opportunity to reverse their trajectories. Or perhaps you’re interested in dominance, and hope to see a middling lottery team with an exciting young core add one last foundational piece before an imminent rise up the standings begins.

Whatever your preference, possibilities will abound when the number combinations are drawn. Here are some of the potential lottery results unaligned NBA fans should be hoping for when the lottery goes down on May 19.


Before we get started, here’s a quick refresher on the lottery format: There are 14 ping-pong balls, numbered 1 through 14. Each team is allotted a percentage of the 1,000 possible four-ball combinations based on the standings at the end of the season, and three combinations are selected on lottery night. The three corresponding teams make up the top three picks in the draft, while the rest of the order simply goes in reverse order of record. 

Here’s the odds breakdown as it stands on April 8, per Real GM:

Philadelphia 76ers 25
Los Angeles Lakers 19.9
Phoenix Suns 15.6
Brooklyn Nets 11.9
Minnesota Timberwolves 8.8
New Orleans Pelicans 6.3
New York Knicks 4.3
Sacramento Kings 2.8
Denver Nuggets 1.7
Milwaukee Bucks 1.1
Orlando Magic 0.8
Houston Rockets 0.7
Washington Wizards 0.6
Chicago Bulls 0.5

Of course, some teams have made shortsighted trades in recent years and have to either swap or outright hand their lottery picks over to other teams.

Brooklyn’s pick belongs to Boston as a result of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce home run swing by Billy King. New York’s pick belongs to Toronto as a result of the Andrea Bargnani trade, but Denver has the right to the more favorable of New York’s pick and their own. Sacramento has made so many nonsensical trades that Vlade Divac may not even be aware of the circumstances under which he gets to keep his own selection. The main point to remember with the Kings is that Philadelphia has the right to swap picks if Sacramento leapfrogs the Sixers in the lottery. 

Now that we’ve cleared that up … 

The 2020 Western Conference Finals preview lottery

Lotto 6

For me, this is the dream scenario — as it should be for anyone who roots for the emergence of truly great teams.

New Orleans and Minnesota already boast the two most promising young superstars in the league in Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns; how could you be opposed to them each adding a top-two prospect in this year’s draft as well?

The novelty of the titanic battles between Golden State and San Antonio hasn’t come close to wearing off just yet, but with neither team appearing likely to plummet in the standings in the near future, we’re going to need some challengers to rise up from the depths of the Western Conference at some point. Plopping Ben Simmons on the Pelicans and Brandon Ingram on the Wolves – or vice versa – would only serve to expedite the ascent of those two teams, and bring us a lot closer to having a four-way bloodbath for West supremacy on our hands.

Tuesday’s win over the Warriors provided a crystal ball look at how explosive the Wolves will be in the coming years – and that’s just with Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine leading the way; another top-of-the-line prospect finding his way into that mix would give the Wolves nuclear potential.

New Orleans’ rebuilding process will require more than just some lottery luck. Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson are likely going to leave as free agents this summer; Tyreke Evans remains an uncomfortable fit on the roster; and Jrue Holiday, while an excellent point guard, has a checkered medical history. Still, it would be a major boost to the Pelicans to finally pair a complementary star with Davis after that whole Austin Rivers thing didn’t quite work out.

Count me all the way in for this result.

This is why you trusted The Process

Lotto 5


There would be something poetic about the Sixers finally landing the first-overall pick, mere weeks after The Process met its abrupt end with Sam Hinkie’s resignation. Philadelphia finally has the best odds of snatching the first-overall pick after three seasons of going all-out to get it, only to lose out on finishing dead last to accidentally horrible teams like the Bucks and Wolves. And the two best players available aren’t even big men!

Things are lining up about as perfectly for the Sixers as they can in this largely random lottery construct. It’s a good thing new general manager Bryan Colangelo has a spotless track record when it comes to first-overall picks…

That’s probably way too harsh, of course. Colangelo has generally succeeded as a drafter, and either Simmons or Ingram would fit the Sixers’ building plan. Simmons would be an especially desirable prize. He could be the de facto point guard from day one, and provide Philadelphia with the kind of basketball IQ and general offensive competence coach Brett Brown simply hasn’t had at his disposal before (don’t get angry, Ish Smith truthers).

This particular top three would also provide the added bonus of being the All-Dysfunction Lottery, leaving the potential for chaotic draft night idiocy to spice up the evening.

The end of the Eastern Conference as we know it

Lotto 7

“I see your 6-foot-3 point guard and raise you two 6-foot-11 point guards,” said Jason Kidd when the Bucks won the lottery and selected Ben Simmons first overall.

If the balls were to fall in Milwaukee’s favor, Kidd’s grand vision of total positional ambiguity would be complete. Seriously, just picture a starting five featuring Simmons, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker and (in the interest of frightening defensive potential) John Henson. Yes, floor spacing might be an issue with only Middleton being a proven three-point threat at the moment, but given the youth and pure talent of Antetokounmpo, Simmons and Parker, it would be premature to completely write off their long-distance shots right now.

Even if that hypothetical lineup can’t shoot from distance, its defensive potency might make up the mathematical difference. It might be the first lineup to be truly switchable one-through-five; the smallest player on the floor would be the 6-foot-8 Middleton.

Raw and in need of development? You bet. Potential to be offensively challenged? At first, definitely. However, that’s a tantalizing collection of unfairly athletic and skilled giants to have on one roster, let alone on the court at the same time. This is the lottery result for anyone who has been preparing and stockpiling for the End of Days. Shout out to you, Adam Morrison.

The typically rich but recently depressed get richer

Lotto 4

Given what a genuinely depressing experience Bulls Twitter has been this season, I’m willing to throw that fan base a bone with this lottery scenario. Of course as it stands, only five of the 1,000 lottery combinations will be assigned to Chicago, so it’s overwhelmingly unlikely that the Bulls will strike gold next month. If they do, though, both of the options atop the draft could help Bulls fans quickly get over the probable exits of some of the key members of the Thibodeau-era teams.

Simmons could enter as Derrick Rose’s long-term replacement, or Ingram could slide next to Jimmy Butler and put an end to the days of Tony Snell and E’Twaun Moore cobbling together 40-plus mediocre minutes on the wings. Chicago has already had its run of good karma during the ’80s and ’90s with Michael Jordan, but it’s never a bad thing when the Bulls are relevant. A surprise leap to the top spot would certainly revitalize the franchise while helping it move on from an era of underachievement that was defined by its last unexpected first-overall pick.

All Draft Lottery scenarios and odds courtesy’s Lottery Simulator. 

About Sean Woodley

Sean graduated from Ottawa's Carleton University with a Journalism Degree in 2014. Since then, he's regularly contributed at SB Nation's Toronto Raptors site, Raptors HQ, while writing and hosting podcasts for Crossover Chronicles. Follow him on Twitter (@WoodleySean), and email him at if you're interested in exchanging food for written or spoken words.