The Milwaukee Bucks have the best chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, with the order to be announced Tuesday during the NBA Draft Lottery telecast on ESPN at 7 p.m. Central Time.
The Bucks have a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery, holding 250 of the 1,000 number combinations available.
But the weighted lottery has not often been kind to the team holding the best opportunity to win it.
The NBA went to the lottery system in 1985 and in the beginning each team simply had a 1-in-7 chance to win the top pick—the seven non-playoff teams had their logos placed into a drum and the draft order was drawn by the commissioner.
In 1990, the NBA switched to a weighted lottery that gave the worst teams the best chance of winning the top overall pick. This was also the year that the lottery changed to determine only the top three picks in the draft; the rest are in inverse order of finish.
In the weighted system, the team with the best chance of winning has done so just three times—the New Jersey Nets in 1990 (drafted Syracuse forward Derrick Coleman), the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 (drafted Akron, Ohio, prep star LeBron James) and the Orlando Magic in 2004 (drafted Atlanta prep star Dwight Howard).
The Bucks have won the lottery twice—in 1994, with the second-worst record in the league, they moved up one spot in the lottery and drafted Purdue forward Glenn Robinson; and in 2005, with the sixth-worst record, the Bucks jumped up five spots to draft Utah center Andrew Bogut.
Former Bucks general manager Larry Harris told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this week what a shock it was to win the lottery in 2005.
“We never thought we were going to get 1, so it was a complete surprise,” Harris said. “The position they’re in now, you’re thinking you’re going to be 1 or 2. The expectations are that. You’re going to be disappointed if you’re 3 or 4.”
The Bucks can’t drop lower than fourth, with the top three picks determined by the lottery.
How It Works
Fourteen ping pong balls, numbered one through 14, are placed into a lottery machine and four balls are drawn at random to determine the winner of each of the top three picks. Each team in the lottery is assigned a number of four-number combinations (the Bucks have 250). The Phoenix Suns, with the best record of any of the lottery teams, have just five of the 1,000 available combinations.
With the 2014 NBA Draft considered to be a deep one, the odds are good that the Bucks will get a notable player regardless of where they pick in the top four.
But sometimes dropping down can hurt. Harris recalled the 2007 draft lottery, when they Bucks were in position to get the third pick. But none of the three worst teams in the league landed in the top three picks, dropping Milwaukee all the way to sixth.
So in a draft in which the top three picks were Greg Oden (sorry, Portland), Kevin Durant (sorry, Seattle) and Al Horford, the Bucks wound up picking Chinese prospect Yi Jianlian with the No. 6 overall pick.
That didn’t work out so well. Yi didn’t want to come to Milwaukee, eventually did and stayed just one year and now, at age 26, is back playing professionally in China.
“It was Horford and Mike Conley at 3 and 4, without a doubt,” Harris recalled. “When we brought in Horford, we worked him out for about a half-hour. And as a staff we said, ‘Let’s take him to lunch, because this will be the last time we ever see him.’ We knew there was no chance he was ever going to get to us at 6.”
Milwaukee will go into the draft lottery with no worse than the No. 4 overall selection, as well as picks No. 31, No. 36 and No. 48 in the second round.
The full lottery odds are (h/t NBA.com):
|Milwaukee Bucks|| |
|Philadelphia 76ers|| |
|Orlando Magic|| |
|Utah Jazz|| |
|Boston Celtics|| |
|Los Angeles Lakers|| |
|Sacramento Kings|| |
|Detroit Pistons|| |
|Cleveland Cavaliers|| |
|New Orleans Pelicans|| |
|Denver Nuggets|| |
|New York Knicks|| |
|Minnesota Timberwolves|| |
|Phoenix Suns|| |