The NBA draft lottery took place this week, and much like the Kentucky Derby, it was over before I had the wherewithal to tune in. Somehow the Boston Celtics are in the Eastern Conference Finals while also acquiring the first pick in the 2017 draft. It’s safe to say they’re the overall winners of the lottery process given that they seem to have defied the purpose for the lottery in the first place.
If you’re a little foggy on how the draft lottery works, here are some details. According to the NBA’s website, fourteen ping pong balls are placed into a lottery machine and four balls are selected out of the 14. There are a total of 1,001 combinations regardless of the selection order. Before the lottery takes place, 1,000 of the combinations are assigned to the NBA teams who participate in the lottery process.
To make the four-ball selection, the 14 balls are mixed for 20 seconds, and then the first ball is chosen. The remaining balls are mixed for 10 seconds, then the second ball is chosen and so on until all four balls are selected. The entire process begins again to make the 2nd & 3rd four-ball selection rounding out the top 3 draft picks. If the same team is selected twice, the result is discarded and the process begins again.
The NBA team with the worst record in the league is awarded the first 250 combinations, while the team with the best record in the draft lottery will receive only 5 combinations. The selection order for the teams who do not fall within the top three picks are ranked in inverse order of their regular season record.
The official winners of this year’s draft lottery are the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and the Philadelphia 76ers rounding out the top 3 picks. The Celtics acquired the first pick from the Brooklyn Nets who received the first 250 combinations this season with the worst record in the league. This puts the Celtics in prime position to secure yet another top free agent after making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals this season. It’s evident that the Celtics have executed on a long-term strategy for building their team, and I commend the mastermind behind it all.
Overall, I’m not the least bit surprised by this year’s draft lottery because it honestly went 100% as I expected it would. The Celtics were primed to get that first pick, and the Lakers have been working so hard to tank this season finishing second to last in the Western Conference with 24 wins and 58 losses. Coach Luke Walton stated that the Lakers had played hard at the end of the season and the basketball gods awarded them for not tanking—even though they basically did just that all season long.
The Philadelphia 76ers find themselves with another top pick this year. Philadelphia has to avoid injuries to the their top picks to truly build chemistry and work towards success. Acquiring incredible talent doesn’t behove an organization if that talent can’t stay healthy enough, hopefully they can avoid that bad karma that has plagued them in years past.
— NBA (@NBA) May 17, 2017
The overall losers of the lottery were the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets who are both missing key pieces to complete their team, but were ranked too high in the draft lottery based on their regular season record. Both teams just barely missed out on the post-season this year, and they’re both on the cusp of being playoff teams in their respective conferences.
The draft lottery is technically a gamble, but the odds make the entire process fairly predictable. While it may be exciting to get the first pick in the draft, I’m not convinced that top picks are always the best option. The Nuggets got stuck at lucky number 13, but Karl Malone and Kobe Bryant were both selected as the 13th overall pick in their draft class proving that good finds can come from any draft position.