NBA Draft Lottery Primer: Bulls Looking For Luck

Chicago has a 12.5 percent chance to land the No. 1 draft pick.

May 13, 2019 - 2:36 pm

(670 The Score) Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf summed up the prevailing feeling of the entire organization and fan base in an interview on the Mully & Haugh Show on Monday morning. 

"It seems like it’s taken forever to get to the 14th," Reinsdorf said.

That was a reference to May 14, which marks the NBA Draft Lottery. It will be at the Hilton Chicago on Tuesday evening that the Bulls and fellow lottery teams (that own their picks) will discover where they select in the NBA Draft, which will be held June 20. 

Related: Bernstein: Bulls need another dose of lottery luck

Ahead of that, let’s provide a primer of the draft lottery and how it pertains to the Bulls.

What is it?

The lottery determines the order of the NBA Draft. For the top four picks, it does so with a random drawing of numbered ping-pong balls that correspond with combinations that teams own. After that, the remainder of the lottery teams that didn’t get lucky will receive picks five through 14 based on inverse order of their records in the 2018-’19 season.

When is it?

The lottery results will be revealed and broadcast on ESPN starting at 7:30 p.m. CT Tuesday. The actual lottery drawing will take place in a private room before that.

How does the lottery drawing process actually work?

Fourteen ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 are placed in a lottery machine. There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. One combination isn’t owned by any organization, leaving 1,000 combinations that are split up among the 14 participating lottery teams.

All 14 balls are placed in the lottery machine and mixed for 20 seconds, then the first ball is removed. The remaining balls are then mixed for 10 seconds, then the second ball is drawn. The 10-second process is repeated twice more to create the four-ball combination. The team that owns that combination will receive the No. 1 pick.

The process is then repeated for the second, third and fourth overall picks.

Can it be rigged?

The NBA goes to great lengths to make sure there are no shenanigans at an event that can transform franchises, and it’s as transparent as it can be. Each lottery team has a representative in the drawing room to watch the process (the Bulls' will be Joey Reinsdorf, the son of Michael), and select media members are invited as well. The accounting firm Ernst & Young helps oversee the process, and its partner Darrington Hobson stuffs and seals the envelopes that are delivered to NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum to reveal on stage during the television broadcast.

The timekeeper who signals for the next ping-pong ball to be drawn faces away from the lottery machine as well in another measure of fairness.

What are the Bulls’ chances of landing the No. 1 pick?

After posting the fourth-worst record in the NBA, Chicago has a 12.5 percent chance to land the top pick but could also fall as far as No. 8. Here’s a look at the team’s full probabilities:

No. 1: 12.5%
No. 2: 12.2%
No. 3: 11.9%
No. 4: 11.4%
No. 5: 7.2%
No. 6: 25.7%
No. 7: 16.8%
No. 8: 2.2%

Who has the best chance to land the No. 1 pick?

The Knicks, Suns and Cavaliers all have a 14-percent chance to land the No. 1 pick after they finished with the three worst records in the regular season.

Wait, I thought the worst team used to have a 25-percent chance to get the No. 1 pick?

That used to be the case before the NBA implemented draft lottery reform starting with this 2019 version. The NBA flattened the lottery odds in an effort to discourage blatant tanking by teams, an approach that had become a black eye for the league in recent seasons.

So who will get drafted No. 1?

The consensus around the league is that Duke star forward Zion Williamson will be the top pick, as many believe he has the potential to be a generational talent. Duke wing R.J. Barrett and Murray State point guard Ja Morant are projected to go in the top three of many mock drafts as well.