How the lottery works: Zion favorites, new odds

The 2019 NBA draft comes with the debut of new odds throughout the lottery — giving more teams a reasonable chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick and a chance to select consensus top prospect Zion Williamson.

The lottery will occur on on May 14 on ESPN, and the draft itself will go down on June 20.

There are huge stakes throughout the lottery. Landing No. 1 could completely change a franchise. There will be a serious debate at No. 2 between Murray State’s Ja Morant and Duke’s RJ Barrett, and team fit could ultimately settle things there. Multiple teams in the lottery are holding onto protected or traded picks. And, of course, teams jumping up in the lottery could swing Anthony Davis trade talks.

Here’s an explainer for the new system and the latest odds for each lottery team.

More: Mock draft | Top 100 prospects | Traded picks Insider

How the new NBA draft lottery works

The NBA now draws the top four picks through the lottery instead of the top three, with the teams’ chances of a winning selection flattened.

Here’s an overview of the new odds for the 14 lottery slots compared to the old ones:

Some key insights to know:

  • The difference between finishing with the worst record and the third-worst record has shrunk. The bottom three teams have the same odds at both the No. 1 pick (14 percent) and staying in the top four (12 percent). The main difference: You’re more likely to fall out of the top five with a better record.

  • The gap starts with the fourth-worst team, though the difference isn’t huge. The fourth-worst team can fall as far as No. 8, but on average that pick lands around No. 4 or No. 5.

  • The worst team has a 47.9 percent chance to fall to No. 5. The lowest a team could fall under the old system was No. 4, and there was just a 35.7 percent chance of that happening.

  • Look at the middle of the lottery: Teams with the sixth- through ninth-worst records have (in some cases) doubled their chances of landing in the top five. Though the expected picks for teams in the bottom half of the lottery moved up less than one pick — according to data from the NBA in a report by ESPN’s Zach Lowe — there’s inevitably going to be more random movement over time.

The NBA will hold a random drawing on Friday to break any ties. The tied teams will receive the average of the total number of combinations for those tied positions, with the winner of the draw getting any extra combinations if there’s an odd number to split. The random drawing also determines the order in which the teams pick if they don’t get selected in the top four.

Lottery projections

Here are the latest odds for each likely lottery team, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI).

The traded picks

Here are the protected and traded picks to know about in the lottery, along with BPI’s projections on where they land:


The Mavericks owe their pick to the Hawks if it falls outside the top five. If not conveyed, the pick remains top-five protected in 2020, falls to top-three protected until 2022 and becomes unprotected in 2023.


The Grizzlies owe their pick to the Celtics if it falls outside the top eight. If not conveyed, the pick falls to top-six protected in 2020 and then becomes unprotected in 2021.


The Kings owe their pick to the Celtics unprotected, but the 76ers will get the selection if this becomes the No. 1 pick. In that scenario, Boston would get Philadelphia’s pick.

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