Explaining the NBA Draft Lottery

The NBA Draft Lottery scheduled to take place at 8:30pm ET on May 22nd, 2021. There are 24,024 variations that can take place in the NBA Draft. While we won’t break down the probability of every single permutation, we will explain how this all works.

What Teams are Eligible for the Lottery?

The fourteen teams that did not make the playoffs in the previous year are the ones that are eligible for the NBA Draft Lottery. These teams are then seeded from 1 to 14 based on their regular season record. The teams with the worst record are seeded the highest, while the teams will the best records are seeded the lowest. The teams with the “higher” seeds are more likely to win the lottery as we will explain in the next section.

How Does the Process Work?

The the explanation from the NBA on how the process works is hilariously complicated. It’s really not worth getting into since the important part is what the odds are for each pick. Below is the breakdown for each team’s chances at every pick.
NBA Draft Lottery OddsTo simplify the NBA’s explanation, the first four picks are up for grabs in the lottery. The remaining ten teams are then given the remaining 5th through 14th pick based on their record.

2021 NBA Draft Odds

This is how the table shakes out based on the final standings from the regular season.
2021 NBA Draft Lottery OddsThe stars denoted next to the team names mean that there are caveats that go along with these picks. First, Oklahoma City has the right to swap picks with Houston if that pick falls out of the top four. This comes with a 48% probability. Second, Minnesota’s first round pick goes to Golden State if their pick falls outside of the top three. There is a 27.6% chance that the Timberwolves land a top-3 pick. Last, if the Bull’s pick doesn’t fall in the top-four, then the pick goes to the Magic.

So when the trade caveats are all taken into account the final odds tables really looks like this…
2021 NBA Draft Lottery Odds After Trades