Lowe: The latest draft intel, trade buzz and superstitions from inside the NBA's secret lottery room (2024)

"Can you imagine if this happened last year?"

That was a common sentiment in the private lottery drawing room, where about three dozen people give up their laptops and cell phones and sequester themselves to watch the real lottery about an hour before the televised version.

A year ago in Chicago, with Victor Wembanyama atop every draft board, you could feel the tension among the 14 team officials -- one for each lottery team -- in that drawing room. Everyone knew the stakes. Everyone was on edge. The usual small talk before the drawing was stilted and fidgety. Even the media members and NBA staffers in attendance were nervous.

This year, it was borderline casual. There is no consensus No. 1 pick, though several team officials and agents gathered in Chicago for the draft combine told ESPN that center Alex Sarr is the one player most likely to fall in the top two or three of almost every team's draft board. Beyond that, it's chaos. Team officials expect several teams might investigate the return for trading down a few slots -- only to have trouble finding a trade partner eager to deal meaningful assets to move up.

In the weeks leading to Sunday, even officials from teams who stood to potentially lose their first-round picks depending on the luck of the draw -- the Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors among them -- seemed indifferent to the results.

But the lottery has a way of delivering anxiety, and you could feel it ripple around the room after an NBA staffer pressed a button to suck the first three numbered pingpong balls from the classic air-powered lottery machine the NBA uses for this theater of the bizarre. The machine holds 14 balls, numbered 1-14. The league draws four in sequence, creating a four-digit combination. There are 1,001 such possible combinations. All combinations but one (11, 12, 13, 14) are assigned to one of the 14 lottery teams, with the teams at the bottom of the standings owning the most combinations.

In a four-page packet provided to each team representative, the combinations are listed in numerical order with the numbers flowing from lowest to highest (1, 3, 8, 12, for example). But the order in which the balls emerge does not matter; if you own that four-number combination, it belongs to you regardless of whether the 12 or 8 ball is the first one pulled. (Legend has it one high-profile GM from the past 20 years did not understand this, and thought for a few seconds his team had lost out because of the order in which the four balls emerged, when his team in fact had won the lottery.)

The Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, the teams with the two worst records last season, each owned 140 of the 1,000 combinations. The Warriors -- the lottery team with the best record -- owned only seven.

The worst teams own most of the combinations featuring 1, 2 and 3. When one of those numbers rises from the machine, the suspense ends for most of the room.

The first three numbers pulled Sunday were, in order, 6, 10 and 14 -- all high-ish numbers. The ensuing 10 seconds -- if you are lucky enough to get them -- are the most delicious part of the lottery. For those fleeting moments with all high numbers out, something like half the teams have a chance at the No. 1 pick. Team officials rifle through their packets of combinations, searching for the fourth number that would win it for them.

At that moment, seven teams (by ESPN's informal count) owned combinations featuring 6, 10 and 14 and thus had a chance to win the No. 1 pick: the Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs (again?), Raptors, Wizards, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers and the Brooklyn Nets -- who, of course, did not own their pick, having traded it without any protection to Houston in the James Harden deal in 2021.

The last ball came up: 13. The Hawks had defied the odds, winning the No. 1 pick despite coming in with a 3% chance of doing so. And thus came the whispering: Imagine the scene if this kind of leap had happened last season?

But Atlanta's winning immediately triggered a wave of speculation, in that drawing room and outside of it, about what the Hawks might do with the pick -- and how rising to No. 1 might impact Atlanta's offseason approach to gauging the trade market for either Trae Young or Dejounte Murray.

Lowe: The latest draft intel, trade buzz and superstitions from inside the NBA's secret lottery room (2024)


What are the odds of winning the NBA draft number 1 pick? ›

The NBA tweaked the lottery in 2019, with the bottom three teams having an equal 14% chance of winning the top pick. The odds of landing the top pick decrease all the way down to 0.5% for the team with the 14th-worst record.

Who won the NBA draft lottery? ›

Atlanta beats the odds to land the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. Washington, Houston and San Antonio will pick 2-3-4.

Who has the 2024 NBA Draft picks? ›

2024 NBA Draft order: First round
  • Atlanta Hawks.
  • Washington Wizards.
  • Houston Rockets (via Brooklyn Nets)
  • San Antonio Spurs.
  • Detroit Pistons.
  • Charlotte Hornets.
  • Portland Trail Blazers.
  • San Antonio Spurs (via Toronto Raptors)
May 13, 2024

What is considered the lottery in the NBA draft? ›

A lottery pick denotes a draft pick whose position is determined through the lottery, while a non-playoff team involved in the process is often called a lottery team. Under the current rules, only the top four picks are decided by the lottery, and are chosen from the 14 teams that do not make the playoffs.

Who has the most number 1 draft picks? ›

The Indianapolis Colts and Los Angeles Rams have each made the most first overall selections in history with seven.

Who was the number 1 overall draft pick NBA? ›

The 2023 NBA Draft took place on Thursday (22 June) in the Barclays Center in New York City. The San Antonio Spurs selected Victor Wembanyama with the first pick. Below is the complete list of previous overall No. 1s in the NBA Draft.

What teams will be in the NBA draft lottery? ›

NBA draft lottery results 2024: Top takeaways and questions
  • No. 1: Atlanta Hawks. ...
  • No. 2: Washington Wizards. ...
  • No. 3: Houston Rockets (via Brooklyn Nets) ...
  • No. 4: San Antonio Spurs. ...
  • No. 5: Detroit Pistons. ...
  • No. 6: Charlotte Hornets. ...
  • No. 8: San Antonio Spurs. ...
  • No. 9: Memphis Grizzlies.
May 12, 2024

How does the NBA draft work for dummies? ›

There are two rounds in the draft. Both rounds have 30 picks, so there are 60 picks in the whole draft. Each team gets one pick per round, but sometimes, a team will pick more than once in a round or not at all. This is because teams can trade draft picks for players, for money, or for other draft picks.

How is the NBA draft done? ›

The drawing process occurs in the following manner: All 14 balls are placed in the lottery machine and they are mixed for 20 seconds, and then the first ball is removed. The remaining balls are mixed in the lottery machine for another 10 seconds, and then the second ball is drawn.

Will Bronny James be in the 2024 draft? ›

Bronny James clears medical, expected to remain in 2024 NBA Draft. As a freshman for the Trojans, Bronny averaged 4.8 points and 2.1 assists per game. He played in 25 contests, averaging 19.4 minutes. He recently participated in the NBA Draft Combine, and reviews were mostly positive.

What pick will Bronny James be? ›

Draftable. That's the operative word describing Bronny James coming out of the NBA's draft combine which concluded Sunday in Chicago. It's doesn't mean James will be selected in the 2024 June draft but it means he's a legitimate prospect – a potential second-round pick.

Who will get the 1st pick in the NBA draft? ›

The complete 2024 NBA Draft order was set by the NBA Draft Lottery on May 12, 2024, in Chicago, IL. The Atlanta Hawks defied the odds (3% chance) and landed the No. 1 pick. Now picks 1-58 are set.

Who won the NBA draft lottery tonight? ›

Atlanta beats the odds to land the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. Washington, Houston and San Antonio will pick 2-3-4.

How many balls are in the NBA draft lottery? ›

The lottery process is conducted privately with representatives from the NBA, participating teams and the accounting firm Ernst & Young in attendance. A total of fourteen ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 will be placed in a lottery machine.

How many ping-pong balls are in the NBA draft? ›

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. Before the lottery, 1,000 of those 1,001 combinations are assigned to the 14 participating lottery teams.

Who will be the NBA first pick? ›

(B/R) — The 2024 NBA draft order is official, with the Atlanta Hawks owning the No. 1 overall pick.

What are the odds the Pistons get the first pick? ›

The Pistons, along with the Wizards, had a 14% chance to nab the No. 1 pick.

What are the odds of going to the NBA? ›

Hoop Dreams

Very tough. With only two players from each college team being drafted to make the step up to the pro league every year, the odds of being promoted to the NBA are a prohibitive 1-3,333 against. This stat becomes even more imposing when you consider who's actually eligible for selection.

What are the Pacers odds in the draft? ›

The Pacers have a 29.4% chance of landing one of the top four picks in the draft. They haven't picked in the top four since 1988 when they picked Rik Smits No. 2 overall.

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