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Inside the Lottery

I wish they'd hold the NBA draft lottery the day after the season ended. This period between the final game and the lottery drawing is pure agony. There's only so much research you can do, only so many scenarios you can run. Still, this is the hand we've been dealt, so I decided to tackle some math and break down Chad Ford's lottery/mock draft machine as well. Check it out after the jump.

This first exercise is a closer look at the Sixers' odds of moving up in the lottery. The Sixers hold 53 of the 1,000 possible number combinations, meaning right off the bat they have a 5.3% chance at getting the number one pick. The second chart shows their odds of getting the #2 pick, broken down by who gets the first pick. (If the Nets get the #1 pick, 250 combinations are removed and the Sixers have 53/750 for the second pick).

OK, the math gets a little more involved here. The chart below depicts the odds the Sixers will get the number three pick, broken down by who has gotten picks number one and two. The order of the first two picks doesn't matter, only which teams took them. For example, if the Nets and the Timberwolves take picks 1 and 2, in any order, the Sixers will have 53 of 551 remaining combinations.

Pick #3 Odds
Pick 1-2 Pick 1-2 76ers Odds
Nets Twolves 9.6%
Nets Kings 8.9%
Nets Warriors 8.4%
Nets Wizards 8.0%
Nets Pistons 7.6%
Nets Clippers 7.3%
Nets Jazz 7.3%
Nets Pacers 7.2%
Nets Hornets 7.1%
Nets Grizzlies 7.1%
Nets Raptors 7.1%
Nets Rockets 7.1%
Twolves Kings 8.2%
Twolves Warriors 7.8%
Twolves Wizards 7.4%
Twolves Pistons 7.1%
Twolves Clippers 6.8%
Twolves Jazz 6.8%
Twolves Pacers 6.7%
Twolves Hornets 6.7%
Twolves Grizzlies 6.7%
Twolves Raptors 6.7%
Twolves Rockets 6.7%
Kings Warriors 7.3%
Kings Wizards 7.0%
Kings Pistons 6.7%
Kings Clippers 6.5%
Kings Jazz 6.4%
Kings Pacers 6.4%
Kings Hornets 6.3%
Kings Grizzlies 6.3%
Kings Raptors 6.3%
Kings Rockets 6.3%
Warriors Wizards 6.4%
Warriors Pistons 6.2%
Warriors Clippers 6.0%
Warriors Jazz 6.0%
Warriors Pacers 5.9%
Warriors Hornets 5.9%
Warriors Grizzlies 5.9%
Warriors Raptors 5.8%
Warriors Rockets 5.8%
Wizards Pistons 6.2%
Wizards Clippers 6.0%
Wizards Jazz 6.0%
Wizards Pacers 5.9%
Wizards Hornets 5.9%
Wizards Grizzlies 5.9%
Wizards Raptors 5.8%
Wizards Rockets 5.8%
Pistons Clippers 5.7%
Pistons Jazz 5.7%
Pistons Pacers 5.7%
Pistons Hornets 5.6%
Pistons Grizzlies 5.6%
Pistons Raptors 5.6%
Pistons Rockets 5.6%
Clippers Jazz 5.5%
Clippers Pacers 5.5%
Clippers Hornets 5.5%
Clippers Grizzlies 5.5%
Clippers Raptors 5.5%
Clippers Rockets 5.5%
Jazz Pacers 5.5%
Jazz Hornets 5.5%
Jazz Grizzlies 5.5%
Jazz Raptors 5.5%
Jazz Rockets 5.4%
Pacers Hornets 5.4%
Pacers Grizzlies 5.4%
Pacers Raptors 5.4%
Pacers Rockets 5.4%
Hornets Grizzlies 5.4%
Hornets Raptors 5.4%
Hornets Rockets 5.4%
Grizzlies Raptors 5.4%
Grizzlies Rockets 5.4%
Raptors Rockets 5.4%

Admittedly, these numbers would be much more relevant if the NBA actually aired the drawing of the number combinations. That way we could use them to calculate the odds on the fly. But this was weighing on my mind and this blog is where I channel my basketball psychosis, so there you go. The simple takeaway from this exercise is as follows.

Obviously, we want the Sixers to win the lottery and get the number one pick. If they don't get the #1 pick, though, we want the Nets to get it. This would give us a 7.1% chance at the #2 pick. If we don't get the #2 pick, we want the Timberwolves to get it, this would give us a 9.6% chance at the number 3 pick. The worst possible outcome for the Sixers would be Toronto and Houston jumping up to grab the top two picks, which would leave us with a 5.4% chance at the number three pick.

OK, now that we've got the math down for the top three, let's dissect Chad Ford's lottery/mock draft machine. Supposedly, Ford has created the rankings that power this machine based on team needs, and more importantly, conversations with decision makers, scouts and sources around the league. Keep in mind that these conversations have necessarily taken place before a single interview, measurement or workout has taken place, so they're obviously subject to change, but as far as I know, Ford's mock is the only one available right now that even takes team needs into account.

With the help of Chodeburger in the comments yesterday I was able to isolate what each team would do, according to Ford, if they were to wind up in each of the top three slots, and we can extrapolate from there.

The first two picks are simple. According to Ford, every one of the 14 lottery teams would take John Wall at number one and Evan Turner at number two. The variation comes into play with the number three pick, here's how it breaks down for each team:

  • Nets: Derrick Favors
  • Timberwolves: Favors
  • Kings: Favors
  • Warriors: Favors
  • Wizards: DeMarcus Cousins
  • Sixers: Cousins
  • Pistons: Cousins
  • Clippers: Cousins
  • Jazz: Cousins
  • Pacers: Favors
  • Hornets: Favors
  • Grizzlies: Favors
  • Raptors: Favors
  • Rockets: Cousins
So we've got 8 teams taking Derrick Favors at three and 6 taking DeMarcus Cousins (including the Sixers).

There are only 4 teams who could possibly pick fourth. Ford has the Warriors, Nets, Timberwolves and Kings all taking whichever of Cousins or Favors was not picked at #3.

Only 4 teams can possibly pick fifth. The Wizards, Timberwolves, Warriors or Kings. Ford has all of them taking Wesley Johnson.

Only 4 teams can possibly pick sixth. The Kings, Warriors, Wizards and Sixers. Ford has the Sixers, Warriors and Kings taking Al-Farouq Aminu. The Wizards taking Ed Davis.

Essentially, Ford has the top five in the draft as an absolute lock, no matter what the order is, Wall, Turner, Favors, Cousins and Wes Johnson will all be gone by the #6 pick according to his rankings.

If you dig a little deeper, it looks like outside the top 5, the Sixers rank the next three as follows: Aminu, Ed Davis, Cole Aldrich.

At this point, I'd bet serious money the draft doesn't play out like this. I find it almost inconceivable that every team in the lottery has the exact same top five. Even if they are clearly the five best players in the draft, someone is going to be wowed by a workout. Someone is going to be turned off by an interview. Things will most likely change. If the Sixers wind up at #6, I bet one of the top five drop. Which one is anyone's guess. I'd say most likely Wes Johnson, but there's just no way to tell.

So there you have it. It'd be great if Ford would just post the rankings for each team, since he's obviously put them together, it would've saved me a good deal of effort today, but we got to the bottom of it. I have some thoughts on the number six pick if the top five are gone, but that's for another day.

by Brian on Apr 23 2010
Tags: Basketball | NBA Draft | Offseason | Sixers |