How Does the NBA Draft Work?
Contrary to what some may tell you, the workings of the NBA draft are, in fact, relatively simple. This brief tutorial is all you need to get to grips with the annual event that decides where some of the world’s most talented players will end up.
The draft order of the teams that make the playoffs is very straightforward, with the team with the best record in the regular season picking last in each round, and the team with the worst record picking fifteenth (as there will be fourteen teams that do not make the playoffs). Last year, for example, the Phoenix Suns picked last in the first and second rounds as they finished with the best win-loss percentage in the league. In short, the standings from one through sixteen are inverted, so that the best team picks last and the worst (non-playoff team) first.
Those teams that do not make the playoffs are entered into what is known as the “Draft Lottery”. This is where things start to seem a little complicated, although there is actually very little of difficulty to understand.
The order of selection of the non-playoff teams is established by means of a simple lottery, with the worst team having the highest chance of being awarded the first pick, the second-worst the second-highest chance, and so on. Below are the chances out of a thousand of each team winning the top pick in the draft.
Team with the worst record in the league: 250
Team with the second-worst record in the league: 178
Sixth -worst: 63
Last year, Milwaukee finished the season with the sixth-worst record in the league. Thus, their odds of winning the draft lottery were 63 in 1000, meaning that they were fairly lucky to win the top spot.
Breaking The Tie
One final point to be kept in mind is that, at the end of the season, there are often two or more teams with the same win-loss record. When this is the case, a simple coin flip decides which team takes the higher pick (if the two teams made the playoffs) or is given the higher odds of winning the first pick (if they did not make the playoffs). Last year, both Miami and San Antonio had a win-loss record of 59-23. San Antonio won the coin flip, and was therefore awarded the twenty-eighth choice in the first round, while Miami made their selection one spot later.