2019 NBA Draft Lottery: Schedule, Odds, and How It Works

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On Tuesday night at the Hilton Chicago hotel, the Cleveland Cavaliers will take part in the 35th annual NBA Lottery, their first trip to this event in five years. By the time it’s over, the Cavaliers will know exactly what position they’ll be drafting from for next month’s NBA draft.

The Cavs finished with one of the three worst regular season records for the 2018-19 campaign. The other two teams in that category, the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns, both share the same 14 percent odds the Cavaliers do when it comes to obtaining the top pick in the draft. The team with the fourth-worst record, the Chicago Bulls, have the next highest odds at 12.5 percent.

NBA.com offered a description of the lottery process:

“Drawings will be conducted to determine the first four picks in the NBA Draft. The remainder of the ‘lottery teams’ will select in positions five through 14 in inverse order of their 2018-19 regular-season records. The actual lottery procedure will take place in a separate room just before ESPN’s national broadcast.

“Fourteen ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 will be 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 will be assigned to the 14 participating lottery teams. The lottery machine is manufactured by the Smart Play Company, a leading manufacturer of state lottery machines throughout the United States. Smart Play also weighs, measures and certifies the ping-pong balls before the drawing.

“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. There is a 10-second mix, and then the third ball is drawn. There is a 10-second mix, and then the fourth ball is drawn. The team that has been assigned that combination will receive the No. 1 pick. The same process is repeated with the same ping-pong balls and lottery machine for the second through fourth picks.

“If the same team comes up more than once, the result is discarded and another four-ball combination is selected. Also, if the one unassigned combination is drawn, the result is discarded and the balls are drawn again. The length of time the balls are mixed is monitored by a timekeeper who faces away from the machine and signals the machine operator after the appropriate amount of time has elapsed.”

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum will announce the results for the event, which will begin at 8:30 p.m. EST.

From 2011 to 2014, the Cavaliers took part in this event each year and managed to come away with the top overall selection on three occasions. In 2011, they used that top pick to select the team’s former point guard, Kyrie Irving, while their 2013 and 2014 choices were later used to acquire power forward Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

This year, the odds-on favorite to be the top overall selection is Duke University forward Zion Williamson. Other top candidates to be selected early include Williamson’s Duke teammate R.J. Barrett and Murray State University guard Ja Morant.

Representing the Cavaliers will be Nick Gilbert, son of Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert.

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Brad Sullivan is a lead writer for Cavaliers Nation. He has spent much of life in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and has remained a Cavalier fan from their 1970 beginnings through the return of LeBron James. While that fandom was sorely tested during the Reign of Error known simply by one word, Stepien, that overall historical perspective will be part of his writing for Cavaliers Nation in the months ahead.