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The New NBA Lottery Odds And You

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The NBA is expected to vote on, and pass, reformed lottery odds later this month. What this means for Sixers, and NBA, fans.

Mike Stobe

As Zach Lowe reported a few weeks ago, the NBA's Board of Governors are set to vote on the proposal for updating the lottery odds later this month. Lowe expects this to pass rather easily, with possibly only Philadelphia voting against the amendment.

If you've been a regular reader here on LibertyBallers, you know that I think it stinks. Rather than fixing the actual problem -- which is that non-destination teams have little use for free agency as a means of building the core of their team -- they punish the reaction to the problem. The NBA draft is essential for teams that are not destinations to acquire the superstar player that can eventually make them become one. Changing the lottery odds doesn't lessen a have-not's reliance on the NBA draft, it just decreases the chances they'll get the help that they need by giving lady luck a larger role in the team building process.

My objection doesn't even come from the perspective of a 76ers fan, but an NBA fan. For the Sixers, once Joel Embiid comes back, Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams continue to develop, and Sam Hinkie starts using their cap space to acquire pieces to complement Embiid, I think that this could be the final year the Sixers are in contention for one of the worst 2-3 records in the league. Not that they'll be pushing for a playoff spot next year, but I think over the next 3-4 years the Sixers will spend more time in the 5-7 seed range rather than the 1-3 seed range. Long term, as you'll see below, this change could help the Sixers far more than it hurts them if this does end up being the case, even if it will be a blow to the teams plans for this upcoming summer.

But, this change is virtually inevitable. So I've created this table to give an overview of how life will change for 76ers, and NBA, fans. This table takes a look at each seed, comparing the old and new lottery odds, and looking at how their chances for the top pick, a top 3 pick, and a top 5 pick change. New odds courtesy of Lottery Bucket.

First, before glancing at the odds, a few quick notes:

  • The NBA is expected to vote on the updated lottery odds at the Board of Governors meeting, which will happen sometime this month.
  • The NBA needs 23 votes ( > 75% support across the league) in order to pass the change.
  • If the NBA does vote to change the lottery rules, it is expected to go into effect for the 2015 lottery.
#1 pick Top 3 pick Top 5 pick
Seed Old New Diff Old New Diff Old New Diff
1st 25% 12% -13% 64.3% 35% -29.3% 100% 56.3% -43.7%
2nd 19.9% 12% -7.9% 55.8% 35% -20.8% 100% 56.3% -43.7%
3rd 15.6% 12% -3.6% 46.9% 35% -11.9% 95.9% 56.3% -39.6%
4th 11.9% 12% +0.1% 37.8% 35% -2.8% 82.8% 56.3% -26.5%
5th 8.8% 11.5% +2.7% 29.2% 33.8% +4.6% 55.3% 54.8%

-0.5%

6th 6.3% 10% +3.7% 21.5% 30% +8.5% 21.5% 49.7% +28.2%
7th 4.3% 8.5% +4.2% 15% 26% +11% 15% 44.1% +29.1%
8th 2.8% 7% +4.2% 10% 21.7% +11.7% 10% 37.7% +27.7%
9th 1.7% 5.5% +3.8% 6.1% 17.4% +11.3% 6.1% 30.9% +24.8%
10th 1.1% 4% +2.9% 4% 12.9% +8.9% 4% 23.4% +19.4%
11th 0.8% 2.5% +1.7% 2.9% 8.2% +5.3% 2.9% 15.2% +12.3%
12th 0.7% 1.5% +0.8% 2.5% 4.9% +2.4% 2.5% 9.2% +6.7%
13th 0.6% 1% +0.4% 2.2% 3.3% +1.1% 2.2% 6.3% +4.1%
14th 0.5% 0.5% 0% 1.8% 1.7% -0.1% 1.8% 3.2%

+1.4%

There's a lot of interesting information up there, but it's real easy to see the impact it has on the top teams, which is why this is being done.

If you have the worst record in the league? You have a 12% chance at the top pick, only a 35% chance at a top 3 pick, and a 33.8% chance at the 7th pick in the draft (the full table of odds are at the bottom of this post. Note: if a cell doesn't have a value filled in, it means that there is no chance of selecting there. Also, ~0.1% means less than 0.1% chance.).

Yeah, that's right. The team that has the most desperate need of a talent infusion is almost as likely to end up 7th in the draft as it is to end up in the top 3. Welcome to the modern NBA, where overreactions further kill competitive balance.

(Ironically, the NBA overreacted to the perception problem that tanking caused once before: when they initially setup the flat-odds lottery system after the 1984 draft. They quickly realized that a flat system was unfair, and changed the odds a few times, first changing it so that envelopes were only drawn for the first three picks, then to a weighted lottery system where the worst team had a 16.67% chance at the top pick, then finally to where the worst team had a 25% chance at the top pick. As the NBA continues to flatten the odds as a reaction to the perception problem created by tanking, recall the old adage about those who do not learn from the past.)

The main beneficiaries of the proposed changes are those between 6th and 10th seeds. Not so much for their ability to move up to the #1 pick (they're only gaining ~3-4% chance of that happening), or because of their increased ability to move into the top 3 (although at ~8-11%, that benefit is becoming more real), but now that picks 4, 5, and 6 are being drawn for as well, whereas it previously was only the top 3 picks that were drawn for, they now have a far greater chance of moving up. Before, the 6th seed could only pick 1-3, or 6-9. Now, that 6th seed can move anywhere into the top 5, and at a 49.7% chance of doing so, that chance is very real.

In all, it gives a far greater likelihood that there will be movement on lottery night, all across the board.

Again, in my opinion, this stinks. Any element that greatly increases the role that luck plays into team building is a negative one in my book. The hope is that the greater presence of luck will decrease the odds that teams will rely on the draft, changing the value proposition of the reward in the draft and the negative consequences associated with losing games.

Which is all well and good. I would agree that, in a perfect league, teams should never intentionally field a team that isn't competitive. But this isn't a perfect league, and this rule change does nothing to bring the league closer to perfection.

Unfortunately, the reasons that building the foundation of a team through the draft are so crucial still exist, and the impediments to building that foundation through other avenues have not been removed. All the NBA has done is make the already difficult task of building the core of your team more difficult. Congratulations, NBA.

Below are tables for the current odds, the proposed odds, and how the rule changes impact each seeds chances of getting each pick.

Current Odds
Seed 1st Pick 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th
1st 25% 21.5% 17.8% 35.7%









2nd 19.9% 18.8% 17.1% 31.9% 12.3%
3rd 15.6% 15.7% 15.6% 22.6% 26.4% 4%
4th 11.9% 12.6% 13.3% 9.9% 35.1% 16% 1.2%
5th 8.8% 9.7% 10.7%
26.1% 36% 8.4% 0.4%
6th 6.3% 7.1% 8.1%

43.9% 30.5% 4% 0.1%
7th 4.3% 4.9% 5.8%


59.9% 23.2% 1.8% ~0.1%
8th 2.8% 3.3% 3.9%



72.4% 16.8% 0.8% ~0.1%
9th 1.7% 2% 2.4% 81.3% 12.2% 0.4% ~0.1%
10th 1.1% 1.3% 1.6% 87% 8.9% 0.2% ~0.1%
11th 0.8% 0.9% 1.2% 90.7% 6.3% 0.1% ~0.1%
12th 0.7% 0.8% 1% 93.5% 3.9% ~0.1%
13th 0.6% 0.7% 0.9% 96% 1.8%
14th 0.5% 0.6% 0.7% 98.2%

Proposed Odds
Seed 1st Pick 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th
1st 12% 11.7% 11.3% 10.9% 10.4% 9.8% 33.8%
2nd 12% 11.7% 11.3% 10.9% 10.4% 9.8% 24.4% 9.5%
3rd 12% 11.7% 11.3% 10.9% 10.4% 9.8% 17.0% 14.8% 2.1%
4th 12% 11.7% 11.3% 10.9% 10.4% 9.8% 11.3% 17% 5.2% 0.3%
5th 11.5% 11.3% 11% 10.7% 10.3% 9.8% 7.4% 17.6% 9.1% 1.3% ~0.1%
6th 10% 10% 10% 9.9% 9.8% 9.7% 4.5% 17.8% 14.7% 3.4% 0.2% ~0.1%
7th 8.5% 8.7% 8.8% 9% 9.1% 9.3% 1.7% 15% 21.1% 7.9% 0.9% ~0.1% ~0.1%
8th 7% 7.2% 7.5% 7.8% 8.2% 8.6% 8.4% 25.8% 16.3% 2.9% 0.2% ~0.1% ~0.1%
9th 5.5% 5.8% 6.1% 6.5% 7% 7.6% 21.9% 29.9% 9% 0.8% ~0.1% ~0.1%
10th 4% 4.3% 4.6% 5% 5.5% 6.1% 40.9% 25.8% 3.6% 0.1% ~0.1%
11th 2.5% 2.7% 3% 3.3% 3.7% 4.2% 61.1% 18.3% 1.1% ~0.1%
12th 1.5% 1.6% 1.8% 2% 2.3% 2.7% 77.1% 10.7% 0.2%
13th 1% 1.1% 1.2% 1.4% 1.6% 1.8% 88% 3.9%
14th 0.5% 0.6% 0.6% 0.7% 0.8% 0.9% 95.9%

Change in Odds
Seed 1st Pick 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th
1st -13% -9.8% -6.4% -24.8% +10.4% +9.8% +33.8%
2nd -7.9% -7.1% -5.8% -21% -1.9% +9.8% +24.4% +9.5%
3rd -3.6% -4% -4.3% -11.7% -16% +5.8% +17% +14.8% +0.2%
4th +0.1% -0.9% -2% +1% -24.7% -6.2% +10.1% +17% +0.05% +.3%
5th +2.7% +1.6% +0.3% +10.7% -15.8% -26.2% -1% +17.2% +9.1% +1.3%
6th +3.7% +2.9% +1.9% +9.9% +9.8% -34.2% -26% +13.8% +14.6% +3.4% +0.2%
7th +4.2% +3.8% +3% +9% +9.1% +9.3% -58.2% -8.2% +19.3% +7.8% +0.9%
8th +4.2% +3.9% +3.6% +7.8% +8.2% +8.6% -64% +9% +15.5% +2.9% +0.2%
9th +3.8% +3.8% +3.7% +6.5% +7% +7.6% -59.4% +17.7% +8.6% +0.8%
10th +2.9% +3% +3% +5% +5.5% +6.1% -46.1% +16.9% +3.4% +0.1%
11th +1.7% +1.8% +1.8% +3.3% +3.7% +4.2% -29.6% +12% +1% +0.1%
12th +0.8% +0.8% +0.8% 2% 2.3% 2.7% -16.4% +6.8% +0.2%
13th +0.4% +.04% +0.3% 1.4% 1.6% 1.8% -8% +2.1%
14th ~0.1% ~0.1% ~-0.1% 0.7% 0.8% 0.9% -2.3%