NBA Lottery
Have You Seen the New NBA Lottery? (Robert Hanashiro/USA Today)

Of course, you have. We all saw the NBA press release from 2017 outlining the changes to the NBA Lottery that would take effect in 2019. I mean, yes, that was September of 2017 but nothing has really happened since then, right? Nothing that would have distracted us from what these changes might mean, right?

Not exactly. 2018 saw a lottery filled with highly touted prospects scattered all through the top 14 and possibly multiple franchise altering talents, i.e. LUKAAAA.

As teams left the 2018 draft with their goodie bags of exciting rookies and future 1st rounders, I assume most NBA fans went right back to their normal offseason schedule and waited to see if their hometown teams would be playoff worthy in 2019 or if they’d be visiting Tankathon a lot earlier than anyone wants.

Well, I don’t mean to alarm you but if your team has fallen on hard times during the 2018/2019 season then you might want to have a look at the new NBA Lottery odds. Below I have outlined the changes in the percentages for the NBA Lottery:

Pick2018Top 32019Top 4
125%64.20%14.00%52.10%
219.90%55.80%14.00%52.10%
313.80%42.60%14.00%52.10%
413.70%42.60%12.50%48.10%
58.80%29.10%10.50%42.10%
65.30%18.30%9.00%37.20%
75.30%18.30%7.50%32.00%
82.80%9.90%6.00%26.30%
91.70%6.10%4.50%20.30%
101.10%4.00%3.00%13.90%
110.80%2.90%2.00%9.40%
120.70%2.50%1.50%7.10%
130.60%2.20%1.00%4.80%
140.50%1.80%0.50%2.40%

Before you have a panic attack, this isn’t a test. You don’t have to remember these percentages.

Let’s go through a few quick notes on the changes:

  • The 3 worst teams in the NBA will now have the same odds at getting the #1 pick in 2019
  • The team with the worst record will pick no lower than 5th in 2019 as opposed to 4th in 2018 and before.
  • The top 4 slots will now be determined by the lottery as opposed to the top 3.

So what does this really mean? It means that it just got a lot more interesting for the teams picking 6-10 in the 2019 lottery. The odds for those slots had the most dramatic increase for chances at the top spot and an even larger jump in chances to reach the top 4. In years past, the top 3 was the target for the middling teams stuck in the “too good to tank but too bad to compete for the playoffs” zone that everyone dreads. Now they have a chance to reach the top 4. It’s only 1 extra slot but that 1 extra slot could mean the difference in conveying a pick, keeping a pick, or having a shot at a truly transcendent talent.

As it stands now on March 12, 2019, the teams in that 6-10 range are:

  • Dallas 27-39 = Their pick is top 5 protected and it goes to Atlanta if outside that top 5. These changes are huge for a team like Dallas. Adding a top 5 pick to Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis would be a dream come true.
  • Memphis 28-40 = The Grizzlies pick is top 8 protected and goes to Boston if outside that top 8. Memphis has been wrestling with the plan to convey the pick or to keep it all season. After the Marc Gasol trade, it seemed they had committed to keeping the pick and plummeting as low as possible. But Mike Conley and Co. had other plans. Memphis is 5-5 over their last 10 and have won 3 straight. You can be sure the Boston front office will be closely watching the Grizzlies over the next few weeks.
  • Washington 28-39 = The Wizards own their pick outright but hope to make the playoffs. The beauty of the Eastern Conference! Washington is only 4 games out of the playoffs but would basically be guaranteed a pick in this range if they miss the playoffs. Due to the records of Western Conference teams ahead of them in the lottery.
  • New Orleans 30-39 = The Pelicans have been playing better of late and seem to be somewhat clear of this Anthony Davis saga for the time being. The playoffs seem out of reach but the chance of obtaining a top 4 pick would be huge in their pursuit of either keeping AD for the long term or immediately competing once he is traded.
  • Charlotte 30-37 = Similar to Washington, the Hornets are doing all they can to make the playoffs this season. They will also greatly welcome the increased odds for a top 4 pick as it would be the highest pick in some time for Charlotte which has been stuck in the late-lottery wormhole for recent memory.
  • Lurking just outside the 6-10 range is everyone’s favorite TNT primetime team, The LOS ANGELES LAKERS!! LA is currently 30-36 and they announced over the last few days that Lebron James will be held to a minutes restriction and Lonzo Ball will likely miss the remainder of the season. This seems to be their play at securing a spot in the attractive 6-10 range of the lottery. We will see if they make a long-term decision for the franchise or a short-term one to appease the King.