For the 32nd consecutive year, the National Basketball Association will rely on the randomized movement of 14 ping-pong balls to determine the order of selection in this June’s 2016 NBA Draft. The Philadelphia 76ers enter Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery with the best odds of landing the first overall pick, but the final results depend on the luck of the draw.
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The results of the 2016 lottery will be revealed at about 8 p.m. ET on ESPN (DIS), but the actual selection process takes place before the broadcast. Unlike the National Football League or Major League Baseball, the NBA uses a machine, not the reverse order of its standings, to determine its draft order.
The 14 ping-pong balls are placed into a lottery machine built by Smart Play Company, which also provides the devices used to determine the winners of several state lotteries. The balls are numbered one through 14. Those 14 balls can produce 1,001 possible four-number combinations – 1,000 of which are assigned to the 14 participating teams. The worst teams, based on record, are assigned the most combinations.
The lottery machine draws one ping-pong ball at a time, first after 20 seconds of mixing, then again every 10 seconds until all four balls are drawn. Officials from the accounting firm Ernst & Young will oversee the process to ensure fairness. Finally, the results are sealed and brought to the television set at the New York Hilton hotel in midtown Manhattan in time for ESPN’s broadcast.
The 76ers, who went 10-72 during the regular season, are assigned 250 number combinations, so they have a 25% chance of drawing the first overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. The Los Angeles Lakers, who went 17-65, have 199 chances and a 19.9% chance at the first pick. The Boston Celtics, who own the rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round selection, have a 15.6% chance. The Chicago Bulls, who barely missed the playoffs with a 42-40 record, have just five combinations and a 0.5% chance at the first pick.
The randomized system could have some devastating consequences for the Lakers, who are in rebuilding mode after Kobe Bryant’s retirement. The Lakers have a roughly 56% chance of landing either the first, second or third-overall pick. But if the Lakers draw the fourth-overall pick or worse, the 76ers will be granted their draft pick, thanks to a previous trade that gave Philadelphia rights to any Lakers pick outside the top three.
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With future stars like LSU forward Ben Simmons and Duke star Brandon Ingram available in this summer’s draft, every team is hoping that the NBA lottery odds will be in their favor.