Hornets’ Lottery Probabilities 1

Published: April 4, 2012

Just what are our chances in the NBA Draft Lottery?

As the end of the season marches toward the present game-by-game, the Hornets draft lottery position is becoming more stable. The lottery, being more complex than is typically depicted, creates a range of values for each of the Hornets’ picks. Also, the lottery system makes it difficult to determine the value of the combination of picks.

We have worked through these problems and implemented routines to calculate the probabilities of interest. We’ll update this as necessary, including answering questions from the readers, so get your thinking caps on.

Draft positions

The Hornets have two picks in the upcoming draft. They will likely be lottery picks. The Hornets’ own lottery position will likely be 2 or 3. The Timberwolves’ position looks to fall between 10 and 12, inclusive.

The rationale for these is based on the current records of teams, games left to play, and an assumption about stability of the teams (e.g. no major injuries, discovery of caches of Gummiberry juice). The natural groups of the teams currently out of the playoffs are as follows, with winning percentage ranges in parentheses:

Charlotte (0.137)
New Orleans, Washington (0.226 – 0.245)
New Jersey, Toronto, Sacramento, Cleveland, Detroit, Golden State (0.345 – 0.385)
Minnesota, Portland, Milwaukee (0.455 – 0.472)
Phoenix, Utah (0.509 – 0.519)

These groups are much more likely to slide over each other within groups, like snakes in a sack, than they are to jump `sacks’. Phoenix and Utah could very well make the playoffs, so they may be replaced with other teams, but that’s immaterial. Similarly, Milwaukee could be replaced by some other East doormat, like the Knicks, but this is also immaterial, though it would be hilarious. Righteous indignation for $200, Alex.

Boom. I use these ranges to define show how sensitive the calculations are to wins and losses from here out. This should help calibrate us all on how are chances are likely to vary.

I acknowledge that this assessment is forward-looking and that Charlotte could win out while the Hornets lose out. Show me that you put $100 down on some scenario like this that I ignored, and I’ll calculate the odds for the following for you with pleasure. Otherwise, I’m sticking with this until I see a reason to redo it.

All the probabilities here are rounded for convenience. I’m also assuming that no teams are tied in lottery position. This happens often enough to worry about, but unless we are involved in a tie, the effect is small on us.

If you want the answer to 6 decimal places for some particular situation, ask. I’ll tell you, then I’ll tell you to not worry about the crumbs.

Number One Pick

There is one first pick. I hate the “Number One Pick” lingo that implies there are 30 of them . . . “We’ll trade for their number one” and all that, rather than talking about first round picks, first rounders, etc. Please stop.

This is easy to calculate. The Hornets chances range from 0.16 to 0.21 with the Hornets’ slot being the primary driver there. The Minnesota picks has less than half a percent of influence.

Top 4 Pick

Mike is very interested in a top 4 pick based on his draft board. The Hornets chances range from 0.71 to 0.89, with the Minnesota pick having a negligible effect on the final outcome. Thus, the difference is most affected by the relative placement with Washington.

Getting both picks in the top 4 is highly unlikely. This requires not only that the Minnesota pick becomes a top 3 pick, but the Hornets do not fall out of the top 4 in the process, which the Minnesota leap would make more likely. The range of this event is about 0.01 to 0.03, with both picks influencing this range equally, mostly for the reasons stated above.

Top 10 Picks

Mike also mentioned that he was excited that Minnesota was hovering around slot 10.

It is a lock that the Hornets will have a top 10 pick, since the Hornets will fall no farther than the sixth pick according to the listed assumptions. This boils down to whether the Minnesota pick is top 10. That is affected totally by the Minnesota draft position. If they are in slot 10, the probability is 0.91. If they are in the slot 11 or below, it drops to under 0.03. Questions to ask yourself are: Do I care about the top 10? Why? Will top 12, for instance, work?

So for those who think this season is all about the draft, here are some actual noddle over. Any surprises? What is most intriguing?


  1. JT's Hoops Blog

    April 4, 2012 at 11:36 am

    Hopefully the Hornets will get that number one pick. They need all the luck that they can get.

    • J

      April 4, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      This must be LBJego from the Nola.com fourm loser

    • Mike P

      April 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      why do you get on this site? I realize a lot of our fans paint a more optimistic than realistic picture (I’m often guilty as well), but what satisfaction do you get from constantly posting gloom and doom comments?

    • Mike P

      April 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm

      This is assuming that you are being sarcastic and don’t actually want that*

  2. da ThRONe

    April 4, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I’m ok with two top 10 picks. Would have been nice if we could have traded any combo of vets for another lottery pick. Hell I’ve convinced myself I’m OK with trading Gordon for a top 5 pick this offseason. I don’t see any clear franchise changing players in this draft. I think the only franchise changers kind of all have the boom or bust feel to them. However I see a lot of 2nd and 3rd bananas in this draft. So high draft picks which usually holds more value this year will take a backseat to number of draft picks.

  3. NOLA_Fredo

    April 4, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    2 out of Top 10 would be a nice consolation prize if we don’t land #1 overall — preferably if it’s #2 and #10.

    I’d take MKG and Kendall Marshall and be happy.

  4. JP

    April 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm


  5. Michael McNamara

    April 4, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    So if we finish with second worst record, we have 89% chance to get top 4 pick, if we finish with third worst record, it is only 71%? That is HUGE IMO. I just think finishing with pick 5 or 6 would be a disaster given the drop off after the top guys. 4 wouldn’t be ideal, but there is a chance Robinson or MKG falls if someone falls in love with Drummond, and if not, you can either take the guy with the 2nd highest upside or trade down to a team that just has to have him.

    5th pick, you are looking at Beal, Sullinger, or Barnes- all guys with serious question marks that have no chance of being franchise changers. It is nice to root for that Minny pick to be 10, instead of 11 or 12, but that won’t have nearly the impact of the Hornets pick. Wizards need to pick it up over this final stretch!

    • Joe Gerrity

      April 4, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      If we’re 2nd worst our pick has a 55.8% chance of being top 3. If we’re 3rd worst it has only a 46.9% chance. That’s where I think it’s really significant. We go from favorites with our pick to get one of your three guys to underdogs.

      • Michael McNamara

        April 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm

        More and more I think this is a going to be a 4 man draft once Drummond works out for teams. He will wow GM’s and Robinson will measure a little short, so he will fall to #4. If Hornets draft 5th, they will either have to grab Beal or hope that somebody else falls in love with him.

      • AbsurdJoe

        April 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm

        If we don’t land the #1 pick, Would anyone be opposed to Drummond and Sullinger Front court? I think they would compliment each other well. Sullinger has the best possible chance of dropping to 10 if he gets past Detroit.

    • Jason Calmes

      April 4, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      There is a measurable and realistic difference in those probabilities, Mike.


      The others are far less meaningful that those associated with the line you drew.

  6. Jordan

    April 4, 2012 at 4:38 pm

  7. Karlos

    April 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    MKG – Kendall Marshall!! There’s alot of talent in this draft tho.

  8. 504ever

    April 4, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Assuming we finish 3rd to last, the odds of us drafting is as follows: 1st 15.6%, 2nd 15.7%, 3rd 15.6%, 4th 22.6%, 5th 26.5%, and 6th 4%.

    The following Wiki page has all of the odds for every finishing position (scroll down): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nba_draft_lottery.

    • Jason Calmes

      April 4, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Those are for single picks. They don’t take into account multiple picks. You can add things up to deal with the first pick, but after that the sampling is dependent, making things twisted up.

  9. simon

    April 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    No one else would rather take a flier on Either of the Joneses with the minny pick if we get one of t-rob or davis with our pick?

    I think they both have the most upside and would be awesome in the pick n roll/pop with EG running it. At least I think they both fit better than Marshall does with the current 2/3 combos the hornets have. We really need a shooting PG to complement our EG/Ariza combo.
    I’d love to pick up dragic in free agency. If we can do that then I think the need for marshall goes out the window in favor of a versatile 4. i think we could really use a combo forward to mix up with J-Smitty/kaman presuming we can get him for areasonable price and they move/amnesty Mek.
    I’d love a lineup something along the lines of;
    Ariza/Aminu-Jones (either one)
    Davis-robinson/Jones (again either one)

    That’s a rotation with some serious upside on both ends of the court.

  10. KC NOLA

    April 4, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Austin Rivers and any of these three Jared Sullinger,Thomas Robinson, or Andre Drummond

    I can see Hornets with the #2 pick and #11 pick

    I like Sullinger out of the big men because he looks like he can be a solid player like a Carlos Boozer or Elton Brand type player.

    Robinson another solid player I see him being the most exciting player out of all the bigs listed. A lot of potential based off his line of work and looks like he is still improving every year.

    Andre Drummond has a lot of upside and potential to be the next Dwight Howard or can be the next Kwame Brown, I’m not sold on him yet

  11. Pingback: Hornets' Lottery Probabilities 2 | New Orleans Hornets | Hornets247.com

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