“We’re going to get this ball rolling,” said Jamin Dershowitz, the NBA’s assistant general counsel, an unintentional pun that kicked off one of the league’s most elaborate—and perhaps a little absurd—postseason events. The NBA draft lottery has been around since 1985, back when David Stern, annoyed at a handful of teams openly losing to secure a better place in the draft order, pushed through a new system. It has evolved since then, from envelopes to ping pong balls, weighted odds to flatter ones, but for nearly four decades the lottery has been a big night on the NBA calendar.
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Here’s how it works: Fourteen ping pong balls are slid into a plastic container and sent into motion by air pumped through the bottom. The balls—each one weighed, measured and certified by SmartPlay, a lottery integrity company and sealed in a zip tied case—are inserted one at a time by Peter Rosenbaum, a partner at Ernst & Young. There are 1,001 possible four-digit combinations, with the three teams with the worst record—Orlando, Houston and Detroit—getting 140 apiece. The drawing itself is carefully curated: each ball is vacuumed out at precise ten-second intervals, prompted by an NBA official standing on the opposite side of the room—with his back turned.
It’s just after 5:30 CT when the doors to the drawing room, located this year inside the McCormack Place Convention Center are flung open. Each team sends in one representative. They range from high ranking executives (New Orleans’s David Griffin, Washington’s Tommy Sheppard) to behind the scenes staffers (Clay Allen, the Rockets General Counsel, John Kehriotis, one of Sacramento’s minority owners). For years the NBA has allowed a few members of the media—SI was one of them—in to observe. Electronic devices, from cell phones to digital recorders, are checked at the door. Byron Spruell, the president of league operations, emcees the event, which is overseen by members of NBA security.
The drawing continued. 2 … 7 … 14 … 9. Sam Presti, Oklahoma City’s top exec, sat motionless. In his pocket were two rocks. One a gift from his seven-year old son, Nicholas, two years ago, another an emerald green crystal given to him by his wife more recently. Nicholas’s rock normally sits on Presti’s desk in Oklahoma. He takes it with him on walks or, in this case, whenever he needs a little luck. Presti’s last trip to the drawing room was in 2009, when the Thunder jumped up one spot, positioning the team to draft a dynamic guard from Arizona State named James Harden. This time around, Oklahoma City jumped from fourth to second, guaranteeing the Thunder, which added Josh Giddey to a growing young core last season, another blue chip prospect. As Presti noted earlier in the day, ““Luck plays a much bigger role in all of our lives than we’d like to admit.”
Cayleigh Griffin: Rafael Stone says the team is open to moving the pick. He said it’s an important part of his philosophy – you have to be open because you never know what opportunities will present themselves.
Mark Berman: #Rockets GM Rafael Stone says he’ll listen to other general managers who express interest in trading for the third-overall pick: “If there’s something that makes sense for both teams it’ll get done.” pic.twitter.com/Wyhr5amax2
Salman Ali: Rafael Stone: “We’re really excited. I definitely think by picking third or trading, we’re going to be a materially more talented team than we were last year.”
Adam Wexler: “I do think there’s a sense of relief only in that we’re doing all this work without knowing where we pick. But now we do know, so it’s kind of (that) step is done part of relief.” – #Rockets GM Rafael Stone on the team landing the 3rd pick in the NBA draft following the lottery.
Salman Ali: Rafael Stone on drafting best talent versus best fit: “I think you always have to go with the best player available… When you’re picking this high in the draft, you have to pick someone who you think will be a cornerstone for your franchise.”
“I haven’t been very good at this,” Weltman told reporters via videoconference. “It’s funny. Coach was feeling lucky and we let him roll the dice and tonight, he’s the coach of the year.” Orlando had a 14% chance to get the top pick, along with the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons. It’s the Magic’s first chance to pick No. 1 overall since 2004, when they selected Dwight Howard.
Weltman said he believes there are “a lot of elite level prospects” at the top of the draft, and the team will do its due diligence. “I do feel that as [these top prospects] start to make the rounds, teams will start to fall in love with guys, which is what generally happens,” Weltman said. “And generally leverage will kind of unfold from there, but I know we’ll have a lot of interesting discussions with teams. Obviously we don’t go into this thing looking to trade our pick. “We look to add a really talented, young, high-character guy to our talent base and our roster. I have no expectations on it. Obviously, we’ll continue to do our work. This really doesn’t change much of the way that we’ll approach the draft. We’re just really excited to be able to fall in love with somebody and pick that player.”
Tuesday marked 30 years to the day since the Magic won the lottery that allowed them to draft O’Neal. “The fans, the organization, it’s so exciting,” Mosley told ESPN’s Mike Schmitz on the draft lottery broadcast. “It’s so much to look forward to with this organization and this group and this fan base, it’s gonna be special.”
Pritchard added that since the Pacers didn’t get the No. 1 pick, they’ll keep all of their options open, including the chance to move into the top five. “We’ve got cap space. We’ve got a good pick,” Pritchard said. ” … We liked the fifth pick better, but we like the sixth pick. “The gamut of what we can do is wide and wider than I’ve ever seen ever in my time in this league, and I like that because now we get to get on the board and look at every scenario. There won’t be one. There won’t be two. There might 50 things we’ll look (at) up on the board, and that’s when you can be aggressive.”
Khobi Price: The Magic won the lottery and will have the No. 1 pick.
JD Shaw: 2022 NBA Draft Lottery Order: 1. Magic 2. Thunder 3. Rockets 4. Kings 5. Pistons 6. Pacers 7. Blazers 8. Pelicans 9. Spurs 10. Wizards 11. Knicks 12. Thunder 13. Hornets 14. Cavaliers
NBA Communications: Here is the list of team representatives who will be in the lottery drawing room
The draft lottery is Tuesday night and we officially know the identities of at least two high-wattage team representatives who will appear on the lottery stage: All-Star guard Damian Lillard for Portland and legendary center David Robinson for San Antonio.
Damian Lillard will hope the ping pong balls bounce in Portland’s favor when he represents the Blazers at the 2022 NBA draft lottery drawing on May 17. The Blazers announced Lillard will be in attendance for the team courtesy of Lillard’s son, Damian Lillard Jr.
Nets Daily: Huge dropoff in ratings this year for NBA lottery draw. One reason might be the absence of all four teams from the two biggest markets, New York and Los Angeles. That hasn’t been the case in a long long time.
Wrapping up with some minutiae: as it turns out, the Pistons and Cavaliers got lucky twice on lottery night. The way the lottery works is that the league draws combinations for the first four slots in order, with any team repeats being thrown out and re-drawn. According to a source with knowledge of the proceedings, the NBA had to draw six times for four slots, with the order being Detroit, then Houston, then Detroit again, then Cleveland, Cleveland again, and finally, Toronto. Conspiracy theorists, do your worst.
But here’s the thing: The Cavs are finally in position where there’s no wrong answer. “It’s a tremendous opportunity. I think it really positions us well,” Altman said. “When we started this a few years back we talked about building through the draft and creating sustainable success. There’s some real game-changers at the top of this draft, but also it puts us in a position to capitalize on different opportunities. When you look at our young core, we’re in good shape from a talent perspective and we’re going to have another large injection of talent coming soon. At the top of this draft there’s size, there’s athleticism, there’s talent, so we’re really happy.
Tuesday’s result changes … everything. “I didn’t think it would be the third pick, but we always knew we were going to add another young talented player in this draft and then go from there,” Altman said. “What we always try to do is create a pathway for success. It won’t be any different with this young man. The difference is these players, this high level, they’re really talented and can play right away. We might have to do some internal adjustment to how we gauge what we wanted to do right out of the gate, but we still want to supplement that four that we talked about. The difference is there could be a game changer where we’re picking.
So desperate, Gansey contemplated bringing his 2016 championship ring for good luck. Only he didn’t want that with him for a week of scouting in Chicago. Instead, he brought his three-year-old son Griffin’s favorite toy — Super Wings Jerome. It was on the table as the placards were revealed one by one. Anxiousness filled the room. Eventually, the Thunder were revealed at No. 6. That meant the Cavs had moved into the top 4. Gansey delightedly slammed his fist on the table and the rest of the contingent celebrated. Altman looked on with excitement as the TV coverage went to commercial. “That damn commercial break felt so long,” a source said.
It’s the first top pick for the franchise since center Bob Lanier out of St. Bonaventure University in 1970 “Obviously we get to add another wing player to the restoration process,” Pistons general manager Troy Weaver told reporters. “We’re excited to be in this position. But it means that we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’re going to be diligent about it. But it always helps to be able to add the number one pick.” Rockets general manager Rafael Stone told reporters after the lottery that he was open to trading the No. 2 pick. “We don’t want to foreclose anything,” he said. “We’re open to a trade.”
After defying the odds to land the No. 2 overall pick, Houston general manager Rafael Stone certainly didn’t dismiss the possibility. “It’s not necessarily that you’re looking to do that, but you shouldn’t foreclose any option,” Stone told reporters following the lottery. “You have to do the work. You have to use the allotted time. You have to have the discussions. You have to go through the process.”
The NBA hasn’t seen very many high lottery picks traded in the recent future, but this lottery could be different with several teams interested in trading for a more established player. “There are multiple teams, I’m told: Cleveland, Minnesota, Houston, who are going to be very aggressive if they’re in the top of this lottery with perhaps putting those picks in trades to bring back young veteran players or All-Star caliber players to accelerate their rebuilds,” said Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN shortly before the draft.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, who have 19 first-round picks through 2027, have three first-round draft selections in 2021. They landed the No. 6 pick in the lottery. Complete lottery results: 1. Detroit Pistons 2. Houston Rockets 3. Cleveland Cavaliers 4. Toronto Raptors 5. Orlando Magic 6. Oklahoma City Thunder 7. Golden State Warriors 8. Orlando Magic 9. Sacramento Kings 10. New Orleans Pelicans 11. Charlotte Hornets 12. San Antonio Spurs 13. Indiana Pacers 14. Golden State Warriors
James Edwards III: The Pistons get the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The first time since 1970. Also the first time the team has ever moved up in the lottery.
Ben Golliver: 2021 NBA Draft Lottery order 1. Pistons 2. Rockets 3. Cavaliers 4. Raptors 5. Magic 6. Thunder 7. Warriors (from Timberwolves) 8. Magic (from Bulls) 9. Kings 10. Pelicans 11. Hornets 12. Spurs 13. Pacers 14. Warriors
Brandon Rahbar: Sam Presti: “Unless we want to change our goals and aspirations, we have a clear plan we want to follow. We know we can be successful. We’ve done it before. It’s something that’s going to take some time. It’s something that’s going to take some good fortune at some point.”
Joe Mussatto: Former Thunder center Nazr Mohammed will represent the team at the NBA Draft Lottery. Mohammed was promoted to GM of the OKC Blue last offseason.
Paul Garcia: Team representatives for the draft lottery tomorrow
Chris Fedor: #Cavs GM Koby Altman will be the team’s virtual representative at tomorrow’s draft lottery, sources tell @clevelanddotcom
For the 2021 lottery broadcast, each team will have a representative (usually an executive, coach, player, or someone with historical ties to the franchise) watching remotely. The Pacers will be represented by the great Nancy Leonard, the wife of the late Hall of Famer Slick Leonard who also worked in team’s front office and played a vital role in keeping the Pacers in Indianapolis with a 1977 telethon.
RJ Marquez: Told Peter J. Holt will represent Spurs at Tuesday’s virtual NBA Draft Lottery. Holt was officially elevated to managing partner of the franchise on Friday. San Antonio has the 12th-best lottery odds. #GoSpursGo #NBA #KSATsports
Doug Smith: Am told the one and only Fred VanVleet will bet not only on himself but on his team as the Raptors representative at the virtual NBA draft lottery tomorrow night
Zach Lowe: Anthony Edwards will be the Minnesota Timberwolves (virtual) representative at the draft lottery tomorrow, sources tell ESPN.
James Ham: Monte McNair will represent Kings at NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday as @Jason Anderson noted. McNair and his staff are in Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine.
Jason Anderson: I’m told general manager Monte McNair will represent the Sacramento Kings in Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery. Check @sacbee_news in the morning to see how the Kings fared in our simulated lottery and mock draft.
The Cavs have had talks over the last few days about who will represent the organization at the virtual lottery. Sources say that’s still to be determined. Last year, it was franchise legend Brad Daugherty.
James Edwards III: Per sources, the Detroit Pistons will be represented at Tuesday’s lottery by...
Can Marc Eversley produce lottery luck for the Chicago Bulls again? The general manager will represent the franchise virtually for Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery after executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas handled the duties last year.
Anthony Slater: Rick Welts will be the Warriors lottery rep next week in what most likely will be his final front-facing appearance for the organization before retirement.
Shams Charania: Sources: 2021 NBA Draft Tiebreakers: 4: Oklahoma City over Cleveland 8: Chicago, then Sacramento, then New Orleans 11. Charlotte over San Antonio 19. New York over Atlanta 21. Dallas 22. Lakers 25. Clippers 26. Denver
Ian Begley: The Knicks won their NBA Draft tiebreaker with the Hawks, the league says. Also, Dallas won its draft tiebreaker with the Lakers and Portland. Knicks own Dallas’ 2021 first-round pick.
Salman Ali: The Rockets haven’t decided upon who’s lucky enough to represent them at the lottery this year. Rafael Stone: “I hope it’s not me.” Stephen Silas: “It’s definitely not me. You see our injuries this year?”
Bobby Marks: Draft Lottery ties that will need to get broken 4. Cleveland/Oklahoma City 8. Orlando (via Chicago)/New Orleans/Sacramento 11. Charlotte/San Antonio (if both lose in play-in) 19. New York/Atlanta 21. Houston (via Portland)/Los Angeles Lakers/Knicks (via Dallas) 25. Los Angeles Clippers/Denver
Bobby Marks: Ties that will need to get broken 4. CLE/OKC 8. ORL (via CHI)/NOP/SAC 11. CHA/SAS (if both lose in play-in) 19. NYK/ATL 21. HOU (via POR)/LAL/NYK (via DAL) 25. LAC/DEN
NBA Draft Lottery 2021 presented by State Farm® will take place on Tuesday, June 22, airing on ESPN at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Shams Charania: The 2021 NBA Draft will be on July 29, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. NBA Draft Lottery will be on June 22. Draft Combine scheduled for June 21-27.
Regardless, there’s no doubt the Timberwolves will take the major victory anyway, as landing the No. 1 pick gives the franchise a ton of flexibility, be it to acquire their next franchise cornerstone to fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell or to trade down for multiple assets. What’s interesting is that even with the huge win in this year’s draft lottery, the Wolves still hold the honor of statistically being the unluckiest team in lottery history. That’s how bad their luck had been before this year.
With Minnesota moving up for the first time, that leaves just the Dallas Mavericks, the Detroit Pistons, the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat as the only teams who have never moved up from their pre-lottery position. On the other side of the spectrum, the three luckiest teams in lottery history are the Philadelphia 76ers, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Charlotte Hornets, who have moved up eight times and three times apiece respectively.
They consider Lacob unusually lucky, for various reasons. He told them, semi-facetiously, something to the effect of: “I don’t do lotteries. I do championships.” When ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne asked Lacob about that cheeky line, he chuckled. “This is gonna be like the ‘light years’ thing,” Lacob said. “I did say that. But when you’re in last place, you shouldn’t really have much to say.” Stephen Curry was the next and obvious choice. He had one request, Golden State higher-ups said: Ask Klay first. Thompson apparently passed.
Rod Beard: #Pistons GM Troy Weaver on trading first-round picks this year: “Teams will definitely look to explore those options. Just the climate of the NBA and what’s ahead of us, there could be teams looking to get off those picks because of the financial constraints.”
Wes Goldberg: Speaking on a Zoom call, Warriors GM Bob Myers said “Steph Curry delivered as usual… it was going to be 1 through 5 but 2 is about as good as it gets.”
Anthony Slater: Bob Myers on Warriors getting #2 pick: “Do we like somebody there? We don’t entirely control the draft, but all we have to like is two guys to be happy. So that makes it simpler.”
Christopher Hine: Rosas: “They talk about this as being similar to past drafts, the Anthony Bennett draft for example, but to be fair the reigning MVP was a part of the draft. We have to do our job.”
KC Johnson: Speaking on a Zoom call, Bulls EVP Arturas Karnisovas said “how happy we are to move up, to break recent tradition. We know that moving up from 7 to 4 is a huge deal for our organization and city of Chicago. We’re going to select a player who’s going to help us next year.”
Sarah K. Spencer: Travis Schlenk on the Hawks falling to sixth: “We ended up right where we were supposed to… losing would have been seventh or eighth.” Mentions that was percentage-wise the most likely scenario
Rod Beard: #Pistons Troy Weaver: “We’ll continue to do our work for the draft, combing over every prospect and every scenario…I always felt like this draft was 14 or 15 deep. You could get the same-quality player between 3 and 13.”
“We couldn’t be more pleased to land the first overall pick in this year’s draft, marking only the second time in franchise history,” said Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas. “We are excited for the possibilities ahead of us to bring in a high caliber player now that we secured the first overall selection. As a front office, we are proud of what we’ve built here in Minnesota so far and we are looking forward to continuing to build upon that foundation in this year’s draft.”
Gersson Rosas: “We know with the number one pick we have the opportunity to draft an impact player who could immediately complement our young, strong core in All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns and All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell. The front office and I are prepared to get right to work with this new component for the draft and we’re confident we will be able to bring energy and excitement to our fanbase with our next moves.”
“I’m glad I could represent for the state of Minnesota at the draft lottery the same way we plan to show out for our fans when we get back on the court,” said Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell. “The number one pick is exciting to have, it makes me think back to when Karl and I got drafted 1,2 in the 2015 draft. There’s so much buzz and energy during the draft as a player and I really look forward to seeing what Gersson and the front office will do to build upon our 2020-21 roster with this pick. I know we’re ready to compete and I can’t wait to see who joins us next.”
Jon Krawczynski: For the first time ever, the Wolves move up in the lottery. Amazing
Jeff Goodman: 2020 NBA Draft Order: 1. Minnesota 2. Golden State 3. Charlotte 4. Chicago 5. Cleveland 6. Atlanta 7. Detroit 8. New York 9. Washington 10. Phoenix 11. San Antonio 12. Sacramento 13. New Orleans 14. Boston
KC Johnson: This is the first time the Bulls have jumped up from their pre-draft lottery position since . . . 2008. That’s when they moved from No. 9 to No. 1 for Derrick Rose.
RJ Marquez: The #Spurs will have the No. 11 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. San Antonio did not move up or down based on pre-lottery predictions. It’s still the highest they have selected, assuming they keep the pick, since Tim Duncan was drafted in 1997.
Brian Robb: The Celtics will have the No. 14 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. That gives them three first-round picks in 2020 (No. 14, No. 26, No. 30), the most of any team.
For Thursday’s NBA Draft lottery, “Lucky Leon” Rose will wear a replica of a special bracelet that a young Knicks fan/high school player gave to RJ Barrett before Rose’s first game as Knicks president on March 2. Barrett went on to score his career high 27 points and the Knicks beat the Rockets in Rose’s presidential debut.
Eric Woodyard: Cavaliers Legend Brad Daugherty will represent the Cleveland Cavaliers in Thursday’s 2020 NBA Draft Lottery.
Rod Beard: #Pistons new general manager Troy Weaver will represent the team in the virtual NBA Draft Lottery on Thursday.
The Minnesota Timberwolves today announced that All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell will represent the team at the virtual 2020 NBA Draft Lottery presented by State Farm, to be held on Thursday, August 20. The event will be televised on ESPN beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT.
“I’m honored to represent the Timberwolves at this year’s draft lottery,” said Russell. “We are excited about what we are building in Minnesota and look forward to continuing the progress with the lottery and in the draft.”
Zach Lowe: Teams are making final calls on who will represent them on the “virtual dais” for this Thursday’s lottery. For Minnesota, sources tell ESPN: D’Angelo Russell. The Warriors have already revealed Stephen Curry will be their virtual rep.
Ben Rohrbach: The NBA announced the lottery and draft order after today’s tiebreaking coin flips. Lottery is on Thursday. Draft is on Oct. 16.
Chicago Bulls: Arturas Karnisovas will represent us at the virtual NBA Draft Lottery on Aug. 20.
The draft lottery, which was recently moved up from Aug. 25 to Aug. 20, will feature representatives from all 14 lottery teams who will appear on virtual displays.
According to a league source, the Warriors have yet to decide on a representative, but they’ve been encouraged by the NBA to send a well-known player.
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Andrew Lopez: New Orleans Pelicans forward Trey Murphy III has been invited to the NBA dunk contest, multiple sources tell ESPN.
“As much as you try not to put it on the officiating, it’s becoming increasingly difficult,” Ham said. “There’s a bunch of stuff we could have did better in this game, but for the most part, we competed our behinds off, played the right way, played together, stayed aggressive, playing down, playing in the paint. And it’s unfortunate that the game ends off a play like that.” “We got cheated,” forward Anthony Davis said.
“He fouled him. He fouled him. Clearly. Clearly,” said Davis, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds in his second game back from injury. “It’s bulls—. But at the end of the day, like, it’s unacceptable. And I guarantee nothing is gonna happen to the refs. We got cheated tonight, honestly. It’s a blatant foul. Pat [Beverly] got all ball on I think Brown — Jaylen Brown. They call a foul. And Bron gets smacked across the arm [and they don’t]. It’s unacceptable, to be honest. The refs were bad. They were bad tonight.”
Lewis did not care for Beverley’s attempt to provide evidence of the foul and gave him a technical foul. As Beverley walked back to the Lakers bench, he held the camera in the air while pointing at it and looking back at Lewis. “I mean, just ridiculous,” ABC’s Mike Breen said. “And Eric Lewis rightfully T’s him up.”
Sources not authorized to speak publicly said the Lakers were quickly informed by NBA officiating staff after the game that a foul should’ve been called on the play. Later, crew chief Eric Lewis said the officials should’ve whistled a foul. “There was contact,” he told a pool reporter. “At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”