Saturday, April 19, 2008

What's the Chance?

With the Grizzlies locked into the #4 lottery spot in the upcoming draft it is time to figure out just how the 4th worst team in the league did in previous drafts. Not because it gives us any glimpse into the future but simply because there is nothing else for me to blog about. I am a NBA fan and outside of the Tigers don't know enough to comment on the potential lottery picks.

Lucky for 3 SOB readers, MemphisX is quite capable and will probably being writing something about it.

I do like History and Math however so I will blog about what I know something about. The NBA Lottery has been around since 1985 when the Knicks won the live lottery. The Knicks had the 3rd worst record in the NBA that season. Seattle and Sacramento tied for the 4th worst record. Since the lottery wasn't weighted back then it didn't matter if there was a tie-breaker. Seattle got the fourth pick (Xavier McDaniel) and Sacramento got the 6th pick (Joe Kleine).

After the 1985-86 season New York had the worst record in the league followed by Indiana, Cleveland (who traded their pick to Dallas) and Golden St. The Warriors had the 4th worst record in the league and the worst record in the Western conference but also had the same record as Chicago who made the playoffs in the East. Some things never change. The Warriors did better than the previous season and got to pick 3rd in the draft. They took Chris Washburn...

In 1987 the Spurs had the fourth worst record in the NBA. They choose someone named David Robinson after winning the lottery. Their franchise has never looked back.

The 1988 lottery had two teams that failed to win 20 games for the first time since the lottery was installed and a third team won only 20 games. The Clippers, with the worst record in the league, also had Sacramento's pick who was the 4th worst team. The Clippers picked 1st and 6th. I have not found any record that tells which envelope was which so we don't know if the 4th team won the lottery or the worst team.

1989 was the last year of the unweighted lottery. Expansion teams Miami and Charlotte (the Hornets not the Bobcats) had the worst records followed by the Clippers and San Antonio. The Spurs didn't win the lottery but did get the 3rd pick who turned into Sean Elliot.

Since all of those seasons were unweighted there was no true advantage in dumping games. You gained nothing from having the worst record or being the team just out of the playoffs. Everything changed in 1990. Now if you finished last in the regular season you got 11 Ping Pong balls, second to last got 10, etc all the way until the 11th team got one single ball. 4 teams failed to crack the 20 win plateau that season. Sure it could have been just a coincidence but it is rather interesting. The Charlotte Hornets had the 4th worst record in the league and picked 5th in the draft. That system last 3 more years with the 4th team picking second, fifth and seventh. So over the four years of the extra ball lotteries the 4th worst record averaged picking 4.8 and picked lower than their seed in 3 of the 4 drafts but never worse than 7th.

The current system began in 1994 and the fourth worst record netted Milwaukee the correct combination as they won the draft and picked Glenn Robinson from Purdue. In 1995 the fourth worst team picked 3rd. 1996 that team picked 4th. 1997 they got the 5th pick. In 1998 Golden St picked 5th. 1999 Toronto got the 5th pick. 2000 saw the Grizzlies pick second and draft Stromile Swift, 2001 Memphis (for the first time) picked Shane Battier with their pick at #6. 2002 saw Denver pick 5th. 2003 was Miami and they got the 5th pick. In 2004 the Clippers picked 4th. In 2005 Utah picked 4th. 2006 saw Atlanta pick 4th and last year Atlanta was again the fourth worst team and they picked 3rd.

So since the adoption of the current method the fourth worst record in the NBA has once, second once, third twice, fourth four times, fifth five times and sixth only once. That means that the team with the 4th worst record in the NBA has never picked 7th since the creation of this draft system.

So what does this tell us? Nothing because each drawing is an unique event. There is nothing to learn from looking into the past with this system any more than you can determine the next flip of a coin by the preceeding flips. You know on average the team should have just under a 12% chance of picking first and only a 37.73% probablity of picking in the top 3 but every year a team that shouldn't make it seems to beat the odds.

Maybe this year is Memphis' turn.

BallHype: hype it up!

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