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2012 NBA Draft Lottery: That's the Way the Ping Pong Ball Bounces

Does anybody else get the feeling this guy might not be rooting for the Suns today?
Does anybody else get the feeling this guy might not be rooting for the Suns today?

The 2012 NBA Draft Lottery is today at 8 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPN and streamed online at The Phoenix Suns will be making an uncommon consecutive appearance. As usual, the festivities will be overseen by the charismatic and judicious NBA commissioner David Stern.

The NBA lottery is an annual catalyst that shapes the futures of the downtrodden. It brings with it the hope of a sudden and dramatic change of fortune from punching bag to prizefighter.

The grand prize this year is Anthony Davis, a 6'10" power forward from the NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats, but there are other intriguing subplots to follow as well. Between partially protected picks and teams jockeying for position in what is considered one of the deeper drafts in recent years, many of the participants have much to lose or gain.

There is also the scintilla of a chance that the Phoenix Suns will defy the odds and clamber up the board from #13 to the top 3. For the skinny on all things draft lottery, jump (and keep your fingers crossed the Suns jump later today).

Here are the contestants in the 2012 NBA lottery along with their odds of claiming the #1 overall pick:

1. Charlotte Bobcats - 25.0%

2. Washington Wizards - 19.9%

3. Cleveland Cavaliers - 13.8%

4. New Orleans Hornets - 13.7%

5. Sacramento Kings - 7.6%

6. Portland Trailblazers (via NJ - protected top 3) - 7.5%

7. Golden State Warriors (protected top 7) - 3.6%

8. Toronto Raptors - 3.5%

9. Detroit Pistons - 1.7%

10. New Orleans Hornets (via Clippers via Timberwolves) - 1.1%

11. Portland Trailblazers - 0.8%

12. Milwaukee Bucks - 0.7%

13. Phoenix Suns - 0.6%

14. Houston Rockets - 0.5%

The following chart shows the exact odds of each team's possible scenarios:

# 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th
1 250 25.00% 21.47% 17.72% 35.81%
2 199 19.90% 18.78% 17.06% 31.86% 12.40%
3 138 13.80% 14.24% 14.53% 23.82% 29.05% 4.55%
4 137 13.70% 14.16% 14.47% 8.51% 32.31% 15.58% 1.27%
5 76 7.60% 8.44% 9.46% 26.24% 38.48% 9.36% 0.43%
6 75 7.50% 8.33% 9.36% 41.38% 29.38% 3.94% 0.11%
7 36 3.60% 4.16% 4.90% 60.00% 25.26% 2.06% 0.03%
8 35 3.50% 4.05% 4.77% 70.38% 16.50% 0.08% 0.01%
9 17 1.70% 2.00% 2.40% 81.34% 12.18% 0.38%
10 11 1.10% 1.30% 1.57% 86.99% 8.86% 0.18%
11 8 0.80% 0.95% 1.15% 90.75% 6.27% 0.08%
12 7 0.70% 0.83% 1.01% 93.55% 3.89% 0.02%
13 6 0.60% 0.71% 0.87% 96.03% 1.79%
14 5 0.50% 0.59% 0.72% 98.18%

Chart development assisted by

Of the teams picking in this year's lottery, only the Charlotte Bobcats (who just finished their 8th season), Detroit Pistons, and Phoenix Suns have never been winners.

Teams that have won once include the New Orleans Hornets (when they were still in Charlotte in 1991), the Sacramento Kings (1989), the Portland Trailblazers (2007), the Golden State Warriors (1995), the Toronto Raptors (2006), and the Houston Rockets (2002).

The Washington Wizards (2001, 2010) and Milwaukee Bucks (1994, 2005) have each won twice.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have won once with their pick (2003), but twice more with the Clippers pick (1986, 2011) for a total of three.

The LA Clippers (conspicuously absent from the proceedings this year) have won the lottery an astounding 5 times (including the two #1 picks they sent to Cleveland). If New Orleans wins the lottery with the Clippers pick this year, it will be the third time the Clippers have given away the #1 overall selection.

Lottery History

From 1966-1984 the NBA determined the #1 pick by flipping a coin. In 1969 the Suns lost a coin flip to the Milwaukee Bucks for the #1 pick. The Milwaukee Bucks got Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). The Suns got Neal Walk.

1985 marked the famous frozen envelope draft, where the NY Knicks became the first lottery winner after a change in structure. The Knicks used their pick to draft Patrick Ewing. The Spurs also leapfrogged from 4 to 1 to draft "the Admiral" David Robinson in 1987 during the envelope era.

1990 marked the inception of the weighted system. There were 11 teams in the lottery and the worst team got 11 chances, the second worst 10 chances, etc. out of a total of 66. The worst team had a 16.7% chance of getting the top pick in this system. In 1993 the Orlando Magic became the only team to win the lottery with the best record of all lottery teams (they were 11th out of 11 teams that year and won with 1 chance out of 66).

The system was changed to give the worse teams better odds after the 1993 draft, and that has subsequently lead to the current ping pong ball structure that is in place today.

Since 1994, the team with the worst record has only won the lottery twice. Those two teams were the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003 (Lebron James) and the Orlando Magic in 2004 (Dwight Howard). Teams originally slated 3rd and 5th have won the lottery 4 times each over the same period. A full list of lottery winners and players selected #1 overall can be viewed here. A more detailed lottery history can be perused here.

Things to watch for

Portland has a 74.81% chance of receiving Brooklyn's top-3 protected pick. Portland enters the draft with only a 2.80% chance of landing a top 3 pick with their position at #11, but stand to make a possible meteoric rise if they can hit on two mid to late lottery selections this year. Couple those picks with Aldridge, Batum, and the flexibility they have under the cap and this could end up being a defining summer for the Blazers organization and vastly improve an opponent of the Suns in the Western Conference.

Utah has a 27.35% chance of receiving Golden State's top-7 protected pick. This could have ramifications for the Suns either way. The availability of players such as Brandon Rush (GS) and Paul Millsap (Utah) could be influenced by the end result of this pick.

New Orleans actually has a 46.3% chance of landing a top 3 pick by virtue of being slotted at both #4 and #10. The franchise was just sold after being operated by the league and has faced a great deal of adversity over the last few years. It would be the latest fix a huge reversal of fortune for the Hornets to land the opportunity to draft Anthony Davis.

Then, of course, there is the Phoenix Suns. The Suns have a 0.6% chance of landing the #1 overall pick and a 2.18% chance of ascending to the top 3. The Suns have only drafted in the top 3 twice in franchise history. In 1969 they picked Neal Walk 2nd overall, and in 1987 they used the 2nd selection on Armen Gilliam. I'm sure the current administration would love a crack at atoning for those underwhelming results. Since the draft expanded to 13 teams in 1996, no double digit seed has won the lottery. It's bound to happen eventually, so let's hope the scales of kismet tip in the Suns favor tonight.

***Additional Content: Check out the SB Nation draft piece by Tom Ziller where our own inimitable East Bay Ray details why the Suns deserve to win tonight's lottery. There are also 11 less compelling arguments for the other potential candidates.

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