As all of the NBA’s non-playoff teams gather in New York tonight for the draft lottery, the Cavaliers have to like the odds they carry into Times Square.
The Cavs enter with the third-best chance (15.6 percent) at winning the lottery. The league is celebrating its 20th anniversary of the revamped weighted system, and the team with the third-best odds has won five of the first 19 years. No other lottery position has been more successful.
The overwhelming question now is how excited it’s worth getting for a lottery victory when the draft is expected to be so dismal. The projected top pick, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel, is offensively challenged and isn’t expected to play until close to Christmas while recovering from a knee injury. And that’s the best prospect. It only goes down from there.
Nevertheless, the Cavs will follow the same protocol as the previous two years. Minority team owner Jeff Cohen will represent the Cavs in the sequestered room where the numbers are actually drawn and Nick Gilbert, son of owner Dan Gilbert, will again represent the Cavs on the podium during the television broadcast when the draft positions are revealed.
The Cohen/Nick Gilbert combination is batting .500 for the Cavs. They won the lottery two years ago and were rewarded with Kyrie Irving. They entered last year’s lottery tied for the third-worst record with the New Orleans Hornets. The Cavs won a tiebreaker with the Hornets, giving them the third grouping of number combinations, but would’ve been better off losing the coin flip.
The Hornets won the lottery, meaning Anthony Davis would be in a Cavs jersey today had they lost the coin flip with the Hornets. But since the Hornets ended the season tied for the third-worst record, it counted as the fifth time the team with the third-worst record won the lottery.
For the first time this year, the league completed its combine before teams knew where they were drafting. The combine was pushed up at the request of a number of teams, who wanted as much time with their scouting reports as possible before the draft. But none of the top prospects at the combine last week would commit to private workouts for teams until they know the draft order. That will be determined tonight.
This is the Cavs’ third consecutive trip to the lottery, and if all goes well, they aren’t expected back for a while. Expectations have been raised throughout Cleveland Clinic Courts. The Cavs are expected to be aggressive this summer and a return to the playoffs is the goal for next season.
As for tonight, all 14 non-playoff teams are allowed to have one representative in the room where the order is determined. Fourteen pingpong balls are dropped into a hopper and a four-digit combination is drawn. Whichever team holds that combination has won the draft lottery. The process is repeated for the second and third picks in the draft, then the rest of the teams are slotted in inverse order of their final records.
It’s worth noting that none of the Cavs’ combinations have been drawn in either of the past two lotteries. They won the Irving sweepstakes with the Los Angeles Clippers’ number grouping, and their own pick has slipped to fourth each of the past two years.
This year, the Cavs cannot fall beyond the sixth pick — and even that would be stunning. That means three teams below them would have to leap them for the top three spots, and there is only a 4.04 percent chance of that happening.
There are 1,001 number combinations, but the final combination (11-12-13-14) is discarded if it is ever drawn. And it never has been.
The Orlando Magic, owners of the worst record, will have 250 of the 1,000 combinations tonight for a 25 percent chance at lottery victory. The Charlotte Bobcats will have 199 number combinations and the Cavs will have 156.
The Magic have won the lottery three times, second only to the Clippers (five) for the most lottery victories in league history.
In fact, it was the Magic’s consecutive lottery victories in 1992 and 1993 that forced the league to overhaul the lottery system and increase the odds for the teams with the worst records while decreasing the odds for the teams closest to the playoffs. The Utah Jazz, who missed the postseason this year on the final night of the regular season, hold just five of the 1,000 number combinations tonight.
This is the first year the lottery will be held at the Disney/ABC Times Square Studio. The lottery was held at NBA headquarters in Secaucus, N.J., for the past 19 years, but the league’s headquarters no longer have a television studio.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.