CHICAGO — Zion Williamson's immediate future is likely to be decided by the bounce of 14 pingpong balls.
The NBA Draft lottery is Tuesday night in Chicago, where some team will be awarded the No. 1 pick in the June 20 draft — and, presumably, the chance to grab Williamson with that selection.
The Cavaliers, New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns share the best odds: They've all got a 14 percent chance of winning under a new format that was designed in 2017 and put into play this year to discourage teams from all-out tanking. Williamson, the consensus college basketball player of the year this past season, is expected to be in the audience when the lottery results are announced.
"Whatever NBA team I land on, that's where I want to be," Williamson, the now-former Duke star who is turning pro after one season with the Blue Devils, said last month. "Whoever drafts me, that's where I want to be."
It is very much a lottery; the machine is exactly like the one used in many state lotteries and is manufactured by Smartplay International, which works with clients all over the world for various drawings. Smartplay even certifies the 14 pingpong balls that will be used to churn out the four-number combination will net some team the No. 1 pick.
The Knicks, Cavs and Suns will all be assigned 140 of the possible 1,001 four-number combinations. The Chicago Bulls get 125, giving them the fourth-best shot. The Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat and Sacramento Kings will be assigned 10 of those combinations, giving them the longest odds of winning the No. 1 pick. The Kings won't be rooting to win; their pick goes to the Boston Celtics, unless it's the first pick, and then it goes to the Philadelphia 76ers.
By the time the telecast of the lottery begins at 8:30 p.m. Eastern, it will already have long been over. The actual drawing takes place in a secure room about an hour beforehand, witnessed by a representative from each of the 14 lottery clubs, NBA officials and some members of the media. None of them can leave or communicate with the outside world in any way until after the results are announced on television.
"I'm not one to waste a lot of time on things I can't control — which is essentially anything that happens at my house, and the lottery," Atlanta Hawks General Manager Travis Schlenk said.
The Hawks could be big winners Tuesday. If the Dallas Mavericks doesn't get one of the top four draft picks, the Mavericks' pick — which would be No. 9 if they don't move up — goes to the Hawks, who have their own lottery pick as well and a 10.5 percent chance of winning the No. 1 selection.
The Knicks are hoping history repeats: The first draft lottery was 1985, the Knicks won it and used that No. 1 pick to draft Patrick Ewing — who will represent the Knicks on stage Tuesday night.
"We're proud to have one of the all-time Knicks greats sit on the dais," Knicks president Steve Mills said.