The Draft Lottery is a uniquely counterintuitive NBA institution.
Unlike the NFL or MLB—where the team with the worst record is awarded the first pick—the NBA team with the worst record only has about a 25-percent chance of receiving the No. 1 selection.
The NBA implemented the lottery after allegations that the Houston Rockets dogged their way to the worst record in the Western Conference during the 1983-84 season so they could have a shot at winning the coin toss for the first overall pick in the 1984 draft.
Luck was on the Rockets side—and they were indeed awarded the first overall pick, which allowed them to draft future Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon.
When the NBA realized that teams were potentially willing to lose late season games in order to improve their draft stock, they came up with the lottery to dissuade this sort of behavior.
The NBA has also slimmed down the length of the draft from seven rounds (last used in 1987) to the current two round format.
The shortening of the draft reflects the existing reality in the NBA in which only a few players from a given draft will be able to make a major impact on the NBA landscape.
Also unlike drafting in the NFL or MLB, where there is a plethora of talent for a number of rounds, the NBA draft generally doesn’t feature much talent after the first 15-20 picks.
Even when a team does have a lottery pick, it is far from a sure thing. High picks have been as likely to succeed in the NBA as they have been to end up out of the league after a few unimpressive seasons.
This reality is even harsher for those players drafted outside of the lottery, who seem to have as much of a chance at NBA success as Jeff Van Gundy does with the ladies.
But even when things seem that bleak, there are undervalued players in every draft that are able to make a name for themselves.
So while the lottery teams now know where they will be picking and mock drafts will begin to project which college star goes to what organization, the teams further down in the draft shouldn’t get too down on their team’s draft outlook—as these players were able to make an impact in the league without being a lofty pick.