Raptors NBA draft lottery history

4 mins read
The math says lightning ain’t gonna strike twice.

The draft lottery is tomorrow and before we start dreaming of Blake Griffin and Ricky Rubio, it’s better to look at the current reality and our history in this “competition” and be humbled by the results. We have a 1.7% chance of winning the lottery, a 2.0% chance of getting the second pick and a 2.4% chance of getting the third. We cannot get the 4th to 8th picks so if you don’t hear our name called by the 9th pick it means we moved up big time. The chance of getting anything higher than a 9th pick is 6.3% which means the odds of getting a 9th pick or lower is a whopping 93.7%.

Since the current format was adopted in 1990, only three times has the team with the highest odds of getting the first pick actually gotten the first pick. That was Orlando in 2004 (Dwight Howard), Cleveland in 2003 (Lebron James) and New Jersey in 1990 (Derrick Coleman). The most a team has ever risen is Orlando which in 1993 finished with a 41-41 record and were slotted to pick 11th with only a 1.5% chance of winning. They selected Chris Webber with the first overall pick and traded him to Golden State. Charlotte jumped from the 13th spot to the 3rd spot in in 1999 (a 0.73% chance) to select Baron Davis. Most recently, Chicago won the lottery while being slotted in the 9th spot (1.7%) in 2008 and selected Derrick Rose.

The Raptors have only advanced in the lottery twice. Once of course in 2006 when they won the lottery with only a 8.80% chance of doing so, the other time was in 1996 when we moved up one spot from 3rd to 2nd. That year we weren’t allowed to have the first pick because of the expansion agreement. We selected Marcus Camby right after Philadelphia took Allen Iverson.

History says that it’s very likely that a team will beat the odds and climb its way into the top three. Only once in the history of the draft lottery have the worst three records actually shared the top three picks. That happened in 1996 when Philadelphia, Toronto and Vancouver got the 1st, 2nd and 3rd picks, respectively. That’s a whopping 17 out of 18 times! The bad news is that only four times has a team which is slotted to select 9th or lower actually advanced into the top three. That’s a failure rate of 15/18 for 83%.

Here are the odds the Raptors have entered with, their scheduled position before the lottery, their actual drafting position and the players they selected:

Year 1st % 2nd % 3rd % Slotted Actual +/- Result
2006 8.8 9.64 10.65 5 1 +4 Andrea Bargnani
2005 3.6 4.16 4.9 7 7 0 Charlie Villanueva
2004 3.7 4.28 5.05 7 8 -1 Rafael Araujo
2003 15.7 15.8 15.66 3 4 -1 Chris Bosh
1999 12 12.71 13.43 4 5 -1 Jonathan Bender (traded for Antonio Davis)
1999 0.7 0.83 1.02 11 12 -1 Aleksandar Radojevi?
1998* 0 36.57 19.51 2 4 -2 Antawn Jamison (traded for Vince Carter)
1997* 0 4.23 4 9 9 0 Tracy McGrady
1996* 0 26.31 20.92 3 2 +1 Marcus Camby
1995 0 0 0 6th, 7th 7th 0 Damon Stoudamire

* Cannot select first due to expansion agreement.
Pre-determined 7th pick.

Of the nine years we’ve been in it, we’ve moved up twice, stayed put twice and move down five times. Overall, we’ve moved up 1 spot.

Here are the lotteries at a glance.

Looking at these numbers you have to believe that tanking just doesn’t work, especially if you’re doing it to get a shot at the first pick. If you’re tanking to get a top 3 selection its still a questionable strategy since of the 57 teams that have ever been scheduled to pick in the top three, only 30 have actually done so, that’s a 52.63% rate. Think about that if you’re about to advocate tanking late in the season.



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