The best teams in the NBA may be battling for a spot in the Finals as we speak, but the worst teams have their own competition to look forward to as well. On Tuesday, May 17, the 14 teams that missed the playoffs will vie for the top selection in the 2022 NBA Draft. They will do so not with basketballs, but with ping pong balls as their fate is left in the hands of the lottery gods.
An NBA championship may not be on the line directly Tuesday, but the next dozen will be impacted by who wins the lottery. Four of the past 10 Finals MVP awards have been won by a No. 1 pick (LeBron James) and two more have been won by a No. 2 pick (Kevin Durant). Get a pick at the top of the draft right and a team sets itself up for a decade or more of contention. Get it wrong, and, well, we’ll see you back here next year. Here’s everything you need to know as the lottery approaches.
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- When: Tuesday, May 17, 8 p.m. ET
- TV: ESPN | Streaming: fubo TV (try for free)
How the lottery works
The lottery does not actually determine the order of the entire first round or even the entire “lottery” section of it. Only the top four picks are determined via lottery, and all subsequent picks are awarded based on record. The lottery itself is built around ping pong balls. A total of 14 are placed in a machine, each with a number between one and 14. Four ping pong balls are drawn, and that creates a four-number combination that belongs to one of the 14 teams in the mix.
Each team is awarded a fixed number of combinations based on their record. There are 1,000 total combinations, and the three worst teams each receive 140 of them. The team that has the combination drawn first receives the No. 1 overall pick. The process is then repeated three more times to determine who will pick No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4. All of this takes place behind closed doors, with only representatives from the participating teams, the media and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young present for the drawing. The order has been determined by the time the broadcast begins, at which point NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum will pull the owners of each of the top 14 picks out of envelopes starting at No. 14 and working backward from there.
2022 Lottery odds
The NBA recently flattened the lottery odds. To put into perspective how far they went, the Wizards, who are in the No. 10 slot, have nearly the same odds of jumping into the top four as the Rockets, who had the worst record in the NBA, do of finishing with the No. 1 overall pick. All 14 teams have a shot in this thing. Here are how the odds look this year.
- The Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons all have a 14 percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick and a 52.1 percent chance of picking in the top four. Houston, by virtue of having the worst record in the NBA, cannot pick lower than fifth. Orlando cannot pick lower than sixth and Detroit cannot pick lower than seventh.
- The Oklahoma City Thunder have a 12.5 percent chance at picking No. 1 through their own pick and an additional 1.5 percent chance at picking No. 1 because they own the Los Angeles Clippers‘ pick, which occupies the 12 slot in the lottery. Combined, that gives them a 55 percent chance of picking in the top four.
- The Indiana Pacers have a 10.5 percent chance at picking No. 1 overall and a 42.1 percent chance of picking in the top four.
- The Portland Trail Blazers have a nine percent chance at earning the top pick and a 37.2 percent chance at landing in the top four.
- The Sacramento Kings have a 7.5 percent chance of picking first and a 31.9 percent chance of jumping into the top four.
- The New Orleans Pelicans, by virtue of owning the Los Angeles Lakers‘ pick, have a six percent chance of picking No. 1 and a 26.2 percent chance of picking in the top four.
- The San Antonio Spurs have a 4.5 percent chance of picking No. 1 and a 20.2 percent chance of ending up in the top four.
- The Washington Wizards have a three percent chance of picking No. 1 and a 13.9 percent chance of winding up in the top four.
- The New York Knicks have a two percent chance of picking first and a 9.4 percent chance of winding up in the top four.
- The Charlotte Hornets have a one percent chance of picking No. 1 and a 4.7 percent chance of jumping into the top four.
- The Cleveland Cavaliers have a 0.5 percent shot at the top choice and a mere 2.4 chance at winding up in the top four.
Who are the top prospects in the 2022 NBA Draft?
Cade Cunningham was the fairly obvious No. 1 overall pick last year. It’s not going to be so simple this time around. A number of prospects are in the running for the top choice. Here is how CBS Sports ranks the top five prospects in the class, keeping in mind that the prospects here, particularly in the top four, are so bunched together that almost every team is going to rate them differently.
- Purdue point guard Jaden Ivey currently ranks No. 1 on the CBS board. Ivey is best known for his incredible athleticism. He can get to the basket and collapse defenses, and as such, he’s grown into a capable passer who can take advantage of the trouble he causes defenses. His shot could use some work, but he led Purdue all the way to the Sweet 16 last season.
- Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren is ranked No. 2 at the moment. Holmgren is a rather unique prospect. He is revered as an elite rim protector and shooter, a rare combination at center, but is incredibly skinny, which has led to fear over how he would adjust to NBA-caliber opponents inside. Holmgren will likely need time to reach his peak, but if he can put on some muscle once he reaches the NBA, he has a chance to be a special big man.
- Duke forward Paolo Banchero occupies the No. 3 slot in these rankings. Banchero is arguably the best scorer in this class, a true three-level threat who averaged over 17 points per game for a Duke team that reached the Final Four. His defense needs work, though, and if it doesn’t improve, he is going to struggle to stay on the floor deep into the playoffs when offenses get better at punishing big men who aren’t strong defenders.
- Auburn forward Jabari Smith presently holds the No. 4 spot at CBS Sports. Smith and Banchero have a lot in common as scoring forwards. Banchero is slightly more gifted physically, but Smith has thus far been the better shooter of the two. There are questions about what position he will play in the NBA, but his scoring alone should allow him to contribute to an NBA team right away.
- At No. 5, CBS Sports currently has Kentucky guard Shaedon Sharpe. Sharpe is the mystery man of the 2022 class. A former top collegiate prospect, he decided to enroll at Kentucky early this spring, but because he will turn 19 roughly a month before the NBA Draft, he will be eligible to be selected. He is regarded as an excellent scoring prospect, but without having seen him play in college, he is undoubtedly a risky selection.