Who is really getting screwed in the lottery?

Hey everyone,

In celebration of Lottery Tuesday, and Ziller finally removing the embargo on actual basketball talk, I thought I would dive into teams' performances in the lotto. We all like to say that Sacramento gets the sharp end of the stick when it comes to the lottery, but how true is that? Also, compared to the other perpetual lottery players, do we stand out in how poor we rank? I also thought this would be a good exercise to see if there is any meat behind the "RIGGED!!!" theories as well.

To get an idea of how teams did since the weighted lottery started in 1990, I thought I would look online and check out performance and stats for that entire time frame. Turns out....I could not find ANY site that actually showed lottery movement and any trends pertaining to that. So I took it upon myself to compile that information, and here is what I did.

Starting with 2012 and moving back each year to 1990, I looked at each teams projected spot (based on record), then compared it to the actual spot that they received based on the ball drop. A positive point was assigned to each spot moving up in the lotto, a negative point for each spot moving down, and a zero for staying at their projected location.

For example, if the Bulls moved from a projected 8th pick, and they are awarded the 5th pick, then for that year they get a +3.

I also tracked number of appearances, number of times the team moved up or down regardless of how many spots they moved. Then from these I calculated net movement, and average movement for each team. If teams had traded their picks, the points were awarded to the ORIGINAL holder of the pick. This was the only reasonable way I could combine this data.

To get an idea of what MY preconceived notions were about the lotto, my hypothesis was that while, yes, the Kings do get screwed in the lottery, my belief was that MOST teams get screwed in the lottery. The current system seems to favor moving down, since, when you look at the percentages, you have a higher chance of moving down than up or staying put. It was very interesting for me to put my beliefs against the results, and not everything I saw was expected. Here is the table that I made:


(Full Size)

And the results:


(Full Size)

So first thoughts while making this? The Kings DID get screwed!


They are far from alone in that respect. You'll notice that they Kings have not once moved up in the lottery, and have actually moved down more times than even staying put. Not good! You'll also notice that the net movement for the Kings is a league worst -14 spots. So far it looks like our preconceived notions are correct.

Then you look at the rest of the graph....a LOT of the teams do pretty poorly in the lotto, with 11 total never moving up in lottery history, and several others only moving up once or twice in twenty-three years!

Another thing I wanted to check, was to see if people's assumptions that larger markets were favored. This one fails miserably. New York, Dallas, Boston, Indiana, and Miami have never moved up. The only large market team that has done exceptionally favorably is the LA Clippers, and we know how the league feels about the Clippers!

Surprisingly the team that has fared the best in the lotto is NOT Cleveland, who most say lucks out the most, but is the original Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets. That franchise has a net movement of 20 places! And an average movement of 1.82 spots up, topping the league in both of those categories. So the large market myth gets shot down rather harshly.

I'd like to hear anyone else's opinion of these numbers, and if anything stands out and is surprising to them.


- Minimum lotto appearances had to be 5 in order to qualify top/bottom of results

- The Spurs have only made a lottery appearance 1 time since the weighted system, drafting Tim Duncan. Talk about dodging a bullet from the Maloofs!

- Data became pretty scarce and somewhat convoluted pertaining to who owned each pick the further back I went, so if there are a few errors I apologize, but overall the main picture of the data should not be compromised.

- The years with an asterisk denote expansion years. These are worth noting because they seemed to throw a wrench in the mix for the other teams (Usually causing them all to drop)

- Golden State, Washington, and LA Clippers, all tied for most lotto appearances. The Kings are close behind with 15.

- I used to criticize the lotto system for setting up teams for dropping (which is true) but what is noticeable is that while a team can move up as much as possible (ORL moved up 10 spots in 1993!), they can only ever drop 3 spots at the most. So while it can be a bitch, it can also be highly rewarding. Worth it? Not too sure, but it gives new perspective.

Happy Lotto everyone!

(This is a FanPost from a member of the Sactown Royalty community. The views expressed come from the member, and not Sactown Royalty staff.)

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