Sunday, May 17, 2009

As ping pong balls bounce, fates of 14 teams hang in balance


Tuesday at 8 p.m. (ESPN), the annual NBA Draft lottery will be conducted in Secaucus, N.J. All 14 teams will send a representative -- some their General Manager (Larry Riley, John Hammond), others their coach (Alvin Gentry, Scott Brooks), others a star player (Kevin Love) -- to watch the excruciatingly painful process of seeing their team's future being decided by a bunch of ping pong balls.

In a Draft such as this, where there appears to be a huge dropoff between the second and third picks, there is that much more on the line.

Here's what will actually happen behind the scenes, from the official NBA press release:

"Fourteen ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 will be placed in a drum. There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. Prior to the Lottery, 1,000 combinations will be assigned to the 14 participating Lottery teams by a computer.

The Sacramento Kings finished the season with the NBA's worst record (17-65), so they will be assigned 250 combinations. The Phoenix Suns, the best team in the lottery at 46-36, will have five combinations out of 1,000.

Four balls will be drawn to the top to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned that combination will receive the number one pick. The four balls are placed back in the drum and the process is repeated to determine the number two and three picks. (Note: If the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls are drawn to the top again.)

The order of selection for the teams that do not win one of the top three picks will be determined by inverse order of their regular season record. Thus, Sacramento can pick no lower than fourth, Washington (19-63) no lower than fifth and the L.A. Clippers (19-63) no lower than sixth.

The actual Lottery procedure will take place in a separate room prior to the national broadcast with NBA officials and representatives of the participating teams and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young in attendance.

Following the drawing, team logo cards will be inserted into envelopes marked 1 through 14 by an Ernst & Young representative. These envelopes then will be sealed and brought on-stage, where the announcement of the Lottery results will be made by NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. A second representative from each participating team will be seated on-stage. Neither the Deputy Commissioner nor the team representatives will be informed of the Lottery results prior to the opening of the envelopes.

The team whose logo is in the last envelope opened will pick first in NBA Draft 2009, to be held on Thursday, June 25, at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City."

Here's what's at stake for all 14 teams participating in the lottery, as well as their odds of coming away with the first, second or third pick.

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