A Look at the Toronto Raptors' NBA Draft Lottery Chances



The HQ examines NBA Draft Lottery history and what this might mean for the Toronto Raptors...

What can you say about Toronto Raptors' fans?

Even after a 22 win season, they're an optimistic bunch as evidenced by yesterday's HQ poll.  Over half of the voters said that despite odds that would suggest otherwise, they feel that the Dinos will grab one of the top two picks in the upcoming NBA Draft Lottery.

I personally think they stick at 3 when all is said and done but who knows, stranger things have happened, and there is a pretty solid NBA Draft history of teams jumping from third to first in terms of the lottery.

The last team it happened was when the LA Clippers did it in 2009, of course parlaying that jump into a certain Mr. Blake Griffin.

Before that?

You'd have to go all the way back to 2001 where the Washington Wizards leapt up from the third best shot at the top pick to snare that number one spot, using it eventually to draft Kwame Brown.

That means the "third to first" jump has only happened twice in the last decade but go back a bit further and things look much more rosy.

From 1997 to 2000, the team with the third-worst record in the league grabbed the number one pick.  That's three straight seasons.

So for the Toronto Raptors, there's definitely a reason to be optimistic.

Hell, the last time the team with the worst record got the top pick was seven years ago when the Orlando Magic used their NBA basement finish to secure Dwight Howard.  Before that?  The Cavs fell all the way to the bottom of the draft, perfectly coinciding with the rise of local phenom, LeBron James.

In fact if there's one spot you probably don't want to be right now, it's in the shoes of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Prior to the drafting of LeBron James, you have to go all the way back to 1990 if you want to find a team that both finished with the league's worst record, and which then grabbed the top pick in the draft.

Not exactly a good history.

Since 2000, the average basement finish that resulted in getting the number one overall pick was actually 4.7th place, so essentially teams that finished with between the 4th and 5th-worst records in the league usually ended up securing the top pick.

That average gets a bit better if you go back another decade, but not much.  One big "outlier" drags down the average draft position from 1990 to 2000 as in 1993, the Orlando Magic made lottery history grabbing the top spot with the worst lottery chances, jumping from eleventh to first.  AND, that was after securing that top spot in the previous lottery, when they actually had the second best shot at doing so, statistically.

Unfortunately things can go the other way too.

In the Greg Oden/Kevin Durant draft of 2007, the three worst teams in the league record-wise, Memphis, Boston and Milwaukee (in that order) all failed to get a shot at the top pick and in fact none even got into the top 3 falling to fourth, fifth and sixth respectively!

So what does all of this mean for the Toronto Raptors as we approach this year's draft lottery?

Maybe not much.

Provided you don't believe the lottery is rigged by the powers that be, each year truly becomes a random statistical act.  Sure, the trending would indicate that a club like Washington or New Jersey has the "best" chance at Kyrie Irving this season, but we could very well be due for a 2004 or 2003 scenario where the worst team in the league, Minny, does indeed reap the benefits of a truly awful season.

Or perhaps we're due for another extreme outlier jumping up the charts like in 1993?

Maybe the team with the Houston Rockets add Mr. Irving to an already very solid group of players, jumping from fourteenth to first?

Really, this all comes back to a point I discussed the week before last; building through the draft requires that combination of "being lucky and being good."

For the Toronto Raptors, hopefully that luck part kicks in on May 17th.

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