clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NBA Draft lottery secretly takes place ahead of time

The days of the creased-corner envelopes for the NBA Draft lottery are over.

They’ve gone high-tech.

For several years the event has employed higher math, an air-mix machine, Ping-Pong balls and an accountant from Ernst & Young. What could possibly go wrong?

In an effort to make the once-dubious system credible, the NBA has taken every precaution to make it tamperproof.

The lotto drawing actually takes place moments before the made-for-TV production in a room at the New York Hilton where select media members, NBA officials and team reps are in attendance. Cellphones and computers are confiscated from the 25 to 30 people present, so they cannot communicate with anyone after the process.

Here’s how the NBA describes it:

Fourteen ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 will be placed in a lottery machine. 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 of those 1,001 combinations will be assigned to the 14 participating lottery teams.

The drawing process occurs in the following manner: All 14 balls are placed in the lottery machine and they are mixed for 20 seconds; then the first ball is removed. The remaining balls are mixed in the lottery machine for another 10 seconds, and then second ball is drawn. There is a 10-second mix, and then the third ball is drawn. There is a 10-second mix, and then the fourth ball is drawn. The team that has been assigned that combination will receive the number one pick. The same process is repeated with the same ping-pong balls and lottery machine for the second pick and then again for the third pick.

If the same team comes up more than once, the result is discarded and another 4-ball combination is selected. Also, if the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls are drawn to the top again.

The length of time the balls are mixed is monitored by a timekeeper who faces away from the machine and signals the machine operator after the appropriate amount of time has elapsed.

The Minnesota Timberwolves finished the season with the NBA’s worst record (16-66), so they will be assigned the first 250 combinations. The Oklahoma City Thunder, the best team in the lottery at 45-37, will have only five combinations out of 1,000.

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, Minnesota can pick no lower than fourth, New York (17-65) no lower than fifth and Philadelphia (18-64) no lower than sixth.

After the selections are made, Denise Pelli of Ernst & Young and two league officials stuff and seal the envelopes prior to bringing them to the studio for the broadcast. Everyone else in the drawing room must stay there until after the TV broadcast is complete.

The announcement of the Lottery results will be made by NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum. A second representative from each participating team will be seated on stage. Neither the Deputy Commissioner nor the team representatives on stage 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 the 2015 NBA Draft.

Watch last year’s behind-the-scenes drawing.

Well, this should put an end to all the conspiracy theories.