NBA draft lottery history, past winners, past losers

NBA assistant commissioner Mark Tatum reveals the Knicks' place in the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery. (Photo: Getty Images)

The NBA Draft lottery has been around since 1985 in an effort to reward competitivness and to attempt to eliminate large-market bias by giving every nonplayoff team a chance to win the No. 1 pick.

With only five players on the court at once and with basketball being such a talent-driven sport, there is no bigger prize — aside from the Larry O’Brien Trophy — than the No. 1 pick in the draft. 

Of the current 30 NBA franchises, 18 different teams have won the first pick, with the Cavaliers far and away the most lucky with five trips to the podium first. The breakdown is as follows:

Cavaliers (5), Clippers (3), Magic (3), Bucks (2), Bulls (2), Nets (2), Spurs (2), Wizards (2), 76ers (2), Blazers (1), Hornets (1), Pelicans (1), Kings (1), Knicks (1), Raptors (1), Rockets (1), Warriors (1), T-Wolves (1).

Only six times since 1985 has the team with the best odds won the first pick — prompting the league to up the ante for the team with the worst record. The Clippers had a 14.3 percent chance in 1988 and took Danny Manning as the favorite. Last year the Sixers had a 25 percent chance, won and took Ben Simmons.

The other four teams with the worst records to go first were the Nets in 1990 (Derrick Coleman), the Cavs in 2003 (LeBron James), the Magic in 2004 (Dwight Howard) and the Timberwolves in 2015 (Karl Anthony Towns). The most common odds for a team prior to the lottery winning it is No. 3, which has occured six times. The biggest upset in a lottery was the 1993 Magic, who leaped 10 spots to take Chris Webber first overall.

The 2008 Bulls (Derrick Rose) and 2014 Cavaliers (Andrew Wiggins) overcame 1.70 percent odds to win those respective lotteries.

In 32 NBA draft lotteries prior, the average position of the winner of the first pick in the heirarchy of odds is 4.28, the position that this year has an 11.9 percent of winning.

More from our Sister Sites