Programming note: Watch the Kings NBA Draft Lottery show with Jim Kozimor and Jon Wilson tonight at 5pm, streaming live right here.
The anticipation is excruciating. Hope springs eternal. Reality is brutal. It’s Draft Lottery night 2017.
It’s complicated. That is the only way to describe the Sacramento Kings 2017 NBA Lottery that will unfold on Tuesday evening. Usually the night consists of nothing more than a bunch of ping pong balls in a hopper and a wall of numerical possibilities. Sacramento can only dream of that scenario.
The Kings cannot receive the top overall selection. Through a combination of two possible picks, they can land at two, three, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve and thirteen. They can also lose both of their selections in this year’s draft and come away with nothing, but the odds of that are almost statistically impossible.
Here is a quick primer on the situation. For those who do not understand the lottery process, there are 14 ping pong balls, numbered 1-14 that are put into a hopper. Four balls are drawn at a time, creating one of 1,001 possibilities. One of those possibilities is removed from the equation, leaving 1000 potential outcomes. The 14 teams that missed the playoffs are given a specific number of those 1000 possibilities, depending on their record for the 2016-17 season.
The worst team in the league, the Brooklyn Nets in this case (although their pick is owed to the Boston Celtics), have 250 of the potential 1000 combinations. The Miami Heat, who finished the season 41-41 and barely missed the playoffs have just five combinations in play.
Only the top three selections are drawn and the remainder of the draft goes in order according to record. The worst case scenario for the Nets (besides the one that has already played out with the Celtics owning their pick), is that they fall from the top spot to the fourth overall selection.
It’s a lot more confusing when it comes to Sacramento. They currently own the eighth (28 total numerical combinations) and tenth (11 numerical combination) most combinations in the lottery, but it’s still more complex than that.
The eighth overall selection has a 2.8 percent chance of landing No. 1 overall, a 3.3 percent chance of landing No. 2 and a 3.9 percent chance of landing the third overall pick. Unfortunately for Sacramento, the Philadelphia 76ers, who currently sit in the fourth position in the lottery (119 numerical combinations), have the right to swap picks with the Kings from a trade consummated in 2015.
If the Kings land the top overall selection, the Sixers will take the pick and their selection (2, 3, 5, 6 or 7) goes directly to Sacramento. If Philly lands a better pick than Sacramento, the pick swap goes unused and is extinguished moving forward.
In addition to the 76ers quagmire, there is an extremely small chance that three teams ranked lower than Sacramento (Dallas, Sacramento (yes, their second first round selection can hurt them), Charlotte, Detroit, Denver and Miami) move ahead of them in the draft lottery. In this scenario, the Kings would fall to the 11th overall selection and their pick would go to the Chicago Bulls as part of the nightmare J.J. Hickson trade from 2011. If this worst case scenario does not play out, the Bulls get the Kings second round selection (38th overall).
There are also restrictions on the tenth overall spot that Sacramento currently occupies. The Kings received a 2017 top three protected selection from the New Orleans Pelicans as part of the DeMarcus Cousins trade. If the Pelicans somehow land a top three pick, they retain the selection and the Kings receive a Top 1 protected pick from New Orleans in either 2018, 2019 or 2020.
New Orleans selection has a 1.1 percent chance of landing the top spot, a 1.3 percent opportunity of landing No. 2 and a 1.6 percent shot at No. 3. There is an 87 percent chance that the Pelicans remain at No. 10. There is also an 8.9 percent chance they drop to 11 and a .2 percent chance of they fall to 12 and less than a .1 percent chance they select at the 13th overall spot.
Best Case Scenario
In a dream world, the 76ers land the top overall pick, Sacramento nabs the second overall selection and the Pelicans pick stays at No. 10. Kings draft at No. 2 and No. 10 and are able to add two quality players.
A similar scenario, but one that leaves the Kings wondering “what if,” Sacramento lands the top pick, Philly lands the second overall selection (swaps) and the Pelicans stay at 10. This has the same outcome as scenario one, but with a little bit of egg on the Kings’ face.
Worst Case Scenario
Both picks go away. The odds of it happening are miniscule, but the possibility remains that three teams move above the Kings, including the Pelicans. In this horrific scenario the Kings lose both their own pick (to Chicago) and the Pelicans pick (because it’s top 3 protected).
There are plenty of other unfortunate scenarios for the Kings. They could land a top three spot and Philly could land at No. 7 and swap. Any combination of the Pelicans moving into the top three is bad, although the Kings would likely get New Orleans pick in 2018.
Most Likely Scenario
The odds are in favor of Sacramento retaining their own pick which will likely fall at eight or nine. It is also very likely (96 percent chance) that New Orleans will fail to move up and remain at No. 10. In this scenario, the Kings drafty at 8/9 and 10 and avoid a rough night.