Are the Wizards lucky or unlucky in the lottery?


Ever since the Wizards moved back from the sixth spot to the ninth pick in the 2019 lottery, a result that had only a 3.8% chance of happening, the sentiment among fans seems to be that the franchise has had an unlucky history with the lottery in general. This is the same franchise that won the first overall pick in both 2001 and 2010, the latter which landed them John Wall, one of the best players in team history.

So, are the Wizards an unlucky lottery team? The truth is they sort of are, yeah. Real GM has a database of each team's lottery history and the Wizards have indeed seen some troubling results for the most part with a few notable exceptions.

Washington has played the lottery 21 total times in its franchise history. Eight times they have moved back and three times they have moved up.

Only three NBA teams have moved down in the lottery more often than the Wizards have: the Timberwolves (12 times), the Warriors (10 times) and the Kings (10 times). However, all three of those teams have also been in the lottery more often than the Wizards have. In fact, there have only been five teams with more lottery appearances than the Wizards, the Hornets and Clippers being the others.

The Wizards only moving up three times in 21 tries is also a bit unlucky. The Spurs, for instance, have moved up three times in only five total appearances. The Sixers have been in the lottery 18 times and seven times they have moved up. Philly is tied with the Clippers for the most times moving up in lottery history.


Most teams have moved back in the lottery more often than they have moved up, just like the Wizards. There are a few teams, though, which have been more fortunate. The Lakers, Spurs, Thunder, Sixers and Blazers have all moved up in the lottery more often than they have moved down.

There are also other ways to look at this, though. While the Wizards have moved up three times, there are some franchises that have never improved their draft pick on lottery night. The Jazz have gone 0-for-8 in that regard, twice moving down. The Heat are 0-for-11, moving back six times. The Nuggets are 0-for-14 and the Mavs are 0-for-16, both teams having moved back seven times apiece.

Another way to view the data is by average movement, which HoopsHype calculated last summer. They found the Spurs to be the luckiest team, moving up 1.5 spots on average. Meanwhile, the Heat are the unluckiest team, moving down 1.5 spots on average. By that measure, the Wizards are the fifth-unluckiest team in the lottery, averaging a fall of .41 spots.

The two luckiest years for the Wizards in the lottery in terms of how much their pick improved would be 2010 and 2013. In 2010, they moved up four spots, from fifth to first, to get John Wall. They only had a 10.3% chance of picking first. In 2013, they only had a 3.9% shot at the third overall pick when they got it and later selected Otto Porter Jr.

This year, the Wizards have the 10th-best odds in the May 17 draft lottery, which gives them a 3% chance at the top pick and 13.9% odds of selecting in the top-4. Their most likely pick is 10th at 65.9% and their second-most likely result is 11th at 19%.

Their history will have zero bearing on what happens in this year's lottery, unless you are the superstitious type. In that case, maybe they are due for some good luck.