How this week’s NBA draft lottery workson August 17, 2020 at 1:10 pm

What will happen in the 2020 NBA draft lottery on Thursday?

This will be the second lottery since the NBA flattened the odds, which introduced more uncertainty at the top of the draft order. Last season, the New Orleans Pelicans, Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers all jumped from the middle of the pack into the top four.

The odds for the eight teams not invited to the NBA restart have been set since March, and now the full lottery picture is taking shape. The only thing left to be determined is a tiebreaker between the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings.

Here’s what you need to know about the most likely lottery winners, the top prospects and the traded picks at stake.

MORE: Latest NBA draft intel

This year’s lottery odds

Last season, the NBA began drawing the top four selections in the lottery with new odds for each slot. A full breakdown of those changes can be found here, but these are the key things to know:

  • The teams with the three worst records have the same odds for both the No. 1 pick (14%) and staying in the top four (52%).

  • The team with the worst record has a 47.9% chance to fall to No. 5. The lowest a team could fall under the old system was to No. 4 — there was previously just a 35.7% chance of that happening.

  • Teams in Slots 9 through 6 have a 20-37% chance of jumping into the top five. Previously, that range was 6-22%.

Here’s the full odds breakdown for this season:

1. Golden State Warriors

  • Average pick: 3.7

  • No. 1: 14%

  • Top three: 40.1%

  • Top five: 100%

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Average pick: 3.9

  • No. 1: 14%

  • Top three: 40.1%

  • Top five: 79.9%

3. Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Average pick: 4.1

  • No. 1: 14%

  • Top three: 40.1%

  • Top five: 66.9%

4. Atlanta Hawks

  • Average pick: 4.4

  • No. 1: 12.5%

  • Top three: 36.6%

  • Top five: 55.3%

5. Detroit Pistons

  • Average pick: 5.0

  • No. 1: 10.5%

  • Top three: 31.6%

  • Top five: 44.3%

6. New York Knicks

  • Average pick: 5.5

  • No. 1: 9.0%

  • Top three: 27.6%

  • Top five: 37.2%

7. Chicago Bulls

  • Average pick: 6.2

  • No. 1: 7.5%

  • Top three: 23.4%

  • Top five: 31.9%

8. Charlotte Hornets

  • Average pick: 7.0

  • No. 1: 6.0%

  • Top three: 19.0%

  • Top five: 26.2%

9. Washington Wizards

  • Average pick: 8.0

  • No. 1: 4.5%

  • Top three: 14.5%

  • Top five: 20.2%

  • Top 10: 96.8%

10. Phoenix Suns

  • Average pick: 9.2

  • No. 1: 3.0%

  • Top three: 9.9%

  • Top five: 13.9%

  • Top 10: 79.8%

11. San Antonio Spurs

  • Average pick: 10.3

  • No. 1: 2.0%

  • Top three: 6.6%

  • Top five: 9.4%

  • Top 10: 9.4%

T-12. Sacramento Kings

  • Average pick: 11.9

  • No. 1: 1.3%

  • Top three: 4.3%

  • Top five: 6.1%

  • Top 10: 6.1%

T-12. New Orleans Pelicans

  • Average pick: 12.1

  • No. 1: 1.2%

  • Top three: 4.0%

  • Top five: 5.7%

  • Top 10: 5.7%

14. Memphis Grizzlies

  • Average pick: 13.7

  • No. 1: 0.5%

  • Top three: 1.7%

  • Top five: 2.4%

  • Top 10: 2.4%

The NBA still needs to break a tie between the Kings and Pelicans. Both teams will split the average of the lottery odds at 12 and 13, but the winner of the tiebreak will get the better pick if neither team lands in the top four.

Who are the top draft prospects this year?

ESPN draft experts Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz have had Georgia guard Anthony Edwards, Illawarra Hawks guard LaMelo Ball and Memphis big man James Wiseman in the top three of their draft rankings for a while. Scouting reports for those players and other projected lottery picks can be found here.

While NBA teams are all over the place in their evaluations of the prospects in this year’s draft, most see Edwards, Ball and Wiseman as having the greatest star upside. Per Schmitz:

“For some teams, Edwards’ combination of physical tools and scoring instincts give him the highest ceiling. For others, Wiseman’s elite measurables, rare agility, defensive upside and budding offensive skill set are too tantalizing to pass on. For me, LaMelo Ball is the best talent with the most star power as an ultracreative 6-foot-7 point guard.”

But there are also appealing prospects outside of the top three, including Isaac Okoro, Onyeka Okongwu, Deni Avdija, Obi Toppin and Tyrese Haliburton. Those players are generally considered to have lower ceilings, but they might be more likely to develop into strong NBA contributors than the swing prospects in the top three.

There really won’t be much clarity on the No. 1 pick race or the top three until we see how the lottery shakes out.

What are the traded picks to watch in the lottery?


The Grizzlies owe their pick to the Celtics if it falls outside the top six this season, with the pick becoming unprotected next season if not conveyed.

The most likely outcome here is that Boston gets the pick at No. 14, since the Grizzlies have just a 2.4% chance of jumping into the top four and keeping the selection this season.

Golden State

Since they have the worst record, the Warriors are guaranteed to have a top-five pick, with a 40% chance of landing in the top three. But the big question is whether they will keep or trade the selection.

Golden State will be looking to immediately jump back into title contention in 2020-21, with a roster featuring a healthy Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Is there a prospect the Warriors’ front office sees as an immediate contributor? Should they take advantage of the rare opportunity to draft a young player on a rookie contract and keep the pick no matter what?

The answers to those questions likely will depend on what kind of trade packages are available. The Warriors are holding onto a valuable $17.2 million trade exception, so salary matching will be less of a concern than most teams deep into the luxury tax.

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