The NBA draft lottery will take place tomorrow, Tuesday May 15 at 4:30 PM Pacific Time, and will be available to watch on ESPN or via streaming on ESPN.com or through the app. Once a day of huge import for the Clippers every season, they’ve been out of the lottery since 2011, and fans might be a bit unused to the nervous feeling of waiting for the picks to be announced. Here’s a quick rundown of the four basic directions that the lottery could go, in order of most to least likely.
Scenario 1 (Approximately 95.3% probability): Clippers keep Pistons pick at 12 or 13, select their own at 13 or 14
This is by far the most likely scenario to happen. In this case, neither team’s pick jumps to the top three, in which case the Clippers select their own at 13 (or 14, if by a very low chance Denver’s pick jumps to the top three), while keeping the Pistons pick at 12 (or 13, if the Clippers’ is at 14) as well. Even though the Clippers don’t get a top three pick in this scenario, they still retain both picks, which would make this a very nice option. Those two picks could possibly be packaged into moving up for a higher pick, or in a trade for a star player (though that seems unlikely). Picking back-to-back is also helpful, as it means the Clippers will know exactly who is left on the board for both their selections.
Scenario 2 (Approximately 2.45% probability): Pistons pick jumps to top 3 so Clippers lose it, they select their own at 13 or 14
This is the worst-case scenario, and fortunately has a relatively low chance of happening. The Pistons’ pick at 12 only has a 2.5% probability at jumping to the top three, which is fortunate for the Clippers. Clippers’ fans struggled on who to root for down the stretch of the season, because the Pistons’ pick dropping was a double-edged sword. On one hand, if the Pistons fell to the 11th or 10th pick (there was no real chance of going lower), the Clippers would have a higher likelihood at landing a franchise piece with that pick. On the other, as the pick fell, it would have a correspondingly higher chance of being kept by the Pistons (2.9% at 11, 4% at 10). It probably would have benefitted the Clippers if the Pistons had fallen to 10, as that 4% isn’t all that much worse than 2.5%. But any further… not being super nervous on draft lottery day is a great boon. Still, if this is the scene that plays out tomorrow, there will be tears everywhere in Clipperland.
Scenario 3 (2.15% probability): Clippers keep Pistons pick at 13 or 14, their own pick jumps to top 3
This is the best-case scenario, and Clippers’ fans will be desperately hoping for the lottery balls to bounce this way on Tuesday. The top of this draft class is stacked with potential All-Star players, and the Clippers’ jump back to contention could be expedited greatly if they were to snag one of the top three prospects in it. Even better, they get to keep the Pistons pick as well! There would also be the possibility of flipping that top-three pick for a superstar player, as that is the kind of blue-chip stock that teams would be willing to part with an All-Star for. This situation would be phenomenal for the Clippers, and a monumental day for the franchise. Fingers crossed.
Scenario 4 (0.05% probability): Pistons pick jumps to top 3 so Clippers lose it, their own pick jumps to top 3 as well
This scenario is obviously very unlikely. It’s highly unusual for even one pick in the teens to jump to the top of the lottery, and I’m pretty sure two picks making that leap in the same draft has never happened before. While the Clippers would lose the Pistons’ pick here, they would gain a top three pick as well, and that’s more valuable than having both of the lower picks—no team would be willing to trade down from the top three for picks 12 and 13. So while this scenario would cost the Clippers a bit in terms of versatility and strategy regarding their draft assets, it would be a relatively large win overall.
Essentially, scenarios 1, 3, and 4 are all positive outcomes for the Clippers, to one extent or another. The only case which would be truly dismal would be the second situation, and even then, having at least one pick in the teens is not a horrible consolation prize. Still, the Clippers must hope against hope for the draft lottery gods to smile in their favor, as this draft lottery is one of the most important moments in recent Clippers’ history.