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Analyzing the History of NBA Lottery Selections

Posted by Andrew McKillop on June 23, 2011

Updated: 6/24/2011 with 2011 NBA Draft Picks

In 1985 both the NBA and NHL chose to determine part of their league’s draft orders through a lottery.  Thus the term “lottery selection” was coined.  I decided with the NBA Draft airing tonight, it would be an proper time to publish some numbers related to NBA lottery selections you might not see elsewhere.

Check out below to see a quick rundown of every NBA team’s history with lottery selections.

Legend: # Lot Sel (Number of lottery selections), Pct. (Percentage of all lottery selections), Avg Lot Sel (The average lottery selection).

Rk Team # Lot Sel Pct. Avg Lot Sel Highest Lot Sel Ever
1 Clippers 22 7.2% 5.5 1- 1988, 1998, 2009
2 Warriors 19 6.2% 7.4 1 – 1995
3t Kings 16 5.2% 7.1 1 – 1989
3t Timberwolves 16 5.2% 5.5 2 – 2011
5t Bucks 14 4.6% 7.6 1 – 1994, 2005
5t Cavaliers 14 4.6% 7.2 1 – 1986, 2003, 2011
7t Grizzlies 13 4.2% 5.0 2 – 1998, 1999, 2000, 2009
7t Raptors 13 4.2% 6.6 1 – 2006
9t 76ers 12 3.9% 5.8 1 – 1996
9t Hawks 12 3.9% 6.7 2 – 2005
9t Magic 12 3.9% 7.7 1 – 1992, 1993, 2004
9t Nets 12 3.9% 5.5 1 – 1990, 2000
9t Thunder/Sonics 12 3.9% 7.5 2 – 1990, 2007
9t Wizards/Bullets 12 3.9% 5.9 1 – 2001, 2010
15t Bulls 11 3.6% 4.2 1 – 1999, 2008
15t Celtics 11 3.6% 7.3 2 – 1986
17t Hornets 10 3.3% 6.9 1 – 1991
17t Mavericks 10 3.3% 7.0 2 – 1994
19t Nuggets 9 2.9% 5.0 3 – 1990, 1998, 2003
19t Pacers 9 2.9% 7.9 2 – 1985, 1988
21t Bobcats 8 2.6% 7.6 2 – 2004
21t Pistons 8 2.6% 7.6 2 – 2003
21t Suns 8 2.6% 8.4 2 – 1987
24t Heat 7 2.3% 6.4 2 – 2008
24t Knicks 7 2.3% 6.3 1 – 1985
24t Rockets 7 2.3% 10.0 1 – 2002
27t Trail Blazers 6 2.0% 7.5 1 – 2007
27t Jazz 6 2.0% 9.2 3 – 2005, 2011
29 Spurs 3 1.0% 1.7 1 – 1987, 1997
30 Lakers 2 0.7% 10.0 10 – 1994, 2005


  • No surprise that the Los Angeles Clippers lead the league in all-time lottery selections (22).  The Clippers have had 11 times the lottery selections of fellow L.A. NBA team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
  • The Clippers had a streak of eight drafts (1998-2005) in which they had a lottery selection.  However that isn’t the record.  The Memphis Grizzlies had  lottery selections in nine straight drafts (1995-2003) in two different cities (Vancouver).
  • The San Antonio Spurs have only had three lottery selections, however two of those were first overall selections. Giving them the highest average lottery pick (1.7) in NBA history.  The Chicago Bulls follow with an average lottery pick of 4.2.
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Orlando Magic have selected with the #1 pick on three occasions in the lottery era draft.
  • The Cleveland Cavaliers are the only team in the history of the lottery era draft to select twice in the top five selections of one draft (2011 – #1 & #4).  Listed below is every instance in which one team had two or more lottery selections in the same draft.
Team Year Pk Player
Clippers 1988 1 Danny Manning
1988 6 Hersey Hawkins
Nuggets 1991 4 Dikembe Mutombo
1991 8 Mark Macon
Pistons 1993 10 Lindsey Hunter
1993 11 Allan Houston
Celtics 1997 3 Chauncey Billups
1997 6 Ron Mercer
Magic 1998 12 Michael Doleac
1998 13 Keon Clark
Cavaliers 1999 8 Andre Miller
1999 11 Trajan Langdon
Raptors 1999 5 Jonathan Bender
1999 12 Aleksandar Radojevic
Bulls 2000 4 Marcus Fizer
2000 7 Chris Mihm
Magic 2000 5 Mike Miller
2000 10 Keyon Dooling
2000 13 Courtney Alexander
Celtics 2001 10 Joe Johnson
2001 11 Kedrick Brown
Clippers 2002 8 Chris Wilcox
2002 12 Melvin Ely
Bobcats 2005 5 Raymond Felton
2005 13 Sean May
Hawks 2007 3 Al Horford
2007 11 Acie Law
Timberwolves 2009 5 Ricky Rubio
2009 6 Jonny Flynn
Cavaliers 2011 1 Kyrie Irving
2011 4 Tristan Thompson
Jazz 2011 3 Enes Kanter
2011 12 Alec Burks



The undisputable fact is that most NBA stars are found with lottery selections. A little over 74% of first/second/third team NBA All-Pro selections (drafted since 1985), were drafted with lottery selections.  Steve Nash and Karl Malone are the only players drafted during the lottery era draft, to be named NBA MVP, and to not have been a lottery selection.

A little under 76% of NBA first team All-Rookie selections since 1985 were lottery selections.  Mark Jackson is the only non-lottery selection since 1985 to be named Rookie of the Year.

Only ten lottery selections have gone on to win an NBA title with the team that selected them.

Year Pk Team Player
1998 10 Celtics Paul Pierce
1989 6 Bulls Stacey King
1994 2 Mavericks Jason Kidd
2003 2 Pistons Darko Milicic
1992 11 Rockets Robert Horry
2005 10 Lakers Andrew Bynum
2003 5 Heat Dwyane Wade
1987 1 Spurs David Robinson
1989 3 Spurs Sean Elliott
1997 1 Spurs Tim Duncan



Duke has produced the most lottery selections (16), although 38 lottery selections didn’t go to college.

Rk College # Lot Sel Pct. Avg Lot Sel
- No College 38 11.8% 6.9
1 Duke 16 5.0% 6.2
2 North Carolina 15 4.7% 7.0
3 Kansas 12 3.7% 9.4
4t Arizona 11 3.4% 7.5
4t Connecticut 11 3.4% 6.3
6 Kentucky 10 3.1% 6.5
7 Georgetown 8 2.5% 4.1
8t Georgia Tech 7 2.2% 5.4
8t Michigan 7 2.2% 5.9
8t UNLV 7 2.2% 7.4
11t Memphis 6 1.9% 4.5
11t Syracuse 6 1.9% 4.8
11t Texas 6 1.9% 5.3
14t Arkansas 5 1.6% 10.2
14t Florida 5 1.6% 6.2
14t Louisville 5 1.6% 8.2
14t LSU 5 1.6% 4.8
14t Maryland 5 1.6% 4.0
14t Ohio St 5 1.6% 2.8
14t UCLA 5 1.6% 6.4

 

In 2005 North Carolina had four players selected with lottery picks in the same draft.  The most lottery selections from any school in one draft.

Pk Team Player
2 Hawks Marvin Williams
5 Bobcats Raymond Felton
13 Bobcats Sean May
14 Timberwolves Rashad McCants


  • Duke (Elton Brand & Kyrie Irving) and Georgetown (Patrick Ewing & Allen Iverson) are the only schools to have produced two #1 picks in the lottery era draft.
  • A little over 20% of lottery selections, were coming off of a season in which they helped lead their school to an appearance in the NCAA Tournament Final Four.
  • Every Final Four since 1988 has produced at least one lottery selection in the following NBA draft.



One more interesting stat line:

Lottery selections average 11.5 points per game, 4.8 rebounds/gm, 2.2 assists/gm, 0.8 steals/gm, and 0.6 blocks/gm in their careers.


Reference: Be sure to check out Pro-Basketball-Reference’s Draft Finder.  It’s a great utility which allows you to dig deep into the history of the NBA draft.   Award information also retrieved from Pro-Basketball-Reference.

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4 Responses to “Analyzing the History of NBA Lottery Selections”

  1. Chris said

    The Spurs are hands down the best lottery pickers!

    • Andrew McKillop said

      It’s hard to argue with your statement. Every lottery selection has gone on to win a title with the team.

  2. Chris Woodrow said

    I think the phrase “11x times” might be redundant. Enjoyed the post!

    • Andrew McKillop said

      Funny I was thinking the same thing, but felt the “x” helped make the stat pop out more. I think I’ll change it now that somebody pointed out the redundancy specifically. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

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