All About The Lottery - The Downbeat - #761

SALT LAKE CITY, UT - MAY 5: Fans walk into EnergySolutions Arena for Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playsoffs on May 05, 2012 in Salt Lake City, Utah. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

The NBA Draft Lottery will take place tomorrow, May 30th at 6 PM Mountain time on ESPN. You've probably heard the chances relevant to the Jazz: the Jazz will have a 27 percent chance of getting the pick. But how does this actually work? Wikipedia explains the beginning:

To determine the winner, fourteen ping pong balls numbered 1–14 are placed in a standard lottery machine and four balls are randomly selected from the lot. Just as in most traditional lotteries, the order in which the numbers are drawn is not important. That is, 1-2-3-4 is considered to be the same as 4-3-2-1. So although there is a total of 24 (4!) orders in which the balls numbered 1-2-3-4 can be picked, they are all treated as the same outcome. In doing this, the permutation of 4 balls from 14 becomes the combination of 4 balls from 14. That is, the total of 24,024 (14! / 10!, or 14x13x12x11) possible permutations is reduced by a factor of 24, to 1,001 combinations (or 14! / (10! x 4!)). Of these, 1 outcome is disregarded and 1,000 outcomes are distributed among the 14 non-playoff NBA teams. The combination 11-12-13-14 (in any order that those numbers are drawn) is not assigned and it is ignored if drawn; this has never occurred in practice.

The NBA distributes the 1000 combinations among the differing lottery teams on a big whiteboard, starting by giving the Bobcats 250 lottery combinations and then working its way up the standings table. If there's a tie, the teams split the combinations equally, or almost equally in the case of an odd number of combinations. This year, the distribution works like this:

NBA DRAFT LOTTERY ODDS

Team
# Combos 1st pick 2nd pick 3rd pick Any top 3 pick
Charlotte
250
25.00%
21.47%
17.72%
64.19%
Washington
199
19.90%
18.78%
17.06%
55.74%
Cleveland
138
13.80%
14.24%
14.53%
42.57%
New Orleans
137
13.70%
14.16%
14.47%
42.33%
Sacramento
76
7.60%
8.44%
9.46%
25.50%
Brooklyn (1)
75
7.50%
8.33%
9.36%
25.19%
Golden State (2)
36
3.60%
4.16%
4.90%
12.66%
Toronto
35
3.50%
4.05%
4.77%
12.32%
Detroit
17
1.70%
2.00%
2.40%
6.10%
Minnesota (3)
11
1.10%
1.30%
1.57%
3.97%
Portland
8
0.80%
0.95%
1.15%
2.90%
Milwaukee
7
0.70%
0.83%
1.01%
2.54%
Phoenix
6
0.60%
0.71%
0.87%
2.18%
Houston
5
0.50%
0.59%
0.72%
1.81%

You may remember the coin flip earlier in the month to determine the winner of the Golden State vs. Toronto tiebreak. Not only did that decide which team was going to be higher in the lottery by default, it also decided who would get that one extra lottery combination.

From here, the math gets slightly more interesting: the Jazz get the pick if any of the teams below Golden State jump above GSW in the lottery, thus bumping the Warriors down. Of course, not more than three can win the lottery. We can use the Inclusion/Exclusion principle from Theoretical Probability to determine the exact probabilities, or we can trust the NBA.com number: the Warriors have exactly a 60% chance of staying at #7. They could also move up to #1, #2, or #3, that has a 12.66% chance of happening. In the other circumstances, the Jazz get the pick. 100%-60%-12.66% = 27.34% - exactly the percentage likelihood that the Jazz have to receive the pick.

Of course, the Warriors HATE that 27.34% chance, and want to hedge it away. As a partner in a venture capitalist firm, Warriors owner Joe Lacob naturally understands risk and the impact it can have n important decisions like these. The only solution is a trade.

As of this moment, while a trade has been rumored to be likely to take place, it hasn't actually occurred. For a while, I took Clark's attitude toward the possibility, and agreed that it was unlikely to happen: for some reason, KOC reacts to trade rumors leaking to the media as Tiago Splitter takes free throws: not well.

But, oh ho, dear readers. Marcus Thompson, he who writes for the Warriors, reported yesterday on Twitter:

At least the Warriors feel talks are ongoing. And then this was posted last night on JazzFanz, from user PKM (who apparently has some sort of in with the Jazz organization):

The deal will be done, tomorrow, from what I'm told. Though we may not know the details for a month.

And in a later post:

Never really thought of that .. but what little I was told was a deal WILL (100%) be done, but it may not be made public until draft day.

Interesting. I like JazzFanz a lot, they're an interesting place to discuss the Jazz and are a awesome source for new ideas. However, they are somewhat legendary for "inside information" that isn't (Best Buy, anyone?). I only feel confident noting that because they do. But it's not as if our reporters are doing much reporting. BTS hasn't posted on Twitter in over two weeks, and PKM is a pretty good fan. So let's look into this rumor.

First of all, the deal not being done until draft day would lead to a lot of confusion, and would be guaranteed to make one side look bad. If the Warriors retain the pick in the lottery... then they would be randomly trading the Jazz something of value that already belongs 100% to them. "In other news, the Warriors trade the #30 pick and $3 million in cash for Raja Bell" would make Warriors fans go nuts, and for good reason. On the other hand, if the Jazz were to get the pick in the lottery, then we would have to give that pick away on draft day for something less valuable than the #8 slot. Plus, we here at SLCDunk would spend the entire month of June researching the draft for no reason. It'd be a bummer. Let's hope that if there is a trade, it gets reported immediately.

Second, what kind of trade would not involve a specific player, but would need to be postponed until draft day? Well, there isn't much, unless a) it's a multiple team trade involving some team that's still in the playoffs, or b) the trade itself would be contingent on which players are available at that point in the draft. The latter idea is big in its potential ramifications: it would mean that the Jazz already have a good idea of who they would want to draft or trade away now; before workouts, scouting, or interviews have taken place. We've heard how much scouting work the Jazz do during the entire season (for example, they attended numerous Kentucky practices to watch Kanter play), maybe this is where that work would pay off. In general, I feel as if the month before the draft is overrated, anyway, that their playing career will tell much more about them than interviews and solo (or even group) workouts. But still... what a gamble, by both sides.

What potential non-player trades could occur? Golden State could offer Utah money, picks (either this year or in the future), or the relaxing of restrictions on the pick in the future.

While it wouldn't seem this way, which the Jazz choose is an important sign of what they want to do with the franchise. Each would signal its own priority for the organizational leadership:

  • Cash: We're focused on staying profitable, staying in Utah, and buying sweet new Land Rovers.
  • Future picks: likely would be late first round or early second rounders. The Warriors own the #30 and #35 picks in this years draft. If the Jazz were to elect to receive either one of those, it would mean that they were focused on improving around the edges of the team: keeping the team in the playoffs by hopefully adding a rotation-caliber player.
  • Relaxing of restrictions: this risky decision would signal that the Jazz are focused on getting a star-caliber player. If the Jazz were to only receive relaxed restrictions on the pick in exchange for this year's pick, (say, top 2 protected in 2013), that would be a risky move. The Warriors very well may improve next year, and the Jazz would get nothing from this trade. But it would also increase the odds that Utah would receive a superstar, the kind that can win you a championship one day.

There has been much discussion recently on and within SLCDunk about the direction of the franchise as a whole. Some think that the franchise is totally satisfied with just keeping profitability and fringe-contender status. Others disagree, and believe the organization when they say that the championship is the ultimate goal. This trade, if it occurs, will be an interesting indication of the Jazz' true beliefs.

I have a life-size poster of Derrick Favors in my living room. The Jazz Bear threw it out to the crowd at the alternate jersey unveiling (it was attached to the backdrop behind the podium), and I happened to catch it. It's pretty awesome. I would recommend you all instantly go out and purchase one, except they're not for sale anywhere. I'm sorry. Derrick is mine.

This got me thinking, though. What pieces of memorabilia would you like to see the Jazz sell? Since they own Fanzz, the Jazz presumably have a somewhat unique ability to control their own merchandise. What products do you want?

I would like more large posters, decals, and perhaps even cardboard cutouts for sale, hopefully not at Fathead prices and related Dan Gilbert profit. I think a Jazz scarf would be cool. I think things emphasizing the importance of the fans are cool (a recent season ticket holder gift was a nice print of the whole stadium, standing together for tipoff in blue before a playoff game, with the players tiny in the center). Any other ideas?

Poll Time!

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