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This is Detroit Pistons most important lotto since Darko

The Detroit Pistons and about half the league await their draft fate in the upcoming 2023 NBA draft lottery.

It’s one of the most anticipated events every year in US sports, dramatic in its presentation and with franchise-swinging results, all at the whim of ping pong balls in a Smart Play lottery machine.

But the anticipation of this year’s lottery has been building for many months. Why?

Well, the jewel at the top of June’s draft is Victor Wembanyama, one of the most tantalizing prospects in any sport ever. It’s probably the most important NBA draft lottery since 2003, when LeBron James was the prize awaiting the winner. (The Pistons, you’ll remember, took Darko Milicic with the next pick). More about Wembanyama and the rest of the top prospects later on.

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Victor Wembanyama, shown during a French professional basketball league game on Jan. 9, 2023, is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA draft.

Here’s what you need to know about the lottery process, the odds and pre-lottery order, how it all affects the Pistons, and a little bit about this year’s top draft prospects.

What is the NBA draft lottery?

The league does not guarantee draft spots after the season. Instead, it draws for the top-four picks in a lottery. The remaining draft positions are determined by the inverse of the regular season record. All 14 teams that miss the playoffs (or the team that owns their pick if it has been traded) have a chance to win the No. 1 pick.

When is the 2023 NBA draft lottery?

The lottery results will be revealed Tuesday, May 16, on ESPN, beginning at 8:30 pm in Chicago.

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How does the NBA draft lottery work?

A general view of the stage prior to the 2019 NBA draft lottery at the Hilton Chicago, May 14.

A general view of the stage prior to the 2019 NBA draft lottery at the Hilton Chicago, May 14.

The NBA now has a very strict and transparent way of doing its lottery to try to quell decades of conspiracy theories, since the lottery’s inception in 1985. Here’s how the 38th annual lottery drawing works:

  • There are 14 ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14, which makes up 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of the 14.

  • The 14 teams are assigned 1,000 of those 1,001 four-digit combinations. Teams lower in the standings receive more combinations than those with better records.

  • The 14 balls are dumped into a lottery machine and mixed for 20 seconds.

  • One at a time, each ball is selected every 10 seconds, monitored by a time keeper. The team with the winning combination receives the first pick.

That process is repeated for the second, third and fourth picks. If the same team’s combination comes up more than once, or if the lone unassigned combination is drawn, the result is discarded and the balls are drawn again. Once four teams are drawn for the first four picks, the 10 remaining teams are slotted Nos. 5-14. The team remaining with the worst record gets the fifth pick and so on. (Playoff teams are given Picks 15-30 by reverse order of regular season record, regardless of playoff outcome, as are all second-round picks, 31-60.)

The NBA conducts the lottery behind closed doors, with representatives from each team in the lottery drawing room, league officials, selected media, and the accounting firm Ernst & Young oversees the process.

The results are then placed in envelopes and brought to the studio for the ESPN television broadcast, where deputy commissioner Mark Tatum opens the envelopes and reveals the teams, in descending order. Neither Tatum nor each team representative on stage knows the results until they are revealed. (Those in the lottery room remain sequestered until after the results are aired live.) The team whose logo is in the last envelope opened will have the No. 1 pick in the June 22 draft.

Afterwards, the NBA posts the video from the backroom lottery drawing.

What are the Pistons’ chances of winning?

Since the Pistons finished with the league’s worst record of 17-65, they have a 14% chance to win the top pick. The league’s two other worst teams also have a 14% chance (Houston and San Antonio) of securing the No. 1 overall pick. The Pistons can fall no further than fifth.

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What are the Pistons’ odds of picking at spots 2-5?

  • Pick 2: 13.4%

  • Pick 3: 12.7%

  • Pick 4: 12%

  • Pick 5: 47.9%

The Pistons have a 40.1% chance to pick in the top three — where there seems to be a consensus top-three prospects — but the most likely pick for them to get is fifth. They cannot pick any lower.

Four teams jumping above the No. 1 team and send them to No. 5 has not happened in the four previous lottery’s since the current format was instituted in 2019, where odds were flattened across the lottery. This makes it tougher, odds-wise, for the worst teams to land the top picks, and easier for teams throughout the middle of the lottery to move up. (Before the change, the Pistons would have had a 25% chance to win the lottery.)

Here’s what happened to the worst team in the previous four lottery’s:

  • 2019: Knicks dropped from No. 1 to No. 3

  • 2020: Warriors dropped from No. 1 to No. 2

  • 2021: Rockets dropped from No. 1 to No. 2

  • 2022: Rockets dropped from No. 1 to No. 3

What is the order entering NBA draft lottery 2023?

  1. Detroit Pistons, 14%

  2. Houston Rockets, 14%

  3. San Antonio Spurs, 14%

  4. Charlotte Hornets, 12.5%

  5. Portland Trail Blazers, 10.5%

  6. Orlando Magic, 9%

  7. Indiana Pacers, 6.8%

  8. Washington Wizards, 6.7%

  9. Utah Jazz, 4.5%

  10. Dallas Mavericks, 3% (Knicks receive this pick if it falls out of top 10)

  11. Orlando Magic, 1.8% (from Bulls; Chicago retains pick if it moves into top four)

  12. Oklahoma City Thunder, 1.7%

  13. Toronto Raptors, 1%

  14. New Orleans Pelicans 0.5%

What is the Pistons’ recent lottery history?

The Pistons have been in the lottery since 2020. Here’s how they’ve fared in each of those past three:

  • 2020: Pistons dropped from No. 5 to No. 7 (drafted Killian Hayes)

  • 2021: Pistons moved up from No. 2 to No. 1 (drafted Cade Cunningham)

  • 2022: Pistons dropped from No. 3 to No. 5 (drafted Jaden Ivey)

Who is Victor Wembanyama?

Wembanyama is a French basketball player who stands around 7 feet 5 in shoes and weighs close to 225 pounds. He turned 19 years old in January and plays for Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans 92 in the LNB Pro A, the top league in France. The skills he possesses at his height and age have not been seen before. He can dribble like a smaller player, shoot off the bounce and off the catch. He has the mobility of a forward, and his 8-foot wingspan allows him to engulf shots defensively.

Learn more about Wembanyama and the draft in the May 2 episode of the Free Press’ “The Pistons Pulse” podcast, featuring special guest Jeremy Woo of ESPN. Listen below or wherever you get podcasts.

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Who else could the Pistons draft if they don’t get No. 1?

Two prospects, based on talent and fit, seem to stand out if the Pistons were to end up with the second or third pick — a dilemma recently debated on “The Pistons Pulse.”

  • Scoot Henderson, a 6-foot-2 point guard, skipped college and spent the past two seasons in the G League. He brings deft ball-handling, athleticism and touch around the rim.

  • Brandon Miller, a 6-foot-9 freshman forward from Alabama, brings the size and shooting on the wing that the Pistons could desperately use.

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If the Pistons drop to four or five, the board becomes a lot more fluid. Five names to watch include:

  • Cam Whitmore, a 6-7 freshman wing from Villanova with scoring instincts.

  • Jarace Walker, a 6-8 freshman forward from Houston with size and defensive versatility.

  • Anthony Black, a 6-7 freshman guard from Arkansas with high IQ and defensive chops.

  • Amen Thompson, a 6-7 point guard from Overtime Elite with dynamic athleticism and passing vision.

  • Ausar Thompson, a 6-7 wing from Overtime Elite with athleticism and high IQ.

Listen to “The Pistons Pulse” every Tuesday morning and on demand on freep.com or wherever you listen to podcasts. Catch all of our podcasts and daily voice briefings at freep.com/podcasts.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: NBA lottery draft odds 2023: Date, time, TV channel, what to know

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