How the 2021 NBA Draft lottery works and the top odds to win

Steven Freeman / National Basketball Association / Getty

When: Tuesday, June 22 @ 8:30 p.m. ET
How to watch: ESPN (USA), TSN (Canada)

The NBA will reveal the order of the first 14 selections in the 2021 draft through a lottery system Tuesday night. Those picks belong to the 14 organizations that failed to qualify for the postseason. The worse the team's record was in 2020-21, the better its chance of securing a high draft pick.

The drawing itself - a secretive, backroom event that team representatives preside over, and a third-party firm oversees - actually takes place prior to the TV broadcast, which is set for 8:30 p.m. ET. Still, the majority of NBA personnel, media members, and fans will first learn the order during the broadcast.

Only the first four picks are actually awarded through the lottery. The remaining 10 picks are given to the teams that didn't move up into the top four, simply following in order from the worst to best records. So for instance, the lowest the Houston Rockets (owners of the top lottery odds) could slide is the No. 5 pick.

But before we get to the lottery odds, here's a reminder of what - or rather who - is at stake.

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Cade Cunningham, Oklahoma State: The Cowboys freshman looks like the best bet to go first overall. At 6-foot-8, Cunningham possesses game-breaking size for a lead ball-handler, and an outside shooting stroke that will allow him to play off the ball, too.

Evan Mobley, USC: Despite his 7-foot-4 wingspan, the 215-pound Mobley is no hulk. However, his lean frame is part of what could make him a devastating two-way player at the next level, one capable of scoring over defenders and around the rim, all while holding his own against multiple positions defensively.

Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga: After helping to push the Bulldogs to the national title game, no collegiate freshman boasts more big-game experience than Suggs. While his outside game develops, his NBA team should be able to rely on Suggs' smarts and vision as a passer - to say nothing of the 20-year-old's speed and athleticism.

Noah Graham / National Basketball Association / Getty

Jalen Green, G League: Instead of taking his talents to college, the 2020 top-ranked high school recruit joined the newly formed G League Ignite elite prospect team. Over 15 games against players on the fringes of the NBA - including some he'll no doubt face as a pro next year - Green put up close to 18 points, four rebounds, and three assists per game.

Jonathan Kuminga, G League: Rounding out the well-established top five is Kuminga, a 6-foot-6 forward who played alongside Green with the Ignite this past season. He's the least polished of the fivesome, but all-world athleticism is a great platform to build off.

Here are the lottery odds for each team, with the top-four pick chances listed alongside the likelihood of getting the first overall selection.

Slot Team Top 4 No. 1
1 Rockets* 52.1% 14.0%
2 Pistons 52.1% 14.0%
3 Magic 52.1% 14.0%
4 Thunder 45.1% 11.5%
5 Cavaliers 45.1% 11.5%
6 Timberwolves* 37.2% 9.0%
7 Raptors 31.9% 7.5%
8 Bulls* 20.3% 4.5%
9 Kings 20.3% 4.5%
10 Pelicans 20.3% 4.5%
11 Hornets 8.5% 1.8%
12 Spurs 8.0% 1.7%
13 Pacers 4.8% 1.0%
14 Warriors 2.4% 0.5%

There are a few outstanding notes to consider, accounting for how the lottery results will align with current pick protections and swap rights.

Not only will the Oklahoma City Thunder be watching what happens with their own first-round pick - which holds the fourth-best odds (tied with the Cavaliers) of becoming the No. 1 overall selection - but if the Houston Rockets' pick falls outside the top four, it will convey to the Thunder as well. If that happens, the Rockets will be given the No. 18 pick from the Miami Heat. And if the Rockets keep their pick, No. 18 goes to Oklahoma City.

Like the Rockets, the Minnesota Timberwolves will be praying to the lottery gods. If their selection falls outside the top three, the Golden State Warriors will net a second lottery pick - which is tied to last year's D'Angelo Russell-Andrew Wiggins swap.

Ditto for the Chicago Bulls, who will send their first-round pick to the Orlando Magic if it falls outside the top four - a 79.7% likelihood. The most likely scenario is the Rockets retaining their first-round pick while the T-Wolves and Bulls lose theirs.

Once the dust and ping-pong balls settle, NBA front offices will get about five weeks to pore over the scouting reports before the July 29 draft. That span includes the combine, which started Sunday and runs through June 27.

How the 2021 NBA Draft lottery works and the top odds to win
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