Tuesday night's NBA Draft Lottery will see the Houston Rockets land a top-five pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. After finishing with the worst record in the league, the Rockets are guaranteed to secure one of the first five picks, but where they end pick is up to chance.
To curtail tanking, the NBA enacted a draft lottery in 1985 and the current system was put in place in 2019. The theory was, that if having the worst record in the league doesn't guarantee the first pick, then teams will be less inclined to toss a season to land a juicier draft pick.
However, the 2019 adjustment may have had the opposite effect. The teams with the bottom three records have identical odds, 14%, of landing the first overall pick. The only bonus, if there is one, for finishing with the worst record, is that you cannot drop below the fifth pick. Here are the Rockets' odds of landing picks 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.
1. First Overall Pick
The Rockets have a 14% chance of landing the first overall pick. If you have a seven-sided die, pull it out, pick a number, roll, and pray. Those are the Rockets' chances at the first pick.
2. Second Overall Pick
The Rockets actually have a lower chance of getting the second pick than the first pick. However, with a 13.4% chance, the difference is essentially statistically negligible.
3. Third Overall Pick
The Rockets' odds of landing at third is 12.7%. That's essentially a one-in-eight chance.
4. Fourth Overall Pick
The Rockets' have a 12% chance of landing the fourth overall pick. It is the pick they're least likely to land. However, the difference between 12% and 14% can only be observed in large samples. In practical terms, the chances of the Rockets getting any of the first four picks is almost identical.
5. Fifth Overall Pick
If you've been doing the math, the Rockets have a 52.1% chance of getting pick 1, 2, 3, or 4. This means they have a 47.9% of getting the fifth overall pick. That's not quite a 50/50 coin flip, but, according to mathematician Persi Diaconis, it might be.
The Rockets won't drop outside of the top five, but the chance they end up with the fifth pick is the most likely outcome. The 2022 NBA Draft has three players vying for the first pick and a clear top-four of Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith, and Jaden Ivey. The fifth pick would be an underwhelming return after losing the most games in the league, but it's the most likely outcome.
The NBA Draft Lottery is at 8 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN. Don't forget to wear your lucky underwear.