Learn your lottery terminology

Republished from last season, because of course it’s still necessary.

In the NBA lottery, the Pistons will have the same number of ping-pong balls as the Charlotte Bobcats, Washington Wizards, New Orleans Hornets, Miami Heat, Detroit Lions and any other team.


Teams are assigned combinations, not ping-pong balls. Here’s how the process works, as explained by the NBA last year:

Fourteen ping-pong balls numbered 1 through 14 will be placed in a drum. There are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. Prior to the Lottery, 1,000 combinations will be assigned to the 14 participating Lottery teams by a computer.

Four balls will be drawn to the top to determine a four-digit combination. The team that has been assigned that combination will receive the number one pick. The four balls are placed back in the drum and the process is repeated to determine the number two and three picks. (Note: If the one unassigned combination is drawn, the balls are drawn to the top again.)

The actual Lottery procedure will take place in a separate room prior to the national broadcast on ESPN with NBA officials and representatives of the participating teams and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young in attendance.

Following the drawing, team logo cards will be inserted into envelopes marked 1 through 14 by an Ernst & Young representative. These envelopes then will be sealed and brought on-stage, where the announcement of the Lottery results will be made by NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver. A second representative from each participating team will be seated on-stage. Neither the Deputy Commissioner nor the team representatives will be informed of the Lottery results prior to the opening of the envelopes.

To review:

  • Incorrect: The Pistons are tanking to get more ping-pong balls.
  • Correct: The Pistons are tanking to get more combinations.

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