The luckiest and unluckiest teams in the NBA Draft Lottery

Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesThe Orlando Magic were able to land Penny Hardaway after getting one of the luckiest draws in the history of the NBA Draft Lottery.
  • The Minnesota Timberwolves have the worst track record in the NBA Draft Lottery of any franchise, having fallen down in position several times but never moved up.
  • The Orlando Magic, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Seattle SuperSonics have had some of the biggest jumps in NBA Draft Lottery history.

The NBA Draft Lottery is a time of hope and renewal when fans of 14 different NBA teams together can dream of a reborn franchise and a young star lighting up the home arena’s scoreboard for over forty nights a year.

Until, of course, the Ping-Pong balls are drawn, and the harsh reality of fickle luck comes crashing in like Russell Westbrook on a fast break.

It was in 1990 that the NBA instituted its weighted lottery system which, some tweaks to the percentage chance at a top three pick each team is allotted aside, has remained more or less in place ever since.

Since then, with the worst NBA Draft Lottery luck, by a substantial margin, is the Minnesota Timberwolves. The T-Wolves have not once managed to jump up in position via the lottery, and instead fallen back nine times. The Sacramento Kings and the Washington Wizards have also been hit hard by lottery luck, although Washington has seen its position improve at least a few times. The Kings, on the other hand, have only jumped up once.

On the other hand, the 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers have both gotten some lucky bounces in the lottery, each improving their position five times.

Of course, not all lottery jumps are created equal; some are much bigger than others.

The Orlando Magic had probably the greatest lottery jump of all time in 1991 when they improved their position by ten spots and grabbed the number one pick, which became Penny Hardaway, in 1991. The Charlotte Hornets also jumped up ten spots, to get the third overall pick, in 1999.

The Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers are two more big-time lottery beneficiaries, jumping up eight spots to the number one overall pick in 2008 and 2014, respectively. The then Seattle SuperSonics also moved up eight spots in 1990 to end up with the second overall pick.

Still, in this writer’s opinion, the luckiest NBA Draft Lottery jump occurred in 1997, when the San Antonio Spurs jumped up two spots to land Tim Duncan.

Overall, it is still amazing to think that in the NBA, a business enterprise worth billions at this point, that dynasties can be built and the courses of entire franchises changed based upon the luck of the draw.

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