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The NBA Draft Order

December 21, 2020


The NBA Draft and the NBA draft order is something every NBA fan can look forward to every year, whether their favorite team failed to make the playoffs or won it all. Why? Because it was a chance to add one of the best young talents in college basketball to the roster.

If he panned out, it could mean adding a future superstar.

But it all depends on where you sit in the NBA Draft order. The higher up a team is in the NBA Draft order, the better their chances are of selecting one of the best young talents in college or international basketball.

Of course, if you are lower in the NBA Draft order, that does not mean you cannot get a future superstar. It may just mean that team will have to select a ‘diamond in the rough’ that can be molded into a future superstar.

The process by which the NBA Draft order was to be determined had to be tweaked recently to discourage teams from tanking just to have a better chance at the No. 1 pick. Instead of the worst team having the best odds, the three worst teams have equal odds.

While the 2020 NBA Draft order did see one of those three teams get the No. 1 pick (Minnesota), the team with the worst record did not (Golden State; but they did get the No. 2 pick). However, the NBA Draft 2020 did see the other team with the best odds get the No. 5 pick.

So, while the process for determining the NBA Draft may be imperfect, in theory—it works. The worst teams in the league need to draft earlier in the first. How else can they become competitive without spending a fortune on free agents?

But teams should not be able to manipulate the NBA draft order to have a better shot at a better player. While the current process for setting the NBA draft order does not completely disincentivize teams, it does make tanking less appealing.

Best Sportsbooks for Betting on the NBA Draft

Predicting the NBA Draft is also a big occasion when it comes to betting and placing NBA picks. These are our highest ranked sportsbooks for betting on the NBA draft:

Best Sportsbooks

How do the NBA Draft Order Work?

1 Order determination
The beginning of the NBA Draft order is determined via the NBA Draft lottery (for the non-playoff teams) and via the inverse order of the regular season records (for the playoff teams in the first round and for every team in the second round.
2 Weighted lottery system
The purpose of the weighted lottery system was to keep teams from tanking to get a better draft pick. To further discourage tanking, rule changes altered how the NBA Draft lottery order became set. The worst regular-season team would no longer have the best chance of winning the No. 1 pick; the worst three would have an equal opportunity.
3 Order may change
The NBA Draft order can change at any time if teams decide to trade draft picks.
4 Limited time of selection
Teams have five minutes to make their selections in the first round and two minutes in the second round.


How is the 2021 NBA Draft order determined?

The NBA draft order becomes determined in part by the NBA draft lottery. Only the 14 teams that did not make the playoffs are part of the lottery. Chances of winning the lottery coincide with a team’s final regular-season record, with the worst three having the best chance.

The lottery will set the order of the first four picks with the next ten determined by the inverse order of the remaining ten lottery teams’ records. For picks 15-30, the order is determined by reverse order of the regular season record for every playoff team. The second round is determined by the reverse order of every team’s regular-season record.

What is the NBA Draft order?

The NBA draft order is the order in which draft-eligible players are selected by the NBA’s 30 teams on Draft Day.

When does the 2021 NBA Draft order get determined?

The NBA Draft order is typically determined in the third or fourth week of May, but due to the pandemic, it was not decided until the lottery was held on August 20.

Can the NBA Draft order change after it’s set?

Yes, the NBA Draft order can change after it’s set. It often changes beforehand. How so? Because it is not unusual for teams to trade draft picks before and during draft night. Teams will often trade draft picks for future drafts as well.

Does tanking guarantee a team rights to the top pick in the NBA Draft order?

With the current system, the worst three teams have an equal chance of winning the No. 1 pick, but that does not mean they will. Last season, the Minnesota Timberwolves were one of the three worst teams and did win the No. 1 pick.

But the year before, the New Orleans Pelicans had just a six percent (relative to 14 percent for the worst three teams) chance of winning the top pick in the NBA Draft order. However, they got it anyway.

Travis Pulver
Travis a native-Texan which is where his love of football originated. But after moving around a lot when he was younger, he was able to develop an appreciation for the game and not just his favorite teams. He now lives in Indiana with his wife, Nicole, and two kids, Jackson and Addison. You can find him on Twitter at @FatManWriting.