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Simulating the Grizzlies Lottery Odds

After 100 simulations, just how good are the Grizzlies lottery odds?

NBA: NBA Draft Lottery Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time since the end of the 2009 season, the Grizzlies and their fans will be watching the NBA Draft Lottery with high hopes the ping pong balls bounce in the Grizzlies favor. After finishing that season with the 6th worse record in the NBA, the Grizzlies got lucky in the lottery and wound up with the 2nd pick in the NBA Draft where the luck then backfired as the Grizzlies selected Hasheem Thabeet.

The Grizzlies finished this past season with the second worst record in the NBA, securing them the 2nd best odds at the #1 pick and a top 5 pick no matter what happens on May 15th. According to Tankthon, the Grizzlies have a 19.9% chance at getting the top pick in this summer’s draft and 55.8% odds of securing a top 3 pick. Those odds are pretty good, but I decided to put them to the test by doing 100 lottery simulations on the Tankathon website.

Before looking at the results, it’s important to go over the basic lottery rules. Picks 1-3 are selected randomly by the drawing of ping pong balls, with teams with worse records getting more ping pong balls. Picks 4-14 are sorted by record from the remaining lottery teams.

You can see below the results from my 100 lottery simulations with the amount of times a team landed in the specific pick in parenthesis.

First Overall Pick

Phoenix Suns (33), Memphis Grizzlies (18), Dallas Mavericks (12), Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic (9), Chicago Bulls (7), Sacramento Kings (5), New York Knicks (3), Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers (via Brooklyn), Detroit Pistons & Denver Nuggets (1)

Second Overall Pick

Suns (21), Hawks (19), Grizzlies (14), Magic, Mavs (12), Bulls (9), Cavs (via Nets) (6), Kings (4), Boston Celtics (via Los Angeles Lakers) (2), Hornets (1)

Third Overall Pick

Grizzlies (19), Hawks (19), Suns (12), Magic, Bulls (10), Mavs (9), Cavs (via Nets), Kings (7), Knicks (2), Hornets (2), Celtics (via Lakers), Los Angeles Clippers, Nuggets (1)

Fourth Overall Pick

Suns (34), Grizzlies (34), Mavs (28), Hawks (4)

Fifth Overall Pick

Hawks (34), Mavs (26), Magic (24), Grizzlies (15)


The results from my lottery simulations weren’t overly kind to the Grizzlies, landing in the top 3 only 51 times and winning the lottery only 18 times, both lower than the odds given. The good news is that through my simulation, the Grizzlies have an 85% chance of landing a top 4 pick and typically only ended up in the 5th spot when the lottery got a little crazy. Still, the Grizzlies will likely hope they fare better in the actual lottery than my simulations since the draft has a pretty clear top 3.

Interestingly, not once in the 100 simulations did the draft end up the exact same as the lottery standings. There was always at least one team moving up or down the standings. The Nuggets, who have the lowest chance of landing a top 3 pick, won the lottery on my 99th simulation. Meanwhile, the craziest simulation resulted in the Bulls winning the lottery (up 5 spots) with the Hornets picking second (up 8 spots) and the Cavs jumping up 5 spots to pick third.

There were a few other surprises, but the most consistent teams that pushed the Grizzlies back were those right behind them. When May 15th rolls around, the Grizzlies will likely hope that teams like the Mavs, Hawks or Magic don’t jump them thanks to the ping pong balls. While most teams (and fans) enjoy when the lottery gets crazy, the Grizzlies should just hope that it stays true to it’s averages, even if mine weren’t quite as good.

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