NEW YORK — After all the blowout beat-downs and nail-biting defeats, after all the winless road trips that produced nothing but jet lag, after a brutal 2013-14 campaign that ended as one of the worst seasons in Celtics history, the lottery is here, the one day where all those losses could help lead to a brighter future.
The Celtics, who were tied for the NBA’s fourth-worst record this season (25-57), will have a 10.3 percent chance at the top pick and a 33.4 percent chance at a top-three pick during Tuesday night’s NBA Draft lottery.
If the ping-pong balls bounce in their favor, they’ll have a chance at landing Duke’s Jabari Parker or Kansas’s Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins, the prospects who are likely to be taken 1-2-3 in some order in the June 26 draft. Those three players lead one of the most top-heavy draft classes in years, and NBA scouts and executives consider them all to be potential NBA All-Stars.
Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca will be on stage to represent the team, and he plans to wear a tie that Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach once gave him in the hopes that it will bring the team good luck.
The Celtics need all the luck they can find, especially after being burned in their last two lottery appearances, when they missed out on a chance to get future franchise players in Kevin Durant in 2007 and Tim Duncan in 1997.
And since the lottery began for the 1985 draft, the Celtics have had just two top-three picks: Maryland’s Len Bias (second overall in 1986) and Colorado’s Chauncey Billups (third overall in 1997).
But no matter how the lottery unfolds, the Celtics’ first pick will be no worse than eighth, a position in which they can still grab a quality player to help bolster the rebuilding club. They will also have the 17th pick in the first round, courtesy of a pick they acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets last summer.
The whole lottery process might seem a bit complicated, but the league provides a step-by-step process to help explain it.
It all starts with ping-pong balls in a drum. There are 14 of them, one for every NBA team that did not reach the playoffs, and they’re numbered 1 through 14.
Fourteen balls means there are 1,001 possible four-ball combinations. Prior to the lottery, 1,000 of those 1,001 combinations are assigned to the 14 participating lottery teams. (The 1,001st combination isn’t assigned to any team.)
The number of combinations teams are assigned is determined by regular-season record.
For instance, the Milwaukee Bucks finished with the league’s worst record at 15-67, so they have the first 250 combinations, meaning 250 chances out of 1,000 to win the lottery, the most of any team. The Phoenix Suns, who have the best record (48-34) of the 14 lottery teams, will have just five combinations, the fewest of any team.
The Celtics will have 103 combinations, one fewer than Utah, which finished with the same record. (The difference between them was determined by a tiebreaker.)
The actual procedure will take place in Times Square Studios in a separate room prior to the national broadcast on ESPN at about 8 p.m.
In that room, select media, NBA officials, and representatives of the participating lottery teams will witness an independent representative from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young draw four ping-pong balls out of the drum, and whichever team is assigned that combination will earn the first pick. (Celtics president Rich Gotham will represent the team in this room.)
Those four balls are then placed back in the drum and the process is repeated to determine the Nos. 2 and 3 picks. (If by some chance the 1,001st combination — the one that is unassigned — is drawn, then the balls will be replaced and drawn again.)
After the first three picks are set, the remaining teams will pick in inverse order of their record. So the Bucks can pick no lower than fourth, Philadelphia no lower than fifth, and Orlando no lower than sixth.
Following the drawing, team logo cards are inserted into envelopes marked 1 through 14. Then the envelopes are brought out onto a stage and the announcement of the lottery results will be made by NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum.
A second representative from each team will be seated on stage (Pagliuca for the Celtics), and neither those representatives nor Tatum will be informed of the lottery results until the envelopes are opened in front of a live national television audience.
The team whose logo is in the envelope that is opened last will pick first at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on June 26.
NBA Draft lottery simulator
Push the button to see a random draw using the same formula as the NBA Draft lottery.
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