All teams in the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery will need Lady Luck on their side.
But the Cleveland Cavaliers will need her more than anyone.
The Cavs enter Tuesday’s draft lottery in Chicago with the lowest odds to win the No. 1 overall pick. Of the 1,000 possible four-number combinations that can be drawn first from the lottery machine, the Cavaliers will own five of them. That equates to 0.5% odds.
Cleveland’s odds to jump up inside the top four aren’t that much better, sitting at 2.4%. A total of 10 teams in the lottery have better than a 2.4% chance of landing the No. 1 pick.
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So has there ever been a team in a position similar to the Cavs that’s defied the odds for a miracle draft lottery victory?
Who are the unlikeliest NBA draft lottery winners of all time?
The Cavaliers going from No. 14 to No. 1 this year would be historic. Since the weighted lottery system debuted in 1990, no team with less than 1.5% odds has ever won the No. 1 pick. The Cavs and Charlotte Hornets (1%) both have lower than 1.5% odds this year.
The biggest lottery miracle came back in 1993. After winning the Shaquille O'Neal sweepstakes with the second-best odds in the 1992 lottery, the Orlando Magic came into the 1993 event with the worst odds at 1.52%. But Orlando stunningly jumped from No. 11 to No. 1, becoming the first franchise to win consecutive lotteries. The Magic selected Chris Webber first overall in 1993 and then promptly traded him to the Golden State Warriors on for No. 3 pick Penny Hardaway and several future first-rounders.
Only two other teams with less than 2% odds have ever won the top pick. With 1.7% odds in the 2008 lottery, the Chicago Bulls went from ninth to first. The Bulls didn’t let their good fortune go to waste either, selecting hometown prospect and 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose.
Another team with 1.7% odds won the top pick in 2014. One year after claiming the No. 1 pick with the third-best odds, the Cavs went back-to-back by winning it with the ninth-best odds. Cleveland used the 2014 No. 1 pick on Andrew Wiggins and dealt him less than two months later to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Love.
The New Jersey Nets in 2000 and Cavaliers in 2011 round out the five teams that have won the No. 1 pick with less than 5% odds. The Los Angeles Clippers technically won the 2011 lottery with 2.8% odds, but the Cavs owned L.A.’s pick that year as a result of the Baron Davis-Mo Williams trade. So, while Cleveland’s own pick dropped from second to fourth in the lottery, the Clippers’ pick they held went from eighth to first. The Cavs used their two top-four picks on Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson, two starters on their 2016 championship team.
The Nets landed a key cog of two Eastern Conference championship teams thanks to their draft lottery win in 2000. With 4.4% odds, the Nets moved up from seventh to first in the lottery and selected Kenyon Martin No. 1 overall.
For the 2022 lottery, the other teams with less than a 5% chance for the top pick are the San Antonio Spurs (4.5%), Washington Wizards (3%) and New York Knicks (2%).
Here’s a full look at the unlikeliest draft lottery winners of all time and who they wound up selecting No. 1 overall (via RealGM.com):
1993, Orlando Magic: 1.52% -- Chris Webber
2008, Chicago Bulls: 1.7% -- Derrick Rose
2014, Cleveland Cavaliers: 1.7% -- Andrew Wiggins
2011, Cleveland Cavaliers (via Clippers): 2.8% -- Kyrie Irving
2000, New Jersey Nets: 4.4% -- Kenyon Martin
2007, Portland Trail Blazers: 5.3% -- Greg Oden
2019, New Orleans Pelicans: 6% -- Zion Williamson
2005, Milwaukee Bucks: 6.3% -- Andrew Bogut
2006, Toronto Raptors: 8.8% -- Andrea Bargnani
2002, Houston Rockets: 8.9% -- Yao Ming
1995, Golden State Warriors: 9.4% -- Joe Smith