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The Official Defector Guide To The 2021 NBA Draft Lottery

Devin Booker in a suit, sitting at the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery

Tonight is the NBA draft lottery, a night when fans of crappy teams briefly get to dream of a brighter tomorrow. Will metaphorical ping-pong balls bounce their team’s way, opening the path to a future in which the team is no longer an also-ran? Could these fans one day cheer for a team that wins championships, or competes for them, or at least one that suffers embarrassing, heartbreaking playoff exits every year? Tonight is the night to find out!

But these things can be confusing without a guide. Which pick will best position your team for future success? Which pick will have your team’s selected NBA Draft Lottery Representative™ going like this?

Pat Croce celebrates getting the first overall pick in 1996
Do you think the NBA won these little basketballs on the Seaside Heights boardwalk, and that’s why they used to use them for podiums? Where does one get a podium with space for a basketball, anyway?

Because of my impressive-sounding title—it’s officially Defector NBA Draft Lottery analyst Dan McQuade—people have often asked me what that job entails. It’s complicated, and a lot of it is proprietary, but the short answer is that I have calculated the odds, looked at the history of the NBA Draft Lottery, and produced the complete guide to where you want your team to end up tonight. Get ready, Knicks fans—this is for you! (Oh, wait. You’re telling me they made the playoffs this year? No way. Sure, buddy.)

First off, the top pick you want your team to get is the No. 1 overall pick. This is clearly the best option in the Draft Lottery. Sure, there have been busts at this lofty position, but you also have legit legends like LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal picked here as well. It’s definitely the option you want to root for.

If your team doesn’t get the top pick, you want them to get the No. 2 overall pick. Even if you take a guy like Shawn Bradley here, you’re still going to get a player who played for 12 NBA seasons and started 484 games. Failing that, you absolutely want the No. 3 overall pick. This is the spot where Michael Jordan himself was drafted. If you get the No. 3 pick, you could be taking the most legendary basketball player of all time. You might be drafting one of the greatest memes in history. It’s a no-brainer to want pick 3 if 1 and 2 are gone.

From there, it gets a little tougher, but I’ve straightened things out for you. Here’s a full list, in order, of the picks you should want your team to get in this year’s lottery.

  1. No. 1 overall pick
  2. No. 2 overall pick
  3. No. 3 overall pick
  4. No. 4 overall pick
  5. No. 5 overall pick
  6. No. 6 overall pick
  7. No. 7 overall pick
  8. No. 8 overall pick
  9. No. 9 overall pick
  10. No. 10 overall pick
  11. No. 11 overall pick
  12. No. 12 overall pick
  13. No. 13 overall pick
  14. Getting trapped in a giant bingo cage that keeps tumbling faster and faster as ping pong balls wallop your body harder and harder with each turn
  15. No. 14 overall pick

There you go! I hope this guide helps your viewing enjoyment of tonight’s draft lottery. May the odds be ever in your favor. Unless you root for the the Warriors. Honestly it’s unfair you even get a shot at the top pick.