The NBA Draft Lottery: the crazy process that builds legends

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The NBA draft lottery might just be a lot of ping pong balls in essence, but the very fate of franchises can be decided by the way they fall.

Since 2005, out of the 30 teams in the NBA, 16 qualify for the playoffs and the remaining 14 teams are entered in the draft lottery. These 14 teams are ranked in reverse order of their regular season record and generate a certain percentage in relation to their standing.

For example, the Minnesota Timberwolves grabbed the number one pick in 2015 and they had the worst record during that campaign. Entering the lottery, they had a 25 percent chance of securing that top pick, as opposed to the Indiana Pacers, who finished with the 14th worst record and had a 0.5 percent chance.

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The draft by its very nature is designed to help the league stay balanced and give franchises ample opportunity to fight their way back to contention. Of course, organisations are not just handed the best prospect for finishing last, just the best chance.

In fact, only five times in the last 30 years has the very worst record garnered the top pick.

Over the years, the ping pong balls have dropped favourably for a few franchises that were able to enjoy the added bonus of a star-studded pick and dramatically change their fortunes.

Ahead of the 2016 draw on Tuesday, May 17, we have taken a look at three of the biggest lottery upsets since the first ping pong balls dropped back in 1985.

Yao Ming

Back in the 2002 draft, the Houston Rockets had an 8.9 percent chance of securing the number one pick after finishing with the fifth-worst record in the Western Conference.

The Texas-based franchise had an ageing star in Glen Rice at small forward and they had just parted ways with power forward Kevin Willis for the second time. They were in dire need of some rim protection and a presence inside, and Yao Ming was the bona fide star of that year's draft.

The 7'6" center was special. Not only was he a rare talent with freakish athleticism for a man of that stature, but he was a marketing dream. The Chinese superstar brought new eyes to the Rockets and the NBA as a whole and helped the league grow immeasurably during his nine-year spell at the Toyota Center.

After a four-year dry spell, the Rockets made the postseason in five of the next six years before injuries would rob Ming of his career and the chance to guide Houston further. Along with rival Shaquille O'Neal - another former number one draft pick - Ming was induced into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this year. Who knows what could have become of the Rockets had Ming remained healthy?

Kyrie Irving

A true stroke of luck brought point guard sensation Kyrie Irving to Cleveland back in 2011. The Cavaliers had the worst record in the Eastern Conference that year after finishing first behind MVP LeBron James the season prior.

However, after King James headed south to the Miami Heat, the Cavs were in big trouble. They had the second best chance of grabbing the first pick of a star-studded draft, but, ironically, it was a pick they acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers that brought them Irving.

The Cavaliers obtained the Clippers' first-round pick from a previous trade on February 24, 2011, that sent Mo Williams and Jamario Moon to the Clippers and Baron Davis to the Cavaliers. As the Clippers had the eighth-worst record, the Cavs only had a 2.80% chance at securing the first pick with the Clippers hand.

Incredibly enough, the balls dropped in Cleveland's favour and they ended up having the first and fourth picks in the 2011 draft, which they used on Irving and Tristan Thompson, respectively. In hindsight, they could have used those picks on Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard. Imagine that.

Irving won Rookie of the Year in his debut campaign and with the return of LeBron and the trade for Kevin Love since, Cleveland are about to compete in their second successive Eastern Conference Finals.

Derrick Rose

It had been a difficult time for the Chicago Bulls since the great Michael Jordan had led them to utter dominance in the 1990's. After winning their last championship at the climax of the 1997-98 campaign, the Bulls went six years without even making the playoffs.

They did manage to make the postseason for the next three seasons, but in the 2007-08 campaign, the likes of Luol Deng, Ben Wallace and a rookie Joakim Noah could only manage 11th place in the east, producing the eighth worst record overall.

That meant the Bulls only had a 1.70 percent shot at securing the top draft pick, but with a talent pool featuring Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and DeAndre Jordan, the Chicago front office knew they could secure a game-changing player if the balls fell correctly.

As luck would have it, the balls were so kind that the opportunity to snag hometown boy, Derrick Rose - who had turned in a phenomenal season at the University of Memphis - presented itself.

Rose was an instant hit. He became the first Bulls draftee to score 10 points or more in his first 10 games since Michael Jordan and would go on to become the 2009 Rookie of the Year. Furthermore, in just his third year in the NBA and at just 22-years-old, Rose became the youngest player ever to win the regular season MVP award.

After leading the Bulls to their first number one seed since Jordan's last title-winning season some 13 years earlier, an ACL tear the following season would rob a year from Rose's career and leave him still clawing to get back to those incredible heights to this day.

NBA Draft
Eastern Conference
Derrick Rose
Chicago Bulls
Central Division
Western Conference
Derrick Rose

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