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2021 NBA Draft Lottery Finalized Seeding and Odds

Much of the NBA world is currently focused on the first Play-In Tournament games and looming playoffs. While it is certainly true that the best basketball is yet to come, there is one other talking point to address with the 2020-21 regular season concluding this past weekend. The NBA Draft Lottery seeding for the 2021 draft is now finalized. 

We set the stage for the mad tank to the finish last week. At that time, six teams were still in play for a top-3 lottery seed at that time. The following article will rehash the final week that was and update how the final NBA Draft Lottery seedings and odds shook out.

NBA Draft Lottery seeding odds

2021 NBA Draft Lottery Seeding

Refer to the table below which contains the final NBA Draft Lottery seeding for the bottom ten teams in the season standings. Odds to land the top pick as well as average first-round pick position for all teams are included. Find additional commentary on how the seeding shook out in the sections that follow.

TeamSeason Record% Odds to Land Top PickAverage Pick Based on Lottery Seed
Houston Rockets17-5514.03.7
Detroit Pistons20-5214.03.9
Orlando Magic21-5114.04.1
Cleveland Cavaliers22-5011.54.6
Oklahoma City Thunder22-5011.54.8
Minnesota Timberwolves23-499.05.5
Toronto Raptors27457.46.2
New Orleans Pelicans31-414.57.5
Sacramento Kings31-414.58.1
Chicago Bulls31-414.58.7

Rockets Secure Top Lottery Seed

The Houston Rockets had already ensured themselves of a top-3 NBA Draft Lottery seed and maximum odds of landing the top pick prior to the season’s final week. Houston went on to drop two of their final three games and secure the top overall seed in the lottery. Plus, it’s always nice to get one last win at the end of the year, right?

At any rate, landing the top overall lottery seed guarantees that the Rockets will not pick any lower than fifth in the 2021 NBA Draft. However, should Houston wind up with the fifth overall pick (47.9% chance of this), they would be sending it to the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of a conditional trade agreement.

Pistons Finish Last in East

The Pistons were the other team sitting in great shape as far as landing a top-3 NBA Draft Lottery seed early last week. Detroit lost each of their remaining games to finish in the Eastern Conference cellar and secure a 14% shot at the top overall selection.

cole anthony 2021 NBA Draft Lottery
Credit: Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Magic Take Advantage of Wins By Cavaliers, Thunder to Round Out Top-3

Last week’s NBA Draft Lottery update broke down the three-team race that was projected to ensure over the final days of the season for the third and final top-3 seed. Well, the Orlando Magic were the only one of those three teams to not win a single game the rest of the way. As a result, the Magic join the Rockets and Pistons in rounding out the coveted top-3 seeds in the 2021 NBA Draft Lottery.

As for those other teams, let’s just say there are probably some fans in Oklahoma City kicking themselves. The Thunder had a half-game advantage on a top-3 seed midway through last week. OKC did everything right up until the final day of the season. Only needing to lose their finale to clinch 14% odds of landing the top pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Thunder instead went out and beat a shorthanded Clippers team. As a result, the Thunder have a 2.5% worse chance of drafting No. 1 overall. Their average first-round pick position also suffers by 0.7 spots. They also now have a slim chance of picking as late as ninth!

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers also played their way out of a top-3 seed, albeit in a less dramatic fashion. The Cavs knocked off an injured Boston Celtics squad last Wednesday to set themselves behind the Magic in the NBA Draft Lottery standings. They wouldn’t win another game, but the Cavaliers still finished a game ahead of Orlando in the standings and a game outside of the top-3 in the lottery.

Three-Way Tie At the Back End

Although the odds of landing the top overall draft pick are significantly less for the 8-10 seeds in the NBA Draft Lottery, the three teams occupying those spots all finished tied in the final standings this year. As a result, each of the New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and Chicago Bulls will have equal 4.5% odds of drafting No. 1 overall. Thanks to tiebreakers, the Bulls will be relegated to picking tenth or later should they fail to land a top-4 selection. The Pelicans make out the best of the three. Even if they don’t draw a top-4 selection, the odds of New Orleans picking later than ninth overall are less than 10%.

LaMelo Ball 2021 NBA Draft Lottery Seeding
Credit: Matt Slocum/AP Photo

Tentative NBA Draft Lottery Seeding for Play-In Teams

With the NBA instituting the first-ever Play-In Tournament ahead of this year’s playoff bracket, the bottom four lottery seeds are technically still yet to be determined. Should a 9- or 10-seed in either conference surprise and play their way into the NBA Playoffs, the result would be a 7- or 8-seed being relegated to the lottery. 

🏀 Our NBA Draft Lottery odds overview also includes a full explanation of how the new play-in tournament could impact the 2021 lottery!

The following table includes the four teams who would round out the 14 NBA Draft Lottery teams, barring upsets in the NBA Play-In Tournament.

TeamSeason Record% Odds to Land Top PickAverage Pick Based on Lottery Seed
Charlotte Hornets33-391.810.4
San Antonio Spurs33-391.711.3
Indiana Pacers34-381.012.5
Memphis Grizzlies38-340.513.7

Again, we see two teams finishing with identical records on the season in this portion of the NBA Draft Lottery seeding. The Charlotte Hornets benefit from tiebreakers over the San Antonio Spurs and have a slightly better lottery standing, assuming both teams fail to qualify for the postseason. 

Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies are set to be the only team with a winning record in this year’s draft lottery. At the same time, at least one playoff team in the Eastern Conference will have a losing record. The winner of Tuesday’s Play-In Tournament matchup between the Hornets and Indiana Pacers will have a realistic shot at becoming the first team to steal a spot in the bracket as a 9- or 10-seed under the new format.

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