Charlotte Hornets NBA draft lottery odds and history

Charlotte Hornets draft picks, Kai Jones, left, and James Bouknight, shake hands during a press conference at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte last July. Bouknight was the Hornets’ lottery pick a season ago.

Charlotte Hornets draft picks, Kai Jones, left, and James Bouknight, shake hands during a press conference at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte last July. Bouknight was the Hornets’ lottery pick a season ago.

It’s time again for the ping-pong balls, and it’s P.J. Washington’s turn to bring the Charlotte Hornets a little luck.

The NBA’s offseason calendar has reached the point the franchise has become all too familiar with over the years: The draft lottery. This latest rendition, which will determine the first 14 picks in the June 23 draft, takes place in Chicago on Tuesday and the results will be unveiled live at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Washington is going to be on the dais representing the Hornets, who have the second-worst odds of landing the No. 1 overall selection. The only team with a worse chance is Cleveland.

But, hey, it’s happened before. In 1999, with less than a one percent chance of moving into the top three and a 0.5 percent chance of winning it, the Hornets moved up 10 positions and were the recipients of the third overall selection. That 10-spot jump remains tied for the largest improvement in lottery position in NBA history.

The Hornets’ most recent climb against the odds came in 2020, when they catapulted five slots to No. 3, setting the stage for them to draft LaMelo Ball. Three decades have passed since the lone occasion the franchise won the lottery and selected Larry Johnson in 1991, a year Charlotte entered sporting the fifth-best odds at nabbing the first overall pick.

No matter where they land, the Hornets are on track to have two picks among the top half of the draft. Thanks to the conditions of the Devonte’ Graham sign-and-trade with New Orleans in August, which stipulated the Pelicans’ 2022 first-round pick would be conveyed to Charlotte if New Orleans made the playoffs, they also have the No. 15 selection.

Paired with the search for a new coach following last month’s firing of James Borrego following four years at the helm, that has the Hornets suddenly looking at an eventful and important offseason.

After seeing where they wind up in the final draft order once the ping-pong balls are pulled out of the hopper, the Hornets can mark that off their checklist and keep pushing forward with their agenda. They will have two key assets at their disposal to assist in improving their roster.

Here’s a breakdown of the Hornets’ odds and how the lottery works:


Just prior to the nationally televised broadcast, NBA officials, a member of the media and representatives of the Ernst & Young accounting firm attend the drawings. For the Hornets, assistant general manager David Duquette will be among those in the room.

A total of 14 ping-pong balls that are numbered 1-14 are placed in a lottery machine and there are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn out of 14, without regard to their order of selection. All but one of those 1,001 combinations are assigned to the participating teams.

After the balls are mixed for 20 seconds, the first selection is drawn. The remaining balls are mixed for another 10 seconds and a second one is drawn. That process is repeated two more times. The team assigned to that combination will receive the No. 1 pick. That exact scenario is repeated with the same ping-pong balls to get see which team gets the second, third and fourth picks. If the same team comes up more than once, the result is discarded and another four-ball combination is selected. That also is the case should the one unassigned combination be drawn.

Once the first four picks are established, the remainder of the teams are selected to figure out positions 5-14 in inverse order of their 2021-22 records.


It’s going to take a monumental leap for the Hornets to overcome the odds and vault to the top of the lottery. They have a one percent chance of getting the No. 1 overall selection, which ranks as the 13th-highest probability. It’s the third time the franchise’s pre-lottery draft position had it slotted 13th.

On the occasions when they were hit with odds that ranked in the top 10, their position has changed only once — landing them Johnson in ‘91.

Roderick Boone joined the Observer in September 2021 to cover the Charlotte Hornets and NBA. In his more than two decades of writing about the world of sports, he’s chronicled everything from high school rodeo to a major league baseball no-hitter to the Super Bowl to the Finals. The Long Island native has deep North Carolina roots and enjoys watching “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” endlessly.
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