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Hornets NBA Draft Lottery primer

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There’s a lot at stake tonight. Here’s what to look forward to.

NBA: Lottery Draft Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

What: NBA Draft Lottery

When: Tuesday May 14th, 8:30 p.m. EDT

Where: The Hilton Chicago; Chicago, IL

How to watch: ESPN

Tonight is a massive night in the NBA. The directions of franchises can be altered by the bounces of numbered ping pong balls. The Charlotte Hornets are hoping for some rare lottery luck that can help them out of the NBA purgatory of mediocrity.

How it works

There are 14 ping pong balls numbered 1-14. Four of those will be plucked for each pick. There are 1,001 possible combinations that can be drawn (order doesn’t matter). One of those is tossed out. The rest are divvied up among the teams based on their lottery odds.

The NBA takes this process very seriously. There’s a guy with a stopwatch who tells another person when to dispense a ball from the machine. The timer isn’t allowed to look at the machine. The first team whose combination is drawn gets the first pick, the second team the second pick, and so forth up to the fourth pick. Any duplicate drawings are redone. When it’s over, the results are put in enveloped and delivered to Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum. He then announces the picks in reverse order on TV.

The Hornets will be represented on the main stage by Head Coach James Borrego. He won’t really do anything besides sit there and maybe answer a question or two. Assistant General Manager Buzz Peterson will be in the secret room watching the ping pong balls bounce out of the hopper.

The odds

The Hornets have a 1.0% chance of getting the number one overall pick (read: Zion Williamson). They have a 4.8% of jumping into the top four. There’s a slight chance they could drop down if one of the Celtics or Heat jumps into the top four from behind them.

Here’s a nifty visualization of pick odds for each team in the lottery, courtesy of David Sparks of the Boston Celtics.

Charlotte Hornets lottery history

Much like the overall history of the franchise, there’s a stark contrast in the team’s success in the lottery between their first and second iterations. The original Hornets were in the lottery seven times. They moved up three times (4 spots, 6 spots, and 10 spots) while moving down twice. The second incarnation of the Hornets has not been so lucky. They’ve been in the lottery 12 times and never moved up. They have dropped four times, moving down one spot twice and two spots twice.

The ping pong balls haven’t been kind to Charlotte. Maybe that’ll change tonight.