Why is Betting on the NBA Draft Lottery a Fool’s Errand?

The 2015 NBA Draft Lottery, which is used to determine the draft order for teams who did not make the postseason, will take place this evening before the start of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Kentucky F/C Karl-Anthony Towns is currently viewed as the top prize and is listed at -800 to be the first overall pick in June’s draft.

In order to determine the first 14 picks in the draft, every non-playoff is given an allotment of ping pong balls based on their record during the past season. This determines the top three picks, while the remaining teams are assigned picks based on their record with the worst teams picking first. This season, the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-66) finished with the worst win-loss record, and thus have the highest probability (25%) of earning the first overall pick.

Many sportsbooks try to capitalize on the hype surrounding the NBA Draft Lottery by allowing bettors to wager on which team will land the coveted top pick. However, you may have more luck trusting Scottie Pippen’s money manager than taking action on this prop bet.

The table below displays the current odds and implied probability for all 14 lottery teams at three prominent offshore sportsbooks. As you can see, there’s not a single team offering even a slight edge.

Team BetOnline Implied Odds Sportsbk Implied Odds 5Dimes Implied Odds Actual Probability
Minnesota T-Wolves +250 28.57% +225 30.77% +285 25.97% 25.0%
New York Knicks +350 22.22% +325 23.53% +379 20.88% 19.9%
Philadelphia 76ers +450 18.18% +425 19.05% +494 16.84% 15.6%
Los Angeles Lakers +550 15.38% +575 14.81% +543 15.55% 11.9%
Orlando Magic +1000 9.09% +850 10.53% +936 9.65% 8.8%
Sacramento Kings +1200 7.69% +1200 7.69% +1309 7.10% 6.3%
Denver Nuggets +2000 4.76% +2000 4.76% +1901 5.00% 4.3%
Detroit Pistons +2800 3.45% +3000 3.23% +2815 3.43% 2.8%
Charlotte Hornets +4000 2.44% +5000 1.96% +4350 2.25% 1.7%
Miami Heat +5000 1.96% +7000 1.41% +6650 1.48% 1.1%
Indiana Pacers +8000 1.23% +8500 1.16% +8925 1.11% 0.8%
Utah Jazz +10000 0.99% +12000 0.83% +10600 0.93% 0.7%
Oklahoma City Thunder +10000 0.99% +12500 0.79% +12500 0.79% 0.6%
Phoenix Suns +10000 0.99% +15000 0.66% +15100 0.66% 0.5%

Bettors have an advantage over their sportsbook when the actual probability of an event occurring is higher than the implied odds (or implied probability). Clearly there is no team offering value at either of these two sportsbooks, which is why we would recommend that any bettor — including the most ardent conspiracy theorist — should be laying off this bet.

It’s worth noting that 5Dimes is offering a “no” option for each of these teams along with a number of additional prop betting opportunities. For example, bettors may be surprised to know that the odds of the three worst teams (MIN, NYK, PHI) actually picking in that order is +5071 — an implied probability of just 1.93%.

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David Solar is the Content Manager for Sports Insights and can be reached directly at David@sportsinsights.com.

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David Solar

David Solar has been the Content Manager at Sports Insights for over four years. He specializes in sports betting analytics and has created several popular data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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