A new envelope opener and other NBA Lottery notes

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum (Photo credit: NBA)
NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum (Photo credit: NBA)

A new envelope opener

During his time as the NBA’s Deputy Commissioner, Adam Silver presided over the NBA Lottery. From 200t to 2013, the job of opening envelopes was his. With Silver now installed as the Commissioner, the job gets turned over to the new Deputy: Mark Tatum.

Where David Stern and Silver came to the NBA with backgrounds as lawyers, Tatum comes from the business side of basketball. In his 15 years working for the league, Tatum has become its marketing guru, working with companies like Coca-Cola, Gatorade, and Nike. According to David Aldridge of NBA.com, Tatum is both African American and Vietnamese and is the highest ranking executive of color in a major professional sports league.

Tatum was also the person who went to Los Angeles to address the employees of the Clippers immediately after the announcement of owner Donald Sterling’s lifetime ban from the league.

In the late 1990s, Tatum was president of a cohort of about 80 students at Harvard Business School who were infamous for a sexual harassment epidemic. He appears to have been on the right side of the issue, trying first to lead a public discussion on the matter, then later petitioning school administrators to intervene. His graduation speech, given a few days after the original report was published, concludes with a plea to current students about stewarding the future of the school in the right direction.

At 7 PM CT Tuesday night, The Bucks will find out their future at the hands of Tatum. But if you’re heartstrings still ache nostalgic for the Deputy Silver Era, here is a clip with Silver’s first national TV moments from 2007.

The procedure and the math

In a secret room isolated from all outside communication, the lottery winner will be determined by picking four balls from a vat of balls numbered from 1 to 14 — with no attention paid to the order in which the numbers are picked. There are 14*13*12*11 = 24,024 ways of picking four balls from the vat, and 4*3*2*1 = 24 ways to order them. As a result, there are 24,024/24 = 1001 groups of four balls that may be picked.

To make an even 1000 possibilities, the combination 11-12-13-14 is thrown out. Each team gets a fixed number of the 1000 combinations; the Bucks have the most with 250. That leaves the Bucks with a 25% chance of winning the lottery, a result that will be revealed hours later on a TV broadcast from New York’s Times Square Theater.

A slight change in the odds

After the winner is picked, the process of picking 4 balls from 14 is repeated twice more. If a combination is picked that belongs to a team that was already chosen, then the result is thrown out and the selection done over again.

The remaining 11 teams then get picks 4 through 14 in the draft in reverse order of their winning percentage. With the worst record of 2013-14, the Bucks are guaranteed to finish with no worse than the fourth pick.

Because Boston and Utah finished tied in the standings at the end of the year, their respective pool of winning combinations was split more evenly than the usual divvy for two consecutive teams in the standings. The result is that Milwaukee’s chances of winning get a microscopic tweak for the worse.

Screen shot 2014-05-16 at 8.23.13 PM


It’s not a huge difference, or even a realistically significant difference, but yes, it is slightly more likely that the Bucks get leapfrogged for a top-3 pick.


PMNDNCDSLBU is the order of the teams ranked 4th through 14th in the lottery’s odds, starting with the Phoenix Suns, holder of the best non-playoff regular season record . These eleven teams will have their envelopes opened in the order below unless they jump into the top 3 spots.

New York
New Orleans
Los Angeles

Why does that matter?

As soon as a team gets left out of this ordering scheme, it means that team jumped into one of the top-3 spots — making it substantially less likely that the Bucks crack their way into the same group. If one or more of these PMNDNCDSLBU teams lands in the top 3, then an equal number of the three squads with the worst records — Milwaukee, Philadelphia or Orlando — get bumped out.

So get familiar with this order. In fact, in probably needs some type of mnemonic acronym. How about this one?


Commit this to memory and you’ll be fully ready for the draft.

Categories: Draft Talk,Uncategorized

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  1. So excited for tomorrow. Had this date marked on my calendar for a long while, as most Bucks fans. I’m less worried about the results than I thought, being guaranteed a top four pick. No matter what happens, it will be an exciting day in the Bucks future so let’s enjoy it!

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