The NBA draft every year brings the opportunity for 60 athletes to hear their names called in the event’s two rounds and a chance for sports betting fans to take a shot at choosing who might be picked. Each year we seem to hear the same familiar school names at the top of the draft, but is there a noticeable advantage to playing for one of the bigger colleges in terms of being a prominent draft pick?
By prominent draft pick, we mean a lottery pick. This is the 14 teams that failed to make the playoffs the previous year, with a lottery system deciding the order of those 14 teams.
At Bookmakers.com, we have collated all of the draft picks made in the lottery portion of the draft since 2000 and come up with formulas to determine whether a player is more likely to be picked if he plays for one of the traditional college powers as opposed to a smaller team.
The methodologies of the formulas are relatively simple: Duke has had an average of 14 players on its roster every year since 2000, and we’ve taken that as the baseline number for each college team’s roster every year. We then collated the number of picks each team has had in the lottery in that time to come up with the percentage of a given roster that is likely to be picked in the NBA draft lottery this year.
We have also determined the number of picks the top seven and bottom 351 colleges in the country, respectively, have had each year combined to form a percentage chance of a lottery pick coming from those schools. This information could in turn help when visiting NBA betting sites ahead of this year’s draft.
In total, seven teams (Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, UConn, Arizona and Texas) have accounted for 97 lottery picks since 2000, which is good for 31.5% of all NBA draft lottery picks in that time. If you take out the selections made from overseas and straight from high school, the number goes up to 37.3%.
In comparison, the 55 teams that have had between one and three players taken in the lottery in that time, have had 93 total players chosen in the top 14 of the draft for just a 30.2% share. For greater context, there are 358 Division I men’s college basketball teams in the United States, and the top seven teams have accounted for 97 lottery picks, leaving the other 351 teams to fight it out for the remaining 211 lottery picks in that time.
Taking out the overseas and high school lottery selections, the 351 colleges have accounted for a combined 164 selections.
From this, Bookmakers.com research has determined that if you play for one of the teams not in our top seven, you have just a 2.1% chance of being taken in the lottery. Whereas, if you play for one of the top seven teams, there is a 62% chance that one player will be taken in the lottery from that team.
There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, but our research shows that top seven schools have averaged 4.40 players picked out of the 14 every season, meaning you would have a much better chance backing a player from one of those schools when taking advantage of free bets available in the lead up to the draft than taking a flyer on a small school star.
The breakdown of each team since 2000, has seen 6.5% of Duke’s and Kentucky’s rosters picked in the NBA draft lottery, and they lead the way in the country followed by 4.5% of Kansas’ roster and 3.9% of North Carolina’s squad.
Some of these numbers are likely to be skewed in the coming years, with more teams potentially offering high school and college prospects a way in to professional basketball before reaching the NBA. For instance, in the first year of its existence last year, the NBA G League Ignite had two lottery picks, and the expectation is there could be at least one this season.
There has been a total of 23 national champions selected in the NBA draft lottery since the turn of the century, with the 2020 season not taken into account as there was no national championship because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Twenty-three picks in 21 years works out at 1.1 picks a year for the national champion and an average of 7.8% of each national champion’s roster being an NBA draft lottery pick, which is 1.3 percentage points more than the most prolific single teams in the country. Adjusting the projected percentage of their roster being a lottery pick based on their own historical data and being a reigning national champion, their chances move up 1.5 percentage points to 6.0% With more than one pick each year, there is a greater than 100% chance that this year’s national champion, Kansas, will have a player selected in the lottery using Bookmakers.com’s previous formula.
Looking at every draft since 2000, there are a number of schools that are seemingly favorites for NBA teams every year. Aside from players coming from professional teams overseas, which took up the largest proportion of picks since 2000, traditional blue blood teams Duke and Kentucky have seen the most picks with 20 apiece.
Kentucky’s numbers are made all the more impressive by the fact they had only one player picked in the lottery between 2000 and 2010, who was first overall pick and five-time NBA All-Star John Wall.
With legendary college coaches in John Calipari and Mike Krzyzewski at the helm of Kentucky and Duke, respectively, during this period, it perhaps comes as no surprise that NBA franchises have gravitated towards them. Duke’s three national titles since 2000 are only equalled by the University of Connecticut’s three.
There are four more teams in double figures in terms of lottery picks since 2000, with Kansas having 14, North Carolina 12, UConn 11 and Arizona 11. It should perhaps come as no shock that between the teams with over 10 players picked in the lottery, there have been 12 national titles won since 2000. Arizona is the lone team in double figures that hasn’t won the NCAA tournament in that time.
Success often breeds success, and these bigger colleges can rely on greater recruiting pull than other teams in the country, making it harder for supposed smaller colleges in the country.
While the bigger, more traditional schools typically dominate the lottery picks, it doesn’t mean smaller schools don’t still have a chance. However, it typically takes a special kind of player to be picked in the top 14 if they play for such a college. For instance, Davidson College reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament for only the third time in their history in 2008, and the first time for 39 years. That led to their only top 14 pick since 2000, who just happened to be two-time NBA MVP and this season’s NBA Finals MVP Stephen Curry.
In total, there have been 28 colleges that have had just one player picked in the lottery since 2000. Between those teams, there have been three total NCAA tournament triumphs all-time. The first came all the way back in 1959 when California beat West Virginia, with the second coming 18 years later when Marquette defeated North Carolina.
The most recent came in 2019 when small forward De’Andre Hunter of national champions Virginia was taken fourth overall.
There are 17 colleges (and one G League team) that have had two players drafted in the lottery this century, with only one of those teams having won a national championship in that time – Villanova, who triumphed in 2016 and 2018. However, in one of those years ‘Nova had no player picked in the top 14 of the draft.
From Bookmakers.com’s research, we can surmise that your money at NBA betting apps would be better spent on players from one of the traditional college powers as opposed to smaller school stars when making NBA draft lottery predictions.