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NBA Draft Lottery: Are the Pacers finally due for a lucky break?

The Pacers do not have much history at the top of the draft.

2021 NBA Draft Lottery Photo by Steve Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Indiana Pacers have the fifth-worst record in the NBA, but enter Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery with a 55.6 percent chance of picking after No. 5, a light chance of staying put at No. 5, and a 42.1 percent chance of landing any one of the first four.

That’s because only the top four picks are determined via lottery, and all subsequent picks are awarded based on record. Still, the Pacers are guaranteed to pick no lower than ninth, and even that spot, while disappointing in the wake of a disappointing season, would be rarified air for a franchise that hasn’t selected in single digits since 1989, when they picked George McCloud at No. 7.

For point of reference, here’s how Indiana’s infrequency inside the top-10 compares to the rest of the NBA over the last 33 years.

During that span, every other team has accrued more single-digit picks than the Pacers, with the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, and San Antonio Spurs being the only other franchises with less than five. Meanwhile, the latter two teams have combined for seven championships over that same range of years, whereas Indiana has ... well ... zero.

Something else the Pacers have never done? Selected first overall in the modern draft era, joining only the Denver Nuggets. Of course, none of this has any bearing on impartial ping pong balls, but the combination of bad injury luck and general avoidance of tanking shenanigans while consistently putting together honest attempts to make the playoffs seems as though Indiana should be due for a good break eventually, right? RIGHT?!?

Here’s a full breakdown of the lottery odds for the 13 teams that will be represented in Chicago, with the Thunder owning two picks.

  1. Houston Rockets: 14%
  2. Orlando Magic: 14%
  3. Detroit Pistons: 14%
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder: 12.5%
  5. Indiana Pacers: 10.5%
  6. Portland Trail Blazers: 9%
  7. Sacramento Kings: 7.5%
  8. New Orleans Pelicans (via Los Angeles Lakers): 6%
  9. San Antonio Spurs: 4.5%
  10. Washington Wizards: 3% chance
  11. New York Knicks: 2%
  12. Thunder (via Los Angeles Clippers): 1.5%
  13. Charlotte Hornets: 1%
  14. Cleveland Cavaliers: 0.5%

Regardless of what the karma gods say, for a team with a spotty recent draft record, perhaps there is some solace to be taken in Chris Duarte being the first rookie to compete in the Rising Stars showcase since 2017, when the Pacers last had a lottery pick, selecting Myles Turner.