Sports

Everything You Need to Know About the Heat's Slim Chance of Winning the Zion Williamson Lottery

Zion Williamson
Zion Williamson Photo by Keenan Hairston / Wikimedia Commons
The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery, AKA "the dramatic Ping-Pong ball and oversized-team-card-reveal thing," goes down tomorrow night in Chicago. ESPN will air it live starting at 8:30 p.m., though the actual drawing happens a few hours earlier in a supersecret-society-circle-of-trust-no-cell-phones-allowed room.

As you've likely already gathered from Heat fans' lack of excitement surrounding tomorrow's drawing, Miami has a next-to-zilch chance of landing the first overall pick, and thus the right to draft Duke forward Zion Williamson, a dude who looks to be the surest thing to come out of the NBA Draft since LeBron James.

In his only season at Duke, Williamson played 33 games and averaged 22.3 points, nine rebounds, and two assists per game with a freakish 68 percent shooting. In the process, he looked like Hulk and a Transformer's basketball baby.

But, again, the Heat doesn't have much chance at Zion. But a chance they do have! What sort of chance? Here are the basics.


The Heat ended with the NBA’s 12th-worst record in the regular season. A coin flip hooked them up with the 13th-overall slot in the draft lottery, ahead of the lowly Sacramento Kings. This means the Heat has a 1 percent chance of landing the first overall selection when the Ping-Pong balls get poppin'.
You may wonder if the NBA can rig the lottery and thus award one Zion to a team not named the Cleveland Cavs or Phoenix Suns. While it's fun to dream, the league would have to pull some shady stuff to place Zion in Miami. It's almost impossible. The new NBA lottery format is Oceans 11 proof. No robbery here.

Here is how the New York Post recently explained the crazy process put in place to ensure the draft lotto is on the up-and-up.
The No. 1 pick in the draft is determined by the drawing of the first four balls that spell out a number combination. There are 1,001 possible number combinations. One thousand of those combinations have a team assigned. One four-ball combination does not.

As it happens, 14 ping-pong balls are mixed in the lottery machine for 20 seconds and the first ball is drawn by by NBA events VP Lou DiSabatino. The machine is turned on for another 10 seconds to scramble the balls for the second withdrawal, another 10 seconds of mixing for the third ball and also the fourth ball.
Here we were thinking each team has a set number of balls and one is pulled out when in reality it's an entire ordeal. Huh. We all learned something together today.

Beyond not landing Zion Williamson, there is still some wonder in this draft drama, though. The Heat has a 3.3 percent chance of landing a top-three pick, and a 4.8 percent chance of a top-four selection. With crazy-electric Murray State guard Ja Morant, Duke guards RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish, and Texas power forward Jaxson Hayes all expected to be extraordinary NBA players, the Heat landing in the top four would be a franchise-altering occurrence. 
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi