The NBA’s 2013 draft order was decided by a random readout of lottery numbers on Tuesday, in which fortune favored those teams building on sturdy foundations rather than those looking to start completely anew. While the Magic, Bobcats and Suns could surely have used the freedom and benefit of the No. 1 overall pick in order to jump-start their respective rebuilds, that privilege fell to the Cavaliers — who have now won two of the last three draft lotteries despite some unfavorable odds.
In this particular lottery, Cleveland held just a 15.6-percent chance of scoring the top pick — third in probability to the Magic and Bobcats. That’s an incredible break for a team that already benefited from an even more amazing turn of fortune two years ago; in 2011, the first-round pick the Cavs acquired from the Clippers via trade landed the No. 1 pick (Kyrie Irving) in spite of a measly 2.8-percent chance of doing so. As lucky as that result was in itself, the combination of the two fortuitous bounces of the lottery ping-pong balls is even more unbelievable. By draft probabilities alone, the likelihood that those two specific picks would produce the No. 1 selections in these particular drafts is just 0.4 percent. If I may borrow an exercise of probability from Ian Levy of Hickory High, that’s just slightly more likely than Cleveland’s Alonzo Gee connecting on five consecutive three-pointers last season — a benchmark indicative of incredible improbability if there ever was one.