Behind The Scenes

How NBA Draft Lotto App works

Imagine Kemba Walker with the Minnesota Timberwolves, or Kyrie Irving with the Houston Rockets, or Jimmer Fredette with the Toronto Raptors.

What are the chances?

The answers are right at your fingertips.

Since its introduction in February 2003, the ESPN.com NBA Draft Lottery and Mock Draft game has helped millions of wannabe NBA execs — and some real ones — plan different contingencies.

For the top college basketball prospects, it gives them a sneak peek of where they might — or might not — land among the 14 selections.

One lottery pick can resurrect – or bury — a franchise.

“We know that executives for many NBA teams as well as player agents use the lottery often to get a feel for how the lottery will play out,” said Royce Webb, ESPN.com NBA Editor.

“In fact, in a previous year, when his team missed the playoffs, one executive played our lottery every day until his team got the No. 1 pick. And fans often do the same.”

When you click the “Play Lottery” button, you can see the lottery in action, according to the NBA’s lottery formula. The game uses current lottery standings, the first team listed as the NBA’s worst team. (Of the 30 NBA teams, 16 make the playoffs. The other 14 are in the lottery — unless they have traded their draft pick).

As you navigate through the game, you will see the player that each team is most likely to select and the odds that each team will actually win the lottery.

The outcome of the application relies heavily on statistical indicators such as size, wingspan or vertical jump to evaluate how a college players’ skillset will translate to the NBA.

The game provides research on players via Synergy Sports, an online service that allows you to see breakdowns on video and individual players.

“The current design features dramatic action photography of each player selected by our outstanding photo editors in coordination with the NBA editors,” said John Westgate, ESPN.com Senior Director Design.

“Users can click in to the player profiles and read more about the player and also link off to the ESPN Scouting Report.”

So with a whopping 2,184 potential lottery outcomes, how do you analyze team needs and top college prospects?

“We really use the same three criteria that most NBA scouts use: ears, eyes and data,” said Chad Ford, ESPN.com NBA Draft Insider.

“Most importantly in our Mock Draft is ears. Our goal is to create a Mock Draft that reflects what NBA decision makers are thinking, not necessarily what I think. I talk to over a dozen NBA scouts and executives each week to get a feel for what they are saying about various prospects.”

Added Ford: “On the eyes part, I watch at least a dozen college basketball games a week.

“And as far as data goes, we take into account a number of statistical markers and formulas that attempt to predict the success of a NBA player. Over the past several years, our Mock Draft has been the most accurate on draft night.”

The user experience continues to drive significant engagement each year and is widely used by NBA fans and analysts around the web.

Many designers, producers, engineers and editors have been involved in developing and updating the Lottery Mock Draft app during its nine seasons.

The current team includes Sarah Giuliano (pictured above with NBA Senior Deputy Editor Chris Ramsay, left, and Westgate) from the ESPN Digital Media Design Production Group, Dheerja Kaur from Production and Chris Ramsay, Andrew Ayres, Maurice Brooks, Matthew Wong and Justin Verrier on the edit side, along with Webb and Ford.

“The key thing is this: ESPN.com’s Lottery + Mock Draft app is a heck of a lot of fun,” Webb said. “It allows all of us to play the lottery ourselves and daydream about how our new, improved teams will look.”

Added Webb: “Dreaming about what might happen — that’s half the fun of sports, right?”

ESPN will present live coverage of the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday, May 17, at 8:30 p.m. ET. ESPN will present the NBA Draft on Thursday, June 23, 7 p.m.

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