However, the ping-pong balls historically have been unkind to the teams with the worst record. Since the weighted lottery system was introduced in 1990, the league's worst team has won the lottery just three times, while the second-worst team has won it four times.
The lottery was first put into effect in 1985 after a coin-flip system was used from 1966 to 1984. The early version of the lottery involved drawing envelopes out of a hopper, and in the very first lottery in 1985, this system caused some controversy. The New York Knicks won the '85 draft lottery and went on to pick the highly coveted Patrick Ewing, and some believe the NBA rigged it in order to give the fan favorite Knicks the pick. Conspiracy theorists say the Knicks' envelope was intentionally creased so David Stern could differentiate it when picking from the hopper.
The envelope system lasted through 1989. In 1990, the weighted lottery system was introduced. The new system is used to determine the first three picks in the draft, and the rest are determined by regular-season record. There have been some tweaks to the weighted system to get it to where it is today, including efforts to give the worst teams a better chance of earning the coveted top picks.
The most "successful" team in lottery history is the Los Angeles Clippers. The other team from L.A. has won the lottery five times, although two of those top picks had already been conveyed to the Cleveland Cavaliers prior to the lottery. One of those traded top picks became Kyrie Irving. That year, the Clippers owed the Cavs a first-round pick from the trade involving Baron Davis, Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. The Clips only had a 2.8 percent chance of winning the lottery, but they won the pick and had to send it to Cleveland.
With the three No. 1 picks they did make, the Clippers selected Danny Manning, Michael Olowokandi and Blake Griffin. Manning was a quality player, but he was plagued by knee problems throughout his career. Olowokandi was a huge bust, while Griffin has blossomed into one of the NBA's best frontcourt players.
The Orlando Magic have won the lottery three times, including the biggest upset to earn the top pick in lottery history in 1993. That year, the Magic had just a 1.5 percent chance to win the lottery, but they overcame the long odds and became the only team to win the lottery in consecutive years. Orlando selected Shaquille O'Neal in 1992 and Chris Webber in 1993, although Webber was immediately traded to the Golden State Warriors for Anfernee Hardaway and three future first-rounders. The Magic's other No. 1 pick in the lottery era was Dwight Howard in 2004, and this was the last time the worst team in the league landed the top pick.
There have been a few other notable upsets in the history of the lottery. In 2008, the Chicago Bulls only had a 1.7 percent chance of receiving the top pick, but they came away from the lottery victorious and went on to select a hometown kid, Derrick Rose. Rose became the youngest player in NBA history to win the MVP award in 2011, but multiple significant knee injuries have kept him sidelined most of the last two years.
In 1999, the Charlotte Hornets won the No. 3 pick in the draft despite having the best record out of all the non-playoff teams. The Hornets only had a 0.7 percent chance of getting into the top three, but they succeeded and took Baron Davis.
In terms of having success building a team via the lottery, one immediately thinks of the Oklahoma City Thunder. When they were still the Seattle SuperSonics, they took Kevin Durant with the No. 2 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft after the Portland Trail Blazers selected Greg Oden. After relocating to Oklahoma City in 2008, the Thunder took Russell Westbrook with the No. 4 pick. The following year, James Harden was taken with the No. 3 pick. Rookie center Steven Adams was also a lottery pick, selected 12th in 2013.
On the flip side, the lottery hasn't been a boon to some teams. The Cavs did acquire LeBron James in 2003, but in the past few years, they've had multiple top picks with very little to show for it. In addition to Irving, Cleveland selected Anthony Bennett first in 2013, Dion Waiters fourth in 2012 and Tristan Thompson fourth in 2011. There's certainly still a chance for all those picks to come together and pan out, but early returns haven't been all that impressive.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have also had some struggles picking high. Acquiring Kevin Love in a draft-day trade with the Memphis Grizzlies for O.J. Mayo in 2008 was a good move, but the following year the Wolves infamously took Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn back-to-back instead of selecting Stephen Curry. In 2010, Wesley Johnson was selected fourth, and he has been a huge bust. Then, in 2011, they selected Derrick Williams No. 2 overall. Williams has already been traded after failing to work out. And in another draft-day trade a year ago, Minnesota drafted Trey Burke at No. 9 and immediately sent him to the Utah Jazz. The Wolves ended up with Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng and while Muhammad barely played, Dieng put together a strong finish to his rookie season.
There are other examples, like the Sacramento Kings, that prove that having a lot of high draft picks doesn't always guarantee success. But in this day and age with the new CBA, hitting on your high draft picks is especially important. With the 2014 NBA Draft so full of talent, there's a ton of anticipation to see just where teams will be picking.