Storm Hopes Lottery Lightning Strikes Twice

The Seattle Storm will learn Wednesday whether the disappointment of missing the playoffs last September could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. By virtue of losing the tiebreaker to the Minnesota Lynx, the Storm will have a chance to earn a top-three pick in Wednesday’s Draft Lottery. The possibility is a longshot, with the Storm having barely better than a one-in-ten chance of pulling one of the top three picks. Whether they can beat the odds will be revealed live at 5 p.m. PT on NBA TV prior to the station’s broadcast of the Los Angeles Lakers against the San Antonio Spurs, with Storm guard Sue Bird providing in-studio commentary. Representatives of the winning team will be interviewed at halftime of the Lakers-Spurs game.

To be exact, the Storm has a 2.5% chance of pulling the first pick, a 3.5% chance of pick two and a 5.3% chance of pick three. Complete (unofficial) odds:

Team 2003 Record Chances of 1000 1st Pick 2nd Pick 3rd Pick Total
Phoenix 8-26 410 41.0% 29.6% 18.1% 88.7%
Washington 9-25 256 25.6% 27.5% 23.7% 76.8%
San Antonio 12-22 163 16.3% 19.9% 24.5% 60.7%
New York 16-18 73 7.3% 9.8% 14.1% 31.2%
Indiana 16-18 73 7.3% 9.8% 14.1% 31.2%
Storm 18-16 25 2.5% 3.5% 5.3% 11.3%

To conduct the lottery, WNBA officials and representatives from the accounting firm of Ernst & Young assign 1,000 combinations of four numbers 1-14 to each team according to the distribution listed above. Four ping-pong balls are chosen randomly without regard to order from the 14 (this actually produces 1,001 combinations; one is discarded). The team holding the first combination drawn gets the first pick, and the process is repeated for the other two picks.

The other three lottery teams are then seeded in the draft based on last season’s record. If neither Indiana nor New York wins a top-three pick, the Liberty will get the higher of the two picks after the teams finished tied last season.

This is the third year the WNBA has conducted a lottery. In the first year of the lottery, 2002, the Storm won the top pick and ended up selecting Bird. Last season, with the Storm not involved after making its first playoffs appearance, the Cleveland Rockers won the top pick and selected Mississippi State forward LaToya Thomas.

The final date for the 2004 WNBA Draft has yet to be determined, but it will be held in April. Holding the lottery so long before the draft gives teams a chance to scout potential picks throughout the NCAA season. Like Bird two years ago, another Connecticut point guard, Diana Taurasi, is expected to be the first player taken. Duke’s Alana Beard, Stanford’s Nicole Powell, and Penn State’s Kelly Mazzante are other perimeter players expected to go in the lottery from what is a deep guard class.