Because the Pacers, Clippers, and Spurs all finished with identical 48-34 records, the three franchises entered into a tiebreaker scenario in order to determine their final draft order. And what would be the framework of this very important and extremely crucial tiebreaker that would, in all likelihood, drastically alter the fates of these teams for years to come? Would it be a contest of wits? Feats of strength? Freestyle poetry competition? Sadly, the answer is breathtakingly boring. Somewhere deep in the bowls of the NBA headquarters in New York during the Board of Governors meetings, a few nameless, faceless officials engaged in the age old art of simply flipping a coin.
I’m as disappointed as you are.
How does a three team coin flip work? I’m glad you asked. While I don’t have any actual answers, I do have an extremely well-thought out, highly educated guess (I googled it). According to Vinay Madhusudanan, a Ph.d student in Mathmatics at the Manipal Institue of technology, this is how the probabilities of a three-way, coin based outcome, exercise would work:
If the result is HTT, the first person wins. If the result is THT, the second person wins. If the result is TTH, the third wins. If it’s anything else, discard it and toss three more times.
The probability of each of these is 1/8. But when we restrict the total possibilities to only these three, the conditional probabilities become 1/3.
The expected number of tosses (until one of these three cases is obtained) is 8. To improve this, consider HTT and THH as equivalent; THT and HTH as equivalent; and TTH and HHT as equivalent. Then the expected number of tosses is 4.
Presumably, once one winner was decided, the toss to determine the second and third place finishers was pretty straightforward.
The end result of all this madness was the Pacers securing the 18th pick, the Spurs getting the 19th, and the Celtics (via the Clippers) coming in at the 20 spot. I think we can all agree that this was the best outcome possible. The Spurs were able to draft fan favorite/future Hall of Famer Lonnie Walker IV at the 18th spot in last year’s draft and it is a commonly known fact that picking in the same spot in consecutive years is a deeply cursed enterprise. Folks, we really dodged a bullet here.
Now that this unpleasant business is out of the way, we’re all free to get back to the very important task of managing our collective anxiety and not freaking all the way out until tip off on Saturday night. May God have mercy on our souls.