Rigging the NBA Draft Anything can seem like a conspiracy if you look hard enough. The NBA draft lottery is determined at random, by ping-pong balls. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t cosmic forces at work, tipping the scales toward big markets and satisfying economic needs. Share this story Share All sharing options for: Rigging the NBA Draft (Getty Images/Ringer illustration) Is the NBA lottery rigged? It’s a question that has haunted the NBA since the first draft lottery, in 1985, when good fortune and perhaps an envelope placed in a freezer sent Patrick Ewing to the Knicks with the top pick.