The Charlotte Bobcats had the best odds at landing the top pick after posting the season's worst record (7-59) but will have the second pick of the available talent and be followed by the Washington Wizards (20-46).
Winning the top pick provides a silver lining to a 21-45 season for the Hornets, who are expected to use the selection to draft 19-year-old power forward Anthony Davis from the University of Kentucky.
Davis was the U.S. college player of the year after leading Kentucky to a national championship earlier this year and is a contender for the 2012 U.S. Olympic basketball team.
The NBA's annual lottery among non-play-off teams determines the top three picks of the draft, while the rest of the opening round goes in reverse order of win-loss records.
The Hornets, who ended the 2011-12 season with the league's third-worst record, landed the top pick despite being pegged to select fourth overall.
The Bobcats finished the season with a .106 winning percentage - the lowest in NBA history - and had a 25 per cent shot at the top pick, while the Wizards had a 19.9 per cent chance.
The NBA Draft will be held June 28 in Newark, New Jersey.