So, you’re saying there’s a chance.
That’s the working motto for the Mavericks and 13 other teams that will take part in the annual NBA draft lottery on Tuesday night (7:30, ESPN).
The truth of the matter is that the Mavericks, with their 6 percent odds of getting the No. 1 overall draft pick, actually have a better chance to win the lottery than they would have had in past years with the same pre-lottery position. Last year, they would have had a 1.7 percent chance at the top pick.
They also have a 26.3 percent to land in the top four. That would allow them to keep their pick. If it’s ninth or worse – and there’s a 73.7 percent that will be the case – it will be conveyed to the Atlanta Hawks as compensation for the Luka Doncic trade last year.
The revamped lottery system gives the three teams with the worst regular-season records an equal 14 percent chance at the top pick.
That’s down from the 25 percent chance that the worst team had last season and all the years before that dating to 1993. That’s bad news for the worst teams but may help the teams in the middle of the lottery.
Like the Mavericks.
Plus, the results of previous lotteries suggest that it may not be a huge advantage to have the best odds at the top pick.
In the last four seasons, the team with the worst record did end up winning the lottery and getting the No. 1 overall pick.
However, for 10 consecutive years before that, the team with the best chance to win the lottery did not have any of its 250 (out of 1,000) numeric combinations come up.
Interestingly, when there has been an obvious No. 1 overall choice, as there is this year with Duke’s Zion Williamson, the results of the lottery have been even more scrambled.
In 2012, New Orleans had the third-worst record in the league and a 13.7 percent chance to get the top pick, but had the ping pong balls bounce their way and came away with Anthony Davis.
In 2009, when Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin was the clear top pick, the Los Angeles Clippers won the lottery with the second-best chance (17.7 percent).
Go back to 2003, when LeBron James came directly from high school, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were tied for the worst record and came away with the top prize.
The lottery is littered with other surprises.
After Orlando used the worst record in 2004 for Dwight Howard, a team with less than a 10 percent chance at the top pick won the lottery in the following four years.
Milwaukee (Andrew Bogut) had a 6.3 percent chance, Toronto (Andrea Bargnani) had an 8.8 percent chance, Portland (Greg Oden) had a 5.3 percent chance and Chicago in 2008 had just a 1.7 percent chance to get Derrick Rose, but hit the jackpot.
The bottom line is that there are often surprises in the lottery.
For the Mavericks, those surprises usually have been disappointing. Last year, they had the third-best chance to get the top pick, but slipped to No. 5 when Sacramento and Atlanta moved past them.
Maybe the lottery gods will be kinder this season as the NBA begins a new era of how the lottery works.