CHICAGO – Neil Herskowitz will be back at the NBA Draft Lottery representing the Dallas Mavericks again this year. But this time in a completely less than dominant role.
Last year Herskowitz — the Mavs’ assistant equipment manager — represented the Mavs on a dais when the Draft Lottery was held in New York. But this year he and Mavs assistant general manager Keith Grant will be sequestered in the heavily secured private banquet room when the Draft Lottery will be held Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. CT at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago.
It was be the first time the Draft Lottery will take place outside of New York since its inception in 1985.
Herskowitz and Grant – and representatives from the other NBA teams involved in the lottery – will be stationed in a room where the ping-pong balls will be bouncing and the “actual lottery” will occur. Everyone in that banquet room must surrender their cell phones, tablets, computers and other communication devices to NBA security until the results of the made-for-TV lottery is revealed to the general public.
Michael Finley, meanwhile, will be the Mavs’ representative on the dais on Tuesday. This is familiar territory for Finley, who grew up in suburban Chicago in Maywood, IL.
“Neil is going, I heard, again and Fin is going,” forward Dirk Nowitzki excitedly said. “So hopefully they can bring us some luck.”
The Mavs have a 13.8 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, which will take place June 21 in New York. The only two teams will better odds than the Mavs of nabbing the top draft pick are the Phoenix Suns (25 percent) and Memphis Grizzlies (19.9 percent).
Meanwhile, the Mavs also have a 42.6 percent chance of finishing with one of the top three selections in the draft. And that’s solid gold news as far as Nowitzki is concerned.
“If we stay at three, that’ll be great,” Nowitzki said. “If we move up, obviously, we’ll be even better.
“We just hopefully won’t slide back. But anything’s possible.”
On the negative side, the Mavs can finish no worse than sixth place in the lottery. But management and the players are thinking as positive as possible.
A list of the top players in this year’s draft include Arizona center Deandre Ayton, Real Madrid guard Luca Doncic, Duke center Marvin Bagley III, Texas center Mohamed Bamba, Michigan State center Jaren Jackson Jr., Duke center Wendell Carter Jr. , Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., Villanova forward Mikal Bridges, Texas A&M center Robert Williams III, Kentucky forward Kevin Knox, Alabama point guard Collin Sexton, Michigan State forward Miles Bridges, Oklahoma point guard Trae Young and center Mitchell Robinson of Chalmette (LA) High School.
One of those players will likely find their way onto the Mavs’ roster next season. Nowitzki just hope it’s someone who will be able to contribute right away.
Nowitzki said: “Whatever pick it’s going to be we’ve just got to find a really good player that can help us.”
Donnie Nelson, the Mavs’ president of basketball operations, represented the Mavs on the dais during the 2013 Draft Lottery. Unfortunately, the Mavs remained at the No. 13 slot that year, and Nelson acknowledged that his days on the dais are long gone.
“When I went I had good luck charms in both pockets,” Nelson said. “Since it was a one-time experience you kind of really don’t know what to do.
“So you ask spiritual advisors to bartenders to moms to dads to kids what do you think.”
However the results of this lottery unfold, Nowitzki knows the real work comes next month when the draft is held.
The 20-year veteran knows the Mavs won a total of just 57 games the past two seasons, and he realize that has to change.
“Obviously our franchise has already been preparing for the draft, looking at guys (in America), looking at guys overseas,” Nowitzki told Mavs.com. “You’ve got to cover, obviously, all your bases.
“The draft is an important way to get better if you’re a team that’s a little bit on the down slope. You get better with young guys, with good draft picks that work out.”
Nowitzki pointed to the Boston Celtics to prove his point as a team thriving with young draftees. Boston drafted Marcus Smart sixth overall in 2014, Terry Rozier 16th overall in 2015, Jaylen Brown No. 3 overall in 2016 and Jayson Tatum third overall last year.
All four players are playing a pivotal role in this year’s playoffs as the Celtics have a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals series against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Meanwhile, Nowitzki knows the Mavs collected one valuable piece of the draft puzzle last year when they selected point guard Dennis Smith Jr. ninth overall.
“If you look at Boston with what they’ve been able to do in the last couple of drafts it’s amazing,” Nowitzki said. “Hopefully we can find a player sort of like Dennis, who for us had a great year. His upside is through the roof.
“We need another young player that can play and hopefully step in already next year and has great potential. So we’re going to end up seeing where we’re at (Tuesday), and then prepare.”