Remember those old commercials where four out of five dentists recommend this toothpaste or that mouthwash?

Nobody wanted any part of that fifth doc. He needed mental floss, not dental floss.

So why does this have anything to do with the Mavericks.

Other than having superior oral hygiene, they need desperately to be among that 80 percent on Tuesday. They need to have the odds work in their favor.

That 80 percent is the likelihood of the Mavericks keeping their draft pick when the NBA has the 2023 draft lottery (7:30 p.m.), where picks one through four will be determined by drawings and everybody else will fall in line behind the top four in inverse order of their regular season record.

That’s the short version of how the lottery works.

But it’s way more complicated than that.

Especially when it comes to the Mavericks, for whom it is a scary proposition thanks to their history of heartbreak in the annual crapshoot.

Never have the Mavericks moved up when they’ve been involved in the lottery, and they were frequent participants in the ‘90s. Usually, they have moved down, most famously in 1992, ’93 and ’94, when they lost out on chances to get Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning, Chris Webber and Anfernee Hardaway, among others, because of their bum luck.

As recently as 2018, they dropped two spots in the draft because of the lottery and had to pull off a trade to secure Luka Dončić, who Atlanta took at No. 3 where the Mavericks were supposed to be drafting.

On Tuesday, they expect to begin a new history.

The Mavericks go into the 2023 NBA draft lottery with the 10th best chance to claim the No. 1 overall pick, which will be 7-3 French supertalent Victor Wembanyama.

The odds are 3.0 percent that they will jump to No. 1.

They also have a chance to pick second (3.3 percent), third (3.6) or fourth (4.0). They cannot pick fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth.

The odds are 65.9 percent that they will finish right where they started, at No. 10.

The dreaded outcome is that they drop to 11th, which means one team leapfrogged them from below. Or 12th, which means two teams got lucky to move in front of them into the top four.

In either of those scenarios, the Mavericks lose their top-10-protected pick to the New York Knicks as final compensation for the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

If the pick doesn’t convey to the Knicks this year, it will be the same situation next year and in 2025, if the Mavericks are in the top 10 of the lottery again in 2024.

The odds of the Mavericks dropping: 19 percent to fall to 11th, and 1.2 percent to fall to 12th.

There’s your 20 percent, or the fifth dentist that nobody wants to see.

So while the odds favor the Mavericks keeping their pick, they are at the mercy of the hoop gods when the ping pong balls start to fly.

So how exactly does the lottery work?

It’s a more involved process than you may think.

The lottery starts in a separate room away from the commentators and team executives who will be part of the telecast of the lottery announcement.

In that room, representatives of the teams involved, select media members and NBA officials watch the selection process, as do representatives of the accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Ping pong balls numbered 1 through 14 are placed in a lottery machine, meaning there are 1,001 possible combinations when four balls are drawn from the machine. Before the lottery, 1,000 of those combinations are assigned to the 14 lottery teams.

The drawing process starts with all 14 balls being mixed in the machine for 20 seconds. The first ball is then removed. The remaining balls are mixed for 10 seconds and the second ball is removed.

As soon as four balls have been picked, regardless of order, the corresponding four-number combination goes to the team that it was assigned to and that team wins the lottery.

The same process is used – with the same ping pong balls – to assign picks two, three and four.

If the same combination comes up more than once, the result is discarded and another four-ball combination is selected. Also, if the unassigned combination is drawn, the result is discarded.

When the results are final, a representative of the accounting firm stuffs the envelopes and seals them before bringing them to the broadcast stage.

Deputy commissioner Mark Tatum then opens the envelopes and announces the results. Neither he nor the team representatives on the stage know the results before they are revealed, so the reactions are real-time.

A link with a video of last year’s draw can be seen here: NBA Draft Lottery: Odds, history and how it works |

The Mavericks won’t have to wait long to find out if fate has been favorable to them. If either New Orleans, Toronto, Oklahoma City or Chicago is skipped when the 11th through 14 picks are revealed, the Mavericks will have to hope that they, also, beat the odds and were placed in the top four.

Otherwise, they will be 11th.

Here is a chart explaining exact odds for each team to finish in the lottery (source:


TEAM       1          2         3        4         5          6         7           8          9        10         11        12        13        14

Det.       14.0    13.4     12.7    12.0    47.9

Hou.     14.0    13.4     12.7    12.0    27.8   20.0

S.A.       14.0    13.4     12.7    12.0    14.8   26.0     7.0

Char.    12.5     12.2    11.9     11.5      7.2    25.7     16.8     2.2

Port.     10.5     10.5    10.6    10.5     2.2    19.6     26.7     8.7     0.6

Orl.        9.0       9.2      9.4      9.6                 8.6      29.7   20.6     3.7      0.2

Ind.       6.8        7.1      7.5       7.9                            19.7    35.6   13.8     1.4         >0

Wash.   6.7        7.0     7.4       7.8                                        32.9   31.1     6.6         0.4      >0

Utah     4.5        4.8     5.2       5.7                                                   50.7    25.9       3.0      o.1      >0

Dal.       3.0       3.3      3.6      4.0                                                               65.9      19.0     1.2      >0        >0

Chi.       1.8        2.0     2.2      2.5                                                                              77.6    13.5     0.4       >0

OKC     1.7         1.9      2.1      2.4                                                                                          85.2    6.7       0.1

Tor.      1.0        1.1       1.2      1.4                                                                                                      92.9     2.3

N.O.     0.5       0.6      0.6      0.7                                                                                                                 97.6


Twitter: @ESefko

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