CHICAGO – As Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery was inching closer and closer to the Dallas Mavericks’ name being called, Michael Finley looked extremely stoic as he sat on the dais before a packed house at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel.
Then, it all happened in a flash.
NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum said: “The fifth pick of the NBA Draft Lottery goes to. . .the Dallas Mavericks.”
Finley’s immediate and blunt response?
“I really wanted to get up and leave at that point, or jump up and say, ‘I demand a recount,’ ” said Finley, who is the Mavs’ vice-president of basketball operations. “But I stayed professional.
“Fifth? Actually it could have been sixth, so it’s not that bad.”
The Mavs had a 4.5 percent chance of finishing sixth in the lottery and a 29 percent chance of landing in the fifth spot. But they also had a 23.8 percent chance of finishing fourth, a 14.5 percent chance of nabbing the third pick, a 14.2 percent chance of going home with the second selection and a 13.8 percent chance of securing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Still, despite not going back to North Texas with the mega prize they came here for, Finley saw the glass as half-full and the Mavs’ potential of drafting a superior player with dynamic skills as something that’s still in the cards.
“It’s a deep draft with some great young talent, so at the fifth pick I think we’ll still be able to get a player that can come in and help us immediately,” he said. “It’s a wide variety of sizes and talent in the draft when you look at some of the point guards, some of the wing guys and the big guys.
“Like I said, it’ll give us a great opportunity to get one of those players, and hopefully that player can help us so we won’t be at this lottery next year.”
Some of the top players in the June 21st NBA 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 probably will be donning a Mavs uniform next year. Which one obviously has yet to be determined, as the Mavs brain trust will ultimately put their heads together and reach a conclusion on which direction they plan to go in.
“We don’t have a position in mind that we’re looking to improve on,” Finely said. “We’re just trying to make the team better, and we don’t know who that player is and what position he’s at.
“Once we sit down with (president of basketball operations) Donnie (Nelson) and our scouts and weigh the pros and cons of selecting a particular player, then we’ll make that decision. But as of today we haven’t even decided on what position we’re even going after.”
Assistant general manager Keith Grant and assistant equipment manager Neil Herskowitz represented the Mavs in the banquet room Tuesday night. That’s the room where the actual lottery occurs, and the room where everyone had their cell phones and other communication devices confiscated until the lottery was shown on national TV.
Afterwards, Grant was melancholy, but acceptance of the final results.
“We’re good,” he said. “It just cuts down on your options and flexibility, but we’ll be alright.”
The Phoenix Suns won the Draft Lottery, the Sacramento Kings finished second, the Atlanta Hawks were third, and the Memphis Grizzlies finished fourth. The Kings and Hawks actually had worst odds than the Mavs, but the ping-pong balls fell in their favor and they were able to jump over the Mavs in the lottery process.
“I knew when (a lottery official) went to look at the other side of the board we were in trouble,” Grant said. “When they went to the other side of the board I said, ‘We’re in trouble.’ “
Herskowitz agreed with Grant, and added a twist.
“Just like with the lottery, life doesn’t always go the way you want it to go and champions have to adjust and overcome,” Herskowitz said. “That’s what we’ll do.”
As far as the time he and Grant spent in the banquet room, Herskowitz said: “It kind of goes by quickly once it actually gets going. It’s a lot of hurry up and wait situation, and then once it starts it flies by.
“Throw out the numbers, read out the names and you move on.”
Finley’s mom, Bertha, was on hand to support the Mavs and her son. She lives in Chicago and came wearing an angel on her lapel, but left dejected with the outcome of the lottery.
“I thought we were going to get No. 1, though, but it’s OK,” she said. “There’s always tomorrow.
“But I really enjoyed it tonight. Mike was drafted June 28, 1995 and now I’ve come full circle. I got to see the lottery and it was exciting.”
Just not as overly exciting as the Mavs would have preferred.
“Ultimately when you’re in this position you would love to have the first pick,” Michael Finley said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get that, but we still got a top five pick and we have a chance to get a pretty good player.”
A pretty good player the Mavs plan to mix with Dennis Smith Jr, Harrison Barnes and others as the Mavs hope to jump back into the playoff conversation as soon as next season.
“It’s just disappointing, but it’s the rules,” Grant said, referring to the lottery. “Two teams behind us jumped up, and it is what it is.
“We’ll have to find a player at five instead of at one, two, three or four.”