Mavs Hope Ping Pong Balls Bounce "Their Way"

The Dallas Mavericks came as close as they have in a dozen years to not making the playoffs, the prize of which would have been a seat at Wednesday’s NBA Draft Lottery, which moves from its longtime home of New Jersey to to the Disney/ABC Times Square studio.

Moving from Jersey to New York? The Brooklyn-bound Nets certainly hope that’s a bit of good luck. The Mavericks hope it is not.

NBA Draft Lottery

Where: Times Square, New York City
When: 7 p.m., Wednesday
TV: ESPN

The Mavs won’t be counting their lucky ping-pong balls Wednesday, but they will have keen interest in the 25 percent odds the Nets, with the league’s sixth worst record, have of acquiring one of the top three picks. How the ping-pong balls bounce could have a direct impact on the Nets or Mavs securing the services of free-agent-to-be point guard Deron Williams.

The Nets traded their first-round draft pick during the season to the Portland Trail Blazers for veteran forward Gerald Wallace. However, they “top-three protected” the pick, meaning if the Nets defy the odds and the ping-pong ball gods grant them the first or second or third pick in the June 28 draft, then they keep the pick.

Some believe that if that happens, the pick will serve as the cherry to complete a trade with the Orlando Magic for dominant center Dwight Howard. And if the Nets were to land the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, they would feel exceedingly giddy about their chances of re-signing both Howard and Williams for the long haul.

Dallas, of course, dismantled its 2011 title team with an eye toward the future under the new collective bargaining agreement. For the first time in owner Mark Cuban’s tenure, the Mavs have cap space to chase high-dollar free agents and totally remake the team. Then Chris Paul was traded from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers prior to the season, he agreed to stay in L.A. for a minimum of two seasons and thus removed himself from this summer’s once-ballyhooed free-agent class.

Howard wavered on his free-agent status throughout the season before finally flip-flopping one last time and agreeing to exercise his player option with the Magic for next season. He has yet to commit long-term to the club that could finally be fed up with his non-commitment and could be ready to trade him sooner rather than risk another hair-pulling, drama-filled season.

So the Mavs’ front office will be rooting hard for the ping-pong balls to go against the Nets so that the Blazers will be the rightful owner of the Nets’ first-round pick.

If Orlando remains dead set on trading Howard, a best-case for the Mavs would be for him to land anywhere but Brooklyn. That could dash Williams’ hopes of a tag-team in the borough and perhaps make a homecoming for the Dallas-area native and a partnership with Dirk Nowitzki more appealing.

Jeff Caplan

ESPNDallas.com

Jeff Caplan joined ESPNDallas.com in December 2009. Jeff covers the Mavericks, Rangers and colleges. He has a wealth of experience in the area, covering multiple beats in his 11-plus years with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.