If you ask Mavericks fans who their second-favorite NBA team is, most of them wouldn’t come up with Toronto or Atlanta.

And probably not Brooklyn, Chicago or Washington, either.

But they should.

For the benefit of their future, the Mavericks desperately need one or more of those teams to hit a hot streak after the All-Star break.

Why? Because if it doesn’t happen, it looks certain that the Mavericks will lose their first-round pick in what is shaping up as the deepest NBA draft in many years.

Remember Lamar Odom? The regrettable decision to acquire him cost the Mavericks a conditional first-round draft pick — the condition being that it is protected through the first 20 picks each season until 2017.

In other words, as long as the Mavericks’ selection is among the first 20 picks in the draft, they get to keep it. If it’s 21st or later, it goes to Oklahoma City, which ended up with the pick after it was funneled through Houston.

As of today, the Mavericks’ draft position would be 23rd, which means the Thunder would get the pick automatically.

This is what is known as paying a steep price for their success in the final two weeks before the All-Star break.

The higher the Mavericks get in the Western Conference, as well as the further they move ahead of also-rans in the East, the more likely it is they will lose their first-round pick.

The Mavericks’ problem is only two teams in the East are ahead of them — Miami and Indiana. That means if the Mavericks make the playoffs, only seven teams (at the most) would be ahead of them in the West. That dooms them in the draft.

Their best-case scenario would be to make the playoffs and have the 20th-best record in the league. That way, they get to be in the postseason party but also have a pick to either utilize for a young talent or package in trade scenarios this summer.

Alas, the Mavericks simply are playing too good for that to happen, the way things are going.
Not that they aren’t happy about being 10 games over .500 at the All-Star break. Last year, they were 23-29 when the break arrived and hopelessly out of the playoff picture, despite a late-season run