Stop here unless you're a rocket scientist. Understanding how Sunday's NBA Draft Lottery works is a complicated matter, to say the least.

It starts off simple enough. Place 14 pingpong balls, numbered one through 14, into a drum. Then draw four of the balls out without regard to their order of selection.Here's where NASA training would come in handy.

There are 1,001 possible number combinations when four of 14 balls are drawn out in this manner. Prior to the pingpong ball draw, 1,000 of the combinations will be assigned to the 13 lottery teams. If the one unassigned combination is drawn, then the balls will be placed back in the drum and another combination sought.

Denver, which finished the 1997-98 season with the NBA's worst record (11-71), will be assigned 250 combinations. Toronto (16-66) had the second-worst record and will be assigned 200, while the Los Angeles Clippers (17-65) have 157 chances. Washington, at 42-40, is the best team in the lottery and on the sliding scale of opportunity will have just five chances.

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Toronto and Vancouver, as per their expansion agreements, cannot have the first pick in the NBA Draft until 1999. Thus, if one of those teams should win the 1998 Draft Lottery, that team will automatically be entitled to the second selection. In that scenario, the team drawing the second selection will receive the top pick. However, should that be the other expansion team, they will draft third.

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Teams not securing spots in the top three will be slotted in by inverse order of their regular-season record. The system guarantees that Denver can pick no lower than fourth, Toronto fifth, the Clippers sixth, and so forth down the line.

The actual drawing will take place in front of representatives from the NBA, each of the participating teams and the accounting firm of Ernst & Young. The results, however, will remain a secret until sealed envelopes are opened moments later before a national television audience (KSL, Ch. 5 at approximately 2:30 p.m.). The 1998 NBA Draft is set for June 24 in Vancouver.