The National Basketball Association's draft lottery, in which the seven teams that missed the playoffs vie for the first draft pick, will be modified starting next year so that the team with the worst record gets no worse than fourth choice.

The NBA board of governors yesterday approved the plan in which the seven-team lottery will apply only to the first three choices. The other four teams will be awarded picks in inverse order of their won-lost records.

This year's lottery, May 11, will involve seven picks, as did last spring's, when the New York Knicks got first choice with the league's third-worst record and took Patrick Ewing. Golden State, with the worst record, got seventh pick . . .

The Cleveland Cavaliers will go into the lottery without Harry Weltman, who directed a revitalization of the franchise that stalled.

Owners George and Gordon Gund fired general manager Weltman and began a hunt for a successor who, in turn, "will lead the search for a new head coach." (Gene Littles was interim coach the last 15 games) . . .

Lower back spasms will keep high-scoring Adrian Dantley out of Utah's playoff opener. "A.D. will not go to Dallas for Friday's game," a Jazz spokesman said, adding that Thurl Bailey will start instead. "And we won't know until Saturday whether he will try to play Sunday."