Can Tanking Solve the Maverick’s Problem?

Can Tanking Solve the Mavericks Problem?

Not only has tanking been a prominent topic in basketball news, it has been a major topic for the Dallas Mavericks. For a 3rd straight year the Mavericks are mired in mediocrity. There are times when the team is playing competitive, but for the most part they are losing bad. On top of this, for more than a decade (if not more) the Mavericks are drafting horribly. Also, our superstar owner Mark Cuban admitted that the team was tanking. Adam Silver had to fine Mr. Cuban for his comments. But is tanking going to solve the Mavericks problem? Or is it a nicer way of saying something else….

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Dallas Drafting Crisis

First off let’s start with how the Mavericks have drafted since 2008. Keep in mind that in the late 2000’s the team was chasing a championship. Lately though it feels as if the opposite is happening. Yes the Mavericks do have a nice young piece in Dennis Smith Jr, but beyond him not much else… Since 2008 here are the Mavericks first round picks:

*Currently Dallas is in Position for the 3rd overall pick

Is a Top 5 Pick Worth It?
Since 2008 the Mavericks have not had 4 of their first round picks. In one of those drafts they didn’t draft a player at all. Out of ALL the players drafted in the first round by the Mavericks since 2008, only 1 is still on the team. This tells us a few things. First off, the Mavericks are NOT good at drafting lately. Not only have they drafted players who didn’t stick around, a few of the guys are rotation players. Second, the Mavericks look to have mortgaged future picks to win now in the late 2000s. This finally did pan out in 2011, but the team was not brought back to repeat. Trading off draft picks is part of the championship process for sure. We see playoff caliber teams do this year after year. Miami, Golden State, Cleveland, and so on usually do not keep first round picks. But what was concerning is that the team did not attract top talent on top of drafting bad. Cuban has been lucky with the hit on Dirk by Don Nelson. Other than that the organization has struggled throughout drafts for several years. Whether they tank or not we just do not have a strong scouting department.

Another thing that doesn’t bode well for the team that is tanking is hitting on lottery picks. In very rare circumstances can this happen. You are lucky to find elite talent consistently early in the draft. Unless of course you have the first 3 picks. Below is a look at the top 5 picks in each draft since 2012.

So let’s break this down:

  • 2012
    • Anthony Davis – Elite talent who has struggled at times with the Pelicans because of the lack of support around him.
    • Bradley Beal has shown flashes but we haven’t seen him grow with John Wall in Washington.
    • The rest of the top 5 guys are basically 3rd options, starters, or role players.
  • 2013
    • Anthony Bennett – Bust.
    • Victor Oladipo is showing strides of being a top talent.
    • The rest of the top 5 guys are basically 3rd options, starters, or role players.
  • 2014
    • Andrew Wiggins – Good starter but not an elite leader/talent. To me it is like having Harrison Barnes for the Mavericks.
    • Joel Embiid – He’s probably the best out of the pack here. If he has reduced injuries then he could be the best out of this class.
    • The rest of the top 5 have either faced injuries or just haven’t been able to get over a certain hump while playing against NBA level talent.
  • 2015
    • Karl-Anthony Towns – Looks to be elite and has shown flashes of big time skill.
    • Kristaps Porzingis – Another guy who could be a gem from this draft. He didn’t have an excellent first year without Carmelo due to his injury.
    • The other guys are fairly young but a few have run out of opportunities.
  • 2016
    • Ben Simmons – He looks solid. Although he missed his rookie year, the return has been by far the best out of #1 picks since 2012.
    • Jaylen Brown – This guy is showing progressive growth. We might never see his full potential due to the talented roster Boston has.
    • The other guys are fairly young again and have a shot. It’s too early to tell.
  • 2017
    • Markelle Fultz – An enigma for sure. But this year he wasn’t very good due to injury.
    • Jayson Tatum – I believe he will be the best of this draft. He is showing tremendous skill and is doing a great job in Boston.
    • Lonzo Ball and a couple of other guys round out this class. Ball is still a question mark (I don’t buy into hype). The other two guys might not even be discussed in a few years.

What we see is a lot of teams hitting on pick 1 or 3 sometimes 4 but rarely 2 or 5. Do you think the Mavericks would be in a better place in hindsight? Probably. But these teams are risking losing fans, losing money, and alienating free agents just so they can “build” through the draft. The one team that seems to have done it right is Philadelphia but I would hate to be a fan of theirs. Plus it has taken them just about the same amount of time Dallas has wasted in Dirk’s twilight years.

Some of you Mavericks fans are fairly young too. Dallas did do a pretty good tank job in the early to mid 90’s. They drafted the 3 J’s (Jamal Mashburn, Jim Jackson, and Jason Kidd) as top 5 picks in consecutive drafts. The team had potential but the young guys didn’t have the maturity at that time. Is this a risk the team is willing to take? Not everyone can be Oklahoma City or Philadelphia.

Cuban Celebrity Crisis

Another issue for the Mavericks is Mark Cuban. In the past, players loved the idea to play for an owner and team that took care of their players. Cuban brought this change when he purchased the Mavericks. But with time even that has changed. Whether you love him or hate him he will be the biggest celebrity for the team. Tanking will not solve this problem either. I have a feeling there will be a young talent who will leave because they do not want to be overshadowed by Mark. One way it could work is with a superstar caliber player like Dirk or Tim Duncan. But the Shark Tank star and multi billionaire is known to be a vocal presence at games and in the media, and if a player doesn’t like the drama then they will exit. Even though this is hypothetical to a degree, it does affect the Mavericks tanking idea.

Life After Dirk

Finally my belief is that the Mavericks are not prepared for life after Dirk. It doesn’t seem like they have been for several years. Cuban has been riding the Dirk wave for 21 years. Fans love I mean LOVE Dirk here in Dallas, but the guy is a shell of what he once was. Watching him briskly jog down the court is painful. I love seeing him in uniform but he cannot even post up anymore. The real reason why the Mavericks aren’t prepared for life after Dirk is due to methodology. Coach Rick Carlisle is a good guy. He is one of my favorite coaches as well. But one could wonder if Carlisle is a problem or part of the solution. For the last two years he has been trying to make Harrison Barnes his Dirk. What we do know is that Barnes playing the Dirk role does not work. He needs to use the talent in a way that maximizes his player’s skills. If you think you have Jet and Dirk 2.0 in Dennis Smith and Harrison Barnes then you are in for a reality check. Both players have completely different skill sets and styles of play. Also, adding a quality 3rd player through the draft could help. The problem is will it get them higher than an 8th seed in a competitive conference? What I do know is that Carlisle’s current style shows me that they hope another star can fit Nowitzki’s mold, and that they don’t know how to move on from him.

Final Thoughts

Several factors are noted here on why Dallas should not tank. But then again what should the Mavericks do? Well I for one have seen something trending by the franchise that does seem interesting. Although the Mavericks are weak in drafting they are good in finding talent in other areas. Yogi Ferrell, Seth Curry, and a few other guys have come along and made an impact on this franchise. Dallas should use the D-League to find talent and have these guys challenge for some spots. I strongly believe the farm system approach will work best for the Mavericks while they try to use Dennis Smith and Harrison Barnes as cornerstones for the franchise Another approach I believe the team is hoping for is that if Barnes and Smith hit, then those two guys can be helpful in luring in a big name. Or you could take a chance on a player like Jabari Parker. Dallas will have space in 2018 with Dirk declining his player option, not bringing back Doug for a high price, and Josh McRoberts contract off the books. Or they can wait till 2019 when Wesley Matthews comes off the books and we can bring in 2 max players. But the play here is free agency and d league. Although Cuban is the star, there is a player you can find out there that will be a great 3rd piece with Smith and Barnes easier in free agency than in the draft.

Source: Pro Basketball Reference