The Mavs are not guaranteed their first-round pick without a little lottery luck, but the question is what should they do IF they get it?
As the Mavs finish out the season, there is little left to truly play for, even with a 2 game win streak. Dirk passed Wilt. CHECK. Luka has all but locked up the Rookie of the Year honor. CHECK. Kristaps isn’t playing, no matter how much you want him to. But we can start our homework for how the Mavs can upgrade this team in the offseason.
I will be doing a series called THOUGHT EXPERIMENT to explore different ways the Mavs COULD maneuver this team back to contention over the summer. I am not reading the tea leaves of what they WILL do, but examples of what they COULD do. First two segments are here and here.
The Mavericks are set to convey their 2019 first round pick to the Atlanta Hawks unless they end up with a top 5 pick. As it currently sits, the Mavs have the 6th best odds headed to the lottery, tied with Memphis. This will change nightly, so this is worth watching as the season finishes up. Even though the Mavs are not guaranteed a top 5 pick, they have relatively good odds to move up thanks to the league redistributing lottery odds this year to discourage teams from tanking so hard. Because of the reallocation of odds, the Mavs currently have a 34.4% chance at landing in the top 4 and an 8.2% chance of the #1 pick. For perspective, the Knicks (who have the top lottery odds) only have a 14% chance at the #1 pick. Not too bad. However, if the Mavs stay at 6 or move back, they have no first round pick and this discussion is moot. But IF they land a top 5 pick, they have a few options that they should strongly consider:
- Keep the Pick
- Trade the Pick
- Convey the Pick
There are strong reasons to consider all 3 and no one will know what the Mavs are going to do until draft night because Cuban keeps his war room locked up tight until the pick is announced by Adam Silver. So let’s look at why they would entertain each option depending on how kind the ping pong balls are to them.
Keep the Pick
This is the most obvious answer. You win a pick after presumably tanking the back of your season, you accept the player as a reward for your efforts. For instance, if the Mavs end up with the first pick, they will take Zion Williamson, no questions asked, and just giggle their way to the playoffs next year.
This is a draft year where the consensus among experts is that Zion is the entire top tier of prospects by himself and all other prospects are a large step below his potential and development. There are other options that could be good role players next to Luka and KP in the 2-5 draft positions and the Mavs could find a gem in what some would consider a subpar overall draft class. Young talent is as valuable of a commodity as there is in the NBA and after the Mavs did so well at obtaining both Luka and Jalen Brunson this year, we should have a little faith they could find a valuable asset with a top 5 pick.
Trade the Pick
Using the pick as a trade asset would allow the Mavs to get something they value more than the options available to them in the top 5. This is an option the Mavs would consider if they landed anywhere from 2-5 and do not like what those draft positions would present them. They could either trade another team to move down OR they could trade a team for another asset they have all together.
If they trade down, the Mavs would move back further in the draft for a price and allow the other team to take their pick. This is essentially what happened when the Mavs acquired Luka. The Hawks had the 3rd pick and the Mavs had the 5th, but the Mavs wanted Luka bad enough that they traded picks and added a future first-round pick to compensate for getting exactly what they wanted. This could be what the Mavs do this year, except they’d be in the Hawks position. So in this scenario, the Mavs could get a future first round pick and still get a first round player as well. It takes two to tango, so the Mavs would have to find a trade partner who values their top 5 pick that much.
In the other option, the Mavs could trade their pick to another team outright for an asset completely unrelated to the draft. They would essentially sell off their draft pick to a team for the price of a current roster player or cash. For instance, the Mavs could trade their first round pick for a young, controllable player on another team. Let’s say that the Phoenix Suns really value two players in the top 5 this year, they could offer the Mavs Mikal Bridges, a former first-round pick and a more proven commodity, along with a future first round pick for the Mavs top 5 pick. It would definitely be something the team considers. Another avenue they could pursue is attaching their top 5 pick to their record-breaking trade exception as detailed here to net a more lopsided trade in the Mavs’ favor. This one is far less likely, but anything is possible come draft night. If the Mavs have a top 5 pick, they would be in the driver seat and could dictate terms to win yet another trade before next season starts.
Convey the Pick
There is a small, but strong contingent who feel that even if the Mavs end up with a pick, they should trade it to the Hawks anyway. While this would be heartbreaking for Mavs fans who suffered through the consistent losing since the trade deadline, it is a position the Mavs should consider. First of all, most draft experts will tell you that this a weak draft class overall, so losing a pick this year won’t matter as much as it might next year. Secondly, it will conclude the trade for Luka and move the Mavs one step closer to having their conveyed picks cleared up (they still owe the Knicks 2 first rounders for KP) and being back in control of the youth of their team. Thirdly, they would probably receive something back from the Hawks in compensation for getting a top 5 pick they aren’t entitled to. Either they could get a player or a few second round picks this year or a future first and all sides win this trade yet again. Again, it would hurt, but only until we see what the Mavs get out of it.
Remember that the Mavs moves at the deadline were not about pushing for the playoffs this year as they traded for an injured player and then sent their second best player away for cap space. It was clear then that the focus was next year and whether the Mavs have been tanking or not, the back half of this year immediately became a lost cause. Yes, our youth got playing experience and built comradery, but the post-deadline Mavs were not about winning. We were destined as MFFLs to watch some rough basketball, but it will hopefully be worth it come October of next year when seeing our “new look” Mavs take the court.
The 2019 draft lottery that will let the ping pong balls decide the Mavs draft fate on May 14th and then the actual draft is June 20th, after the NBA Finals. It seems far away right now, but it will be upon us soon enough. Until then, enjoy all the Dirk your eyes can soak up! Stay strong MFFLs! Dirk forever.
Featured Image: nba.com