Let’s take a little flashback to some controversial comments made by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban during the 2017-18 season:
“I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night. And here we are. We weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, ‘Look, losing is our best option.’ Adam [Silver] would hate to be hearing that. But at least I sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans are going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again.”
Cuban’s tanking confession earned him a whopping $600,000 fine from the NBA. But hey, the strategy also netted Dallas the fifth pick in the 2018 draft, which was used to trade up and snag the franchise-altering Luka Doncic.
Fast-forward five years, and Luka’s Mavs have made it to the playoffs in three consecutive years, including the Western Conference finals in 2022. But their playoff dreams are fading fast this season after they pushed all in at the trade deadline for Kyrie Irving. The move was supposed to propel them ahead in the standings, but instead they’re stuck in roughly the same spot. While the offense has remained elite, their defense has gotten even worse. The Mavericks are now just 7-13 since the Irving trade, including their current four-game skid, which has included back-to-back losses to the lowly Hornets.
With only seven games left and high lottery odds still up for grabs, the Mavericks have an unexpected decision to make. Is it time for Cuban to rev up the ol’ tank again?
At 36-39, the Mavericks have the league’s 10th-worst record. They’re currently one game back from a play-in tournament spot and 2.5 games back from a guaranteed postseason seed. Sure, the playoffs aren’t out of reach, but they’re also only 3.5 games away from having the sixth-worst record, which would give them a 37.2 percent chance at a top-four pick and a 9 percent chance of snatching the first pick in a draft featuring another tantalizing international prospect, the 7-foot-4 Victor Wembanyama.
The Mavs face a dilemma. They’ll lose their 2023 first-round pick to the Knicks if it’s not in the top 10—a leftover debt from the 2019 Kristaps Porzingis trade fiasco.