Haven’t we seen this before?
The Dallas Mavericks have a draft lottery pick (13th overall) for the first time in over a decade. Two years after winning the NBA title, then dismantling the team and missing this year’s playoffs, you would think maybe the draft would be viewed as bringing in some young players to rebuild a foundation that was torn down. However, that might not be the case.
Now there is talk the Mavs may trade away the lotto pick to free up cash and go after free agent center Dwight Howard. OK, I can kind of see that, but here’s where you get the case of déjà vu. They broke down the championship team to create cap space and make a run at last year’s big free agents, Howard included. It didn’t turn out good, with Howard instead going to the Los Angeles Lakers. And of course there was the “Shark Tank” incident, where guard Deron Williams wanted to talk about coming home to Dallas, but owner Mark Cuban was in Los Angeles for episodes of Shark Tank at the time. Williams voiced his displeasure and opted to re-sign with the Brooklyn Nets.
I get the Mavs aren’t excited about the upcoming draft. I don’t know if it’s the coaching staff or the front office, but the Mavs seem to be impatient when it comes to youth development, at least over the last couple of years. And you’re also talking about a draft that isn’t viewed as strong, or close to it. Case in point, the projected number one overall pick (Kentucky center Nerlens Noel) probably won’t play until Christmas because he’s rehabbing a knee injury. With that being said, if the Mavs decide to pass on their pick, the pressure is on to make that decision count. If not, they once again leave empty handed and that could make the road back to the championship a long one.
So here’s where I become the bad guy, and explain why I’m not sure it’s a good idea for the Mavs to trade away their pick. I don’t think Howard will leave the Lakers, and if he does, I doubt it will be for Dallas.
The “ugly truth” is Dallas is simply not viewed as a sexy destination for big time NBA free agents. L-A, Miami, Chicago, New York and Boston have beaches, billboards, bigger basketball fan base and better chances for endorsements deals; Dallas doesn’t. At least Oklahoma City has a passionate fan base, one that doesn’t look at home games as a “social event.” Believe it or not, players pay attention to these things just like they do with the number of zeros on the paycheck.
Howard himself hasn’t really mentioned Dallas that much, but has vocally expressed interest in the Houston Rockets. You know what the Rockets have? Youth, experience and a stable plan. Right now, the Mavs could be viewed as lacking two of the three.
Now this could be all for nothing. Howard might decide to go where the money is, and if it’s Dallas, then so be it. I just don’t see Howard leaving the Lakers on a bad note. Does he want to be remembered as someone who bolted for a quieter basketball market because he couldn’t handle the pressure of playing in L-A? Sure money talks, but sometimes so does legacy.
So is this offseason going to be “same song, different verse?” Talking about trading draft picks, especially when you don’t get high ones very often, tend to cause some skepticism in any sport. And if you are going all in on the big name free agents and miss, questions get raised about it being déjà vu all over again. I guess we will see how this plays out.
You can bet it will be interesting, it always is.
Written by C. James