The plan worked.
You can question the wisdom in the Mavericks’ choice to start tanking with only a handful of games remaining in the regular season, and you can wonder whether maybe, possibly Dallas could have gone on a Miami-esque Cinderella run had they crept into the play-in games. (Let Brian Dameris save you some ruminating on the latter.)
But they got the outcome they wanted. Dallas will pick 10th following Tuesday’s draft lottery, and in so doing, the team avoids conveying its first-round pick to the New York Knicks, who would have acquired the pick had it fallen to 11th or lower to complete the Kristaps Porzingis trade from 2019. Instead, the Mavericks will now owe New York a top-10 protected pick in 2024. (If you’re wondering what happens if that doesn’t convey, the bounty then becomes a top-10 protected pick in 2025, except in the case of Dallas picking in the top 10 for a third year running, in which case New York will get a second-round pick that year and also Luka Doncic might graffiti the entire American Airlines Center.) It’s the franchise’s first top-10 pick since it drafted Luka Doncic in 2018, a boon to a team woefully short on assets.
It wasn’t a perfect evening, mind you. Dallas continued its streak of never moving up in the lottery; in 17 trips, it’s maintained its expected position 10 times and moved down seven more. Meanwhile, its neighbor to the south, the tyrannical San Antonio Spurs, landed the top overall pick and the rights to select French phenomenon Victor Wembanyama, a 7-foot-4 19-year-old who plays basketball like a Sentinel from the X-Men movies and will terrorize whatever passes for the Mavericks’ interior defense for the next decade.
But let’s keep the main thing the main thing: Dallas’ priority was to leave the lottery with the pick in hand, and the Mavericks did just that. It might be the first good thing to happen to the franchise since the new year.
As for what happens next, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon tweeted that the Mavericks are expected to explore moving the pick for immediate help, but that’s no certainty with a pick this good in what’s regarded as a strong draft crop. Iztok Franko will take a deeper look at the initial possibilities tomorrow.