That’s how Dirk Nowitzki summed up the Dallas Mavericks’ night in the NBA Draft Lottery.
Tuesday night, the Mavs looked like they had everything to gain by having the third-worst record in the league. They were guaranteed a top-six pick and had a 13.8 percent chance at landing the No. 1 overall spot in next month’s draft. Heck, they even appeared due to land in the top-three. But then they didn’t.
The Mavs fell to fifth in the draft, and with that, they missed out on perhaps the best prospect: Luka Doncic. While landing the 19-year-old Slovenian star was always a long shot, the outside chance of drafting him provided some hope for fans who watched the team muster just 24 wins, the lowest total since the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. These are the Mavericks, though. Lady Luck ghosted them long ago.
Looking ahead, the future isn’t exactly dreary on the surface. Even though picking fifth guarantees nothing, Dallas at least finds itself in a favorable position to land a talented player. This year’s draft class is replete with big men and if you know your Mavs history, you know that they’ve been chasing a white whale to hold down the middle for a couple of decades now. But therein lies a problem. Rookie centers take time to develop, and, based on what the team is saying, they aren’t in the mood to wait around.
“Ultimately, when you are in this position you would love to have the first pick, but we still have a top-five pick with a chance to get a very good player,” Mavericks Assistant Vice President of Basketball Operations Michael Finley said in a statement released by the team. “It is a deep draft with some great young talent and we can still get a player who can come in and help us out immediately. There is a wide variety of talent at the top of this draft and we are hopeful that we can get a guy who will help us not be in this lottery next year.”
Even though he doesn’t come right out and say it, it’s easy to discern that Finley is indicating that the team’s goal is to return to the playoffs next season. Similar sentiments have been made by owner Mark Cuban recently as well. Spending two to three years bringing along a big man doesn’t fit this timeline, so don’t be surprised if they don’t draft one in June. They’ll look for someone to plug in now. And frankly, nothing the team does this summer should come as a surprise. With the fifth pick and loads of cap room, they’re a mule with a spinning wheel.
The desire to return to the postseason is understandable. Unfortunately, it’s also a narcotic and the Mavs are simply looking to score another hit. Instead of building a core of Dennis Smith Jr. and whoever they select in in June, they’re once again swinging for the fences instead of facing reality. The Mavs are bad, and they’re going to remain bad for at least another season. Building through the draft can change that. Nonetheless, the franchise again appears willing to jeopardize its future for the here and now. These are the Mavericks. So, of course.