The Mavericks were clumsy, but their tank job on Friday hardly warranted an NBA investigation

If the NBA is going to “investigate” what the Mavericks did on Friday night – sitting down a whole bunch of healthy starters, including Kyrie Irving, and pulling Luka Dončić after a quarter against the Bulls, in an apparent effort to lose the game and improve their performance. Draft situation, though there’s still a chance to punch in the Western Conference’s Play-In Championship – then I trust the league will similarly why the Wizards were eliminated from playoff games Bradley Bell, Kyle Kuzma, Kristaps Porzies, Monty Morris and Denny Avdega sat out Friday against Miami. In that regard, I’m confident the league will “make it” in the Heat’s playoffs, which nonetheless sat out Jimmy Butler, Tyler Hero, Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo, and Kevin Love against Washington.

One suspects everyone at home at DC’s Capital One Arena paid full price for their tickets on Friday, but plenty of people did, expecting at least one NBA team to put the NBA’s best players on the floor. What they obtained, instead, was a complete set of Sioux Falls Skyforce and Capital City Go-Go talent, nothing wrong with either of them. Both teams, really, played hard on Friday, If not particularly good. But the people who go watch those G League affiliates don’t pay NBA prices to do so.

For that matter, I’m awaiting the league’s “realization” with the Blazers, who have put Damian Lillard on the ice in the past two weeks, just as Portland threatens to escape its elevated position in NBA Draft Lottery prospects. Or her inquiry as to why the Pacers, battling Washington for the lottery spot, haven’t played Tyrese Haliburton or Miles Turner since the end of March. Certainly the NBA will want to know the details of Detroit’s 7-34 record in the 2023 calendar, including a 2-22 stretch since the second week of February, which has cemented the Pistons’ place at the top – or if you prefer at the bottom – of the standings.

All of these teams have participated in clear soft or hard tank operations to improve their draft situation. The Mavericks folded Friday only to get a draft position.

Yes, Dallas was inelegant in how he brought up his apparent intent on Friday. The result was, in fact, an embarrassment to the team that reached the Western Conference Finals last season. But if you believe in the power of hard, cold numbers, what Mark Cuban and GM Nico Harrison did in making sure the team went home is not only understandable, but should be your best practice.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban walks off the court after his team lost to the Chicago Bulls. (Jerome Miron/USA Today)

To recap: Dallas entered play Friday half a game behind Oklahoma City to take the 10th spot – the last place to play – in the West. If the Mavericks had won their last two games, while OKC lost in the regular season finale Sunday to Memphis – Dallas would have passed the Thunder for 10th place, and made the postseason, or at least what goes through the “postseason” in the NBA today . But the Dallas front office made the calculation that the loss was more worth the franchise than the win. Because by not making the playoffs, the Mavs stuck with their first-round pick in this year’s draft. They owe a future first to the Knicks as part of the trade that sent the aforementioned Borzies from New York to Dallas in 2019. But trade protection in this year’s Mavs pick runs 1-10 in the first round. If Dallas had qualified for the playoffs, it would have finished no worse than 11th and would have been forced to give its first player to the Knicks.

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So, for Mavs copper, it was a simple equation:

Top 10 picks in the 2023 draft> Almost certain annihilation in the first round by Denver

Not only did the Mavericks have to beat the ninth seed — at the moment, Minnesota — but they would then have to beat the loser of the Play-In match 7-8, which is currently either the Lakers and Pelicans, just to qualify to play the higher-seeded Nuggets in the round-robin game. The first is the best of seven.

For Dallas, that wasn’t worth giving up the pick. This is a choice. But franchisees have a right to make those choices, just as fans have a right to support or reject those choices. Please don’t come to me with, “This is why I don’t watch the NBA,” unless I post the same thing while the Astros lost 310 games in a three-season period (2012-14) in order to plant their seeds. A franchise with several players who have helped them capture two World Series titles in the past few years.

There is almost no chance the Mavs will jump into the top four in the first round from their current 10th position. Only teams from that far back in the lottery have come to the top four a handful of times. But the 10th pick is still very valuable to Dallas. Keeping her allows the Mavericks to use her in an offseason trade. Or, at the very least, the Mavs could add a player who, on his rookie contract, would be incredibly cheap for several years — not a small consideration for the franchise that should give Irving a blockbuster contract this summer to prevent him from collapsing via free agency, and to keep him alongside Dončić. , who received an extension for super-starters in 2021.

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Yes, changing the lottery rules to beat the odds of the bottom four teams getting the top pick, along with the Play-In Championship, has reduced the number of teams actively rushing in a given season. And yes, I hate farcacty Play in, because it rewards mediocrity. The average record of the four Eastern Conference teams that participated in this past season was 44-38; The West four teams average record, 40-42. Only one of the eight Play-In teams last season, Minnesota, won more than 45 games. But I do realize that play has value. It keeps more teams in the playoff game, which means teams sell more late-season tickets, fans buy more food and beer, etc. I loved the Wolves partying last year, and I loved “Inside the NBA” for cheering them on with that. .

However, reducing the tank does not eliminate it. Obviously, the Pistons, Rockets, Spurs, and Hornets mailed it in for months. And over the past month, as their playoff chances dwindled, so did the Blazers, Wizards, Pacers and Jazz. And let’s make no mistake: I support this strategy wholeheartedly, at least in the short term of a given season. Because he He is Team building strategy. With contract caps exceeding $250 million, teams must have cheaper players on their rosters. The best way to get these players is through the draft. And the best way to get the best out of these relatively inexpensive players is to get as many draft picks as possible.

Unless, of course, the NBA wants to talk about getting rid of the draft.

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(I want to get back to this topic, but for the purposes of writing a never mind column, let’s stay with Mavs for now.)

Mavericks fans — all fans — must decide how they feel about this. If you don’t want to watch basketball play yourself, don’t. Vote with your feet or your empty seat. Make teams feel the pain of your anger economically.

And the Mavs’ decision doesn’t come without significant internal risks.

Dončić has already thrown his weight around the franchise around the team. The Mavericks’ inability to re-sign Jalen Bronson last summer puts even more pressure on Dallas to keep Irving this summer. Dončić made it clear that he wanted to make the playoffs, and why wouldn’t he? Like all great players, Dončić definitely believes he can lead a team through the post-season. This is when the game’s best players want the rock in their hands. His team denied him that opportunity on Friday. Cuban fell to the sword discussing the season with reporters earlier this week, but this will not be enough. There will certainly be a reckoning with his star team soon unless Dallas fundamentally fixes its broken slate. This selection can end up being an important part of a quick retool.

Tanks are never easy. It’s been done for too long, and it’s ruining the franchise. But in short doses – like a couple of games, even if done clumsily – it’s still a necessary tool in the toolbox, and a temporary step back, in order to increase the chance of making an even bigger leap forward.

(Top photo of Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving: Kevin Jairaj / USA Today)

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