The Dallas Mavericks Need to Keep Playing to Win
By Kohl Rast
The Dallas Mavericks tank-a-thon is causing fans to lose their minds, but really, Rick Carlisle and the Mavs are playing the right way. Losing may not need to be viewed as the worst thing right now, but winning should never be looked down upon.
A winning culture is something that has to be worked towards and can easily be taken away from any team that overlooks it. For many years, the Los Angeles Lakers were a force to be reckoned with. When the tide turned and Kobe Bryant retired, they decided to go into a rebuild and are still trying to fight their way out of it.
Similarly, the Milwaukee Bucks have been viewed as one of the more disappointing teams in the league over the last several years. Despite drafting really talented players and putting together a dangerous team, the Bucks still struggle taking over the league.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have a team like the San Antonio Spurs. Over the last 20 years, the Spurs have demanded and expected success from every player that joined the team. Despite not having the most talented team on most occasions, they win a lot of games every year. If they were to start losing, people would not know what is going on.
Until last year, the Dallas Mavericks were in the same boat. Winning was not just a common occurrence, it was an expectation. Although the Mavs talent was nowhere near what it had been in the years prior, it was still weird to see them losing so many games. Time had finally caught up with them.
Now, not even two years later, losing has become normal and has become the expectation in the eyes of the fans. This is not just an epidemic that can be solved whenever we want. This can have lasting repercussions. Last night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder was an eye opening experience for a longtime MFFL.
I have been keeping up with the Dallas Mavericks avidly for the past 15+ years. Over that time, I have seen team after team come through and be successful. There have been bumps in the road, but I never doubted the intentions of the Mavericks. When Mark Cuban made it known that Dallas would be tanking last year for a high draft pick, people accepted it. This is because the Mavs had already been statistically eliminated from playoff contention.
The comfort level with the losing method was exacerbated this season, to the point where people on Twitter honestly believe that if you are not “Team Tank” then you are not a true Mavs fan. Simply put, this is foolish.
The winning culture that the Mavericks had set up ever since Dirk Nowitzki became a member of the team was noticeable. It withstood coaching changes, personnel changes, and a complete change to how the game of basketball is played. It is a bigger deal than one may think.
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There are always different ways to build a team than just the draft. The NBA drafting process has seen a lot of change over the past few years, making it more enticing to build in that way, but before the recent surge, great teams were not built around youngsters.
In fact, in the last several years, the most sucessful teams were generally not created through the drafting process. Let’s take a look at all the best teams over the last 18 years.
2015 & 2017 Golden State Warriors- The Warriors built the core of their 2015 team through the draft, which really helped bring about the drafting era. However, by 2017, they needed to go get a top 3 player in the league to win the title.
2016 Cleveland Cavaliers- This team was built by and for LeBron James. The draft was mostly meaningless to these Cavs.
2003, 2005, 2007, & 2014 San Antonio Spurs- The Spurs had to make a few moves in the offseason to get over the hump, but this team was primarily built through the draft.
2012 & 2013 Miami Heat- This team was built through trades and free agents.
2011 Dallas Mavericks- The Mavs built this team around Dirk, who was drafted, but the players that put Dallas over the edge were found in free agency and through trades.
2009 & 2010 Los Angeles Lakers- Once again, Kobe was the most important player here, but without Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, this team does not have near the success that they did.
2008 Boston Celtics- The Celtics definitely had to buy this team, surrounding Paul Pierce with the necessary talent to take him over the top.
2006 Miami Heat- Dwyane Wade was pivotal and Udonis Haslem was important, but this team wouldn’t have won if Shaq, Antoine Walker, Jason Williams and Gary Payton weren’t there to help out.
2004 Detroit Pistons- Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton, and Chauncey Billups all came to Detroit via trade/free agency.
2000, 2001, & 2002 Los Angeles Lakers- Kobe and Shaq dominated together, but Kobe couldn’t have done it without Shaq. Point goes to free agency.
As you can see, the draft is not the only way to build a team, but it does work. For that reason, I think it is fair to say that the Mavs are doing the right thing right now to be going for the win every single night.
The simple fact is that the Dallas Mavericks this year are not a great team. They have struggled to find success against the mediocre teams while playing the teams that are supposed to beat them very hard. The Mavs have 19 wins so far this season and 13 of them are against playoff teams. That is pretty amazing.
So yes, the Mavericks are going to get a good draft pick and the fans are going to be excited about it. There is nothing wrong with that. But, it is not fair to root against these guys just because you want a higher pick.
It is fun to think you have the Mavs best interest by rooting against them in hopes of a top 5 pick, but in reality, actively rooting for a loss can change the accepted culture that is currently found in Dallas. Don’t take that away from them.
Next: Second Round Prospects for Dallas Mavericks
The transition into the post-Dirk era is nearing and, if the Mavs want to carry his tradition into the future, they can’t start settling for losses. It just won’t work.