The NBA Draft Lottery is Tuesday night, and the Dallas Mavericks hold a lottery pick for the third straight season.
In 2017, they drafted Dennis Smith Jr., who had a productive rookie campaign before being dealt to the New York Knicks. Last year, Dallas ended up with Luka Doncic, who raised expectations for an accelerated return to the playoffs with a standout first season.
For the 2019 draft, the Mavericks will only get to keep their first-round pick if it falls in the top five — the cost of acquiring Doncic's rights from the Atlanta Hawks last June.
Dallas has a 6% chance to land the No. 1 overall pick and a 26.3% chance of picking in the top five and maintaining its first round selection, according to Tankathon, which tracks NBA Draft Lottery odds.
The Mavericks' odds to win the first overall pick are tied for seventh-highest.
The percentages for each team in the NBA Draft Lottery changed a little bit this year. In 2019, for the first time, the teams with the three worst records all have the same odds to land the top pick, as opposed to in past years, when the team with the worst record had the best chance.
The NBA implemented this change to discourage all-out tanking, however the team with the worst record is still guaranteed one of the first five selections in the draft.
Another change is that the lottery will determine the draft's first four picks this year, as opposed to the first three, as it did in years past. After the first four selections, the remaining teams in the NBA Draft Lottery will be slotted based on record.
The numbers in the below chart are courtesy of Tankathon.
|Team||Record||Win %||Games Back||Top-4 Pick||No.1 Pick|
In early 2019, it didn’t look like Dallas would have odds as high it does to keep its pick. In fact, it looked like the Mavericks, at 26-29 through Feb. 10, might even battle for a playoff spot.
But starting the next night, Feb. 11, Dallas started a 7-20 run to finish the season. The Mavericks could've given themselves even better odds if they didn’t win five of their last 10 games.
The losing started after the Mavericks’ two big midseason trades: dealing DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and Dennis Smith Jr. and two draft picks to the New York Knicks for Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr., Courtney Lee and Kristaps Porzingis; and trading Harrison Barnes to the Sacramento Kings for Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph.
Now that all the story of how Dallas got to this point is out of the way, let's daydream like the Mavericks keep their first-round pick.
NBC Sports ranks the top five prospects in the NBA draft as Duke's Zion Williamson, Ja Morant of Murray State, Duke's R.J. Barrett, De'Andre Hunter from Virginia and Jarrett Culver of Texas Tech.
If the Mavericks don't land the first pick and the right to choose Williamson, then pass on Morant because they already have a point guard, they could still select a capable small forward-type with picks three through five.
Let's go with the "worst-case" scenario — say that's Culver. His game would appear to translate well to the NBA.
Want to dream even bigger? On top of a 1-in-4 chance to keep their first round draft pick, Dallas also has the salary cap space to sign a high-end free agent this summer.
This is a tricky one, because despite being a big-market team, the Mavericks consistently failed to land a superstar in his prime to play alongside Dirk Nowitzki during the big man's 21-year career. The most drama- (and emoji-) filled scenario came during the team's recruitment of Jordan in 2015. He ultimately played for Dallas briefly in 2018-19.
The top-end of the 2019 free agent class features Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard. After that, there are names like Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler and Khris Middleton.
Assuming the three biggest names go elsewhere (Irving wouldn’t fit in Dallas anyway with Doncic at point guard), imagine Dallas with Thompson or Walker to play off the ball with Doncic, Middleton to help space the floor for Porzingis or Butler to fill a need as a perimeter defender.
In conclusion, the Mavericks' 2019-20 starting lineup will be Luka Doncic, Klay Thompson, Jarrett Culver, Dwight Powell and Kristaps Porzingis.
Or maybe they sign Middleton instead, sliding Powell to the bench and Tim Hardaway Jr. back into the starting lineup.
Are the odds of all these pieces falling into place low? Yes.
But is it fun to dream? Also, yes.