The Dallas Mavericks entered the NBA as an expansion franchise in 1980. Who are their 25 best players in franchise history?
The Dallas Mavericks are one of the NBA’s newer franchises, officially born when NBA owners voted at the 1980 All-Star Game to admit the expansion entry for the 1980-81 season.
It was the NBA’s first foray into Dallas, which was home to an original franchise in the American Basketball Association.
The Dallas Chaparrals played there from 1967 through 1973 (playing the 1970-71 as the Texas Chaparrals) before the franchise moved to San Antonio and was renamed the Spurs for the ABA’s 1973-74 season.
Originally owned by Robert Carter, the Mavericks came into the league in exchange for a $12.5 million expansion fee and drafted its first set of 22 players, almost all of whom fit into two categories—has-been or never-was.
Among the “name” players taken in the expansion draft were guards Austin Carr from the Cleveland Cavaliers and Jim Cleamons—a future Mavericks coach—from the Washington Bullets and swingman Bingo Smith from the San Diego Clippers.
Carr would play eight games for the expansion entry. Cleamons and Smith never suited up for the club.
Their more important hire from the Bullets was coach Dick Motta, who was two years removed from winning an NBA title in Washington and had won more than 350 games in eight seasons with the Chicago Bulls.
Motta coached the team for its first nine seasons, posting a record of 329-409 and leading the team to the playoffs in its fourth season.
They reached the conference finals for the first time under new coach John MacLeod in 1988, went to the NBA Finals under Avery Johnson in 2006 and won their first—and only—NBA championship in 2011 with Rick Carlisle at the helm.
Carlisle passed Don Nelson on the franchise’s all-time coaching wins list early in the 2015-16 season and is now 380-260 since taking the job to start the 2008-09 campaigm.
Nelson was 339-251 in parts of eight seasons from 1997-2005 and Motta is third with his 329 victories.
The front office has been remarkably stable as well, with just five general managers in 36 seasons. Original GM Norm Sonju held the post until May 1996. Current GM Donn Nelson—son of the former coach—has been on the job since March 2005.
The team has only had three majority owners—Carter, who sold the team to Ross Perot Jr. in 1996, and Mark Cuban, who bought the team from Perot’s group in 2000.
In its 36 seasons, the Dallas franchise has been a playoff squad 21 times, including 15 of the last 16 seasons (12 consecutive years from 2001-12).
The club record for victories came in 2006-07 when the Mavericks were 67-15, but the dream season turned nightmarish when they were upset by the Golden State Warriors—seeded eighth in the Western Conference—in the first round of the playoffs.
The Smoking Cuban
The Mavs also won 60 games in 2002-03 and 2005-06.
The low-water mark for the franchise came in 1992-93, when Dallas threatened the all-time record for losses in a season before finishing 11-71.
Dallas also posted at least 60 losses in their expansion season, 1980-81 (15-67), 1991-92 (22-60), 1993-94 (13-69) and 1997-98 (20-62). The Mavericks endured their longest stretch without postseason play from 1991-2000, 10 consecutive seasons.
Last season, the Mavericks were 42-40 and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs for the third consecutive year. Dallas has not won a playoff series since claiming the 2011 championship.
The team’s all-time winning percentage of .510 makes them one of 14 current franchises with more wins than losses in their history.
The Mavericks have picked No. 1 overall just once in their history, when they selected Mark Aguirre with the first pick in 1981. They have selected second once and fourth five times, never picking in the No. 3 or No. 5 slots.
And with that, here are the 25 best players in the history of the Dallas Mavericks.
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