The Dallas Mavericks’ rollercoaster season took an unexpected turn on Wednesday. The team entered its game against the Chicago Bulls in need of a win to make it into the play-in. Instead of preparing for a must-win game that could extend their season, they chose to blatantly tank.
To add insult to injury, Luka Doncic only played the first quarter of their loss to the Bulls. That loss ended their season but likely preserved their lottery pick, which was slated to go to the Knicks had they finished with the 11th worst record instead of the 10th.
The Mavericks choosing their lottery pick over a shot at making the playoffs is a bad look.
In some ways, it makes sense; the Mavericks faced an uphill battle to make the Western Conference Finals again, but not even trying is a bad look. Of course, the Mavericks didn’t expect to be in this position after trading for Kyrie Irving, but a top-10 pick is a great asset and a consolation prize for not making the postseason. That likely won’t console Luka Doncic, who had been more vocal about the team building around him this season.
I’m not sure a lottery pick is what he had in mind. Dallas’ front office surely had to explain to him the benefits of punting on their season, but they probably infuriated their fanbase in the process. That’s not to mention the NBA, which will have two fewer superstars to market come playoff time. It would be one thing if the Charlotte Hornets did this, but not a team with a top-5 player and another high-profile star.
It’s different, and it will likely reignite talks about load management and tanking. All could be forgiven if Dallas has a strong offseason and retools around Doncic and, presumably, Irving, who will be a free agent. Unfortunately, they don’t have a lot to work with after several trades that depleted their draft haul and made it tougher to upgrade their roster.
We’ll have to see what the offseason holds for the Mavs. Whatever they do, it will need to impress Doncic or risk having him demand a trade sooner rather than later.