It turned out Thomas wasn't exactly the big body Dallas was looking for. Luckily, the Mavericks had swung a trade to get Steve Nash to join Michael Finley and Dirk Nowitzki improved dramatically and...yes, the rest is history.
50-win season after 50-win season. Because of that, the Mavericks have routinely picked at the end of the first round or the second -- usually not the place to find prized players, especially in the dreaded second round.
But after a lockout season filled with injuries and roster turnover, the Mavericks find themselves picking 17 in this year's draft: that's the highest they've picked since they scooped up Thomas with the 12th pick in 2000. So yes, this is the most important Maverick's draft in 12 years, by default, really.
And, if things continue, they'll most likely screw it up. In the Mark Cuban era, the Mavericks only have two draft selections (or moves) that have actually somewhat panned out. Other than that, it's been a bunch of, well, crap. Dallas hasn't had to own up to its lousy draft history because of how well the franchise has performed in the last 12 years, from the front office to the team.
Cuban and GM Donnie Nelson regularly sacrificed the draft in order to acquire veterans to pair around Dirk Nowitzki. It worked. Dallas never had to "blow it up" in the Cuban era (until this year, kind of), keeping the Mavericks in the title chase while building around Dirk Nowitzki. There was never an influx of young, raw talent but that wasn't what Dirk really needed. He needed capable players to win a championship. With that mindset, the Mavericks accomplished that in 2011.
But now that the goal is completed, Cuban and Nelson have to look toward this draft with a lot more care. The Mavericks have a ton of cap room now to sign another All-Star, but need to start hitting in the draft more then they have over the last 12 years, or Dallas could find itself in an uncomfortable position when Dirk retires (especially if they fail to sign a Deron Williams-type player.)
In fact, here are the only two players the Mavericks have drafted in the last 12 years that have had any production in the league:
JOSH HOWARD | SF | ROUND 1, PICK 29, 2003 DRAFT
Career stats: 14.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, 44.8 FG%, 33.3 3PT%
- Howard appeared to be the absolute steal of the ridiculously loaded 2003 draft. He won over Maverick fans in his rookie season by crashing the offensive glass, slashing to the bucket and playing some of the best perimeter defense on the team. Over time, Howard improved his game to be an All-Star small forward, almost averaging 20 points a game at one point. But injuries and some PR mishaps derailed his time in Dallas and now he's a shell of his former self after multiple knee surgeries in Utah. Howard played just five full seasons in Dallas after becoming a starter in 2004.
- Beaubois arrived in Dallas with much mystery and intrigue, a small combo guard out of Guatemala. In his rookie season, Beaubois shattered all expectations, almost posting 50/40/90 shooting splits. Dallas fans clamored for Beaubois to have more playing time after he dropped 40 on Golden State and shined when matched up against Derrick Rose in a game in Chicago. Rick Carlisle was officially put on the hot-seat when Beaubois failed to play meaningful minutes in the 2010 playoffs against San Antonio until Beaubois almost helped the Mavs avoid elimination with a brilliant Game 6 performance (where Beaubois didn't close out the game in favor of Jason Terry.) That led to Carlisle giving Beaubois a starting spot at the off-guard (also to help Caron Butler out by moving him to his more natural position at the three). It never worked, as Beaubois broke his foot before the 2010 season, never fully recovered and featured an up-and-down 2011 season. Once deemed "untouchable," Beaubois now seems to be drifting toward "Josh Howard territory" except without the full realization of his talents. He's still young and has time, but Beaubois must turn the corner soon.