TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 14: Believe it or not, this photo is relevant! (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
Here we are, the big numero uno...
The Dallas Mavericks do not have what many would call a "storied history"; having joined the NBA in 1980 they remain one of the younger franchises in professional basketball, and so a list such as this may not require going too far in the Wayback machine. However, through the years the Mavericks have been one of the league's most active teams on the trade market, a tradition Mark Cuban has proudly continued, if not brought to crescendo. Some trades have been dubious, others hilarious, but these are the five we are calling "the best", under whatever arbitrary criteria so followed.
Find what checks in at #1 after The Jump:
June 24th, 1998: The Dallas Mavericks trade the draft rights for 1998 NBA Draft 6th overall pick to the Milwaukee Bucks for the 9th and 19th overall picks. Oh, and one of those picks was Dirk Nowitzki.
Let me set a scene here for you, understanding I am using creative license, since I was not actually there.
Don Nelson sits nervously in the Mavericks War Room. His team is on the clock. The lowly Dallas Mavericks, the laughing stock of the NBA for many years, have just executed a draft-night trade, one that may prove brilliant, may prove idiotic, but will surely be controversial, as Dallas, desperately in need of talent, has traded down in the draft, trading away a familiar faced college star big man for the right to draft an obscure foreigner. And a skinny white guy no less! What a gamble for such a pathetic franchise, one that has seen so many moves backfire in such outrageous fashion.
What is Don Nelson thinking? Is he practicing his speech, his explanation, his defense? Is he preparing for the media onslaught? Is he chuckling to himself, believing so absolutely in the providence of his actions, genius that he is? He'll say later that man he's drafted draft is not only going to be great, but change the game. A 7'footer who can run and shoot like a guard? The NBA won't know what's coming. He's probably thinking "just you wait".
Whatever is going through his mind, he's sweating. He can't sit any longer. The anticipation is too great, so he stands, pacing back and forth. It won't be long now.
As the room watches on television, David Stern walks to the podium, and announces the pick. Don Nelson, overtaken by emotion, lets out a shout. Grinning ear to ear, he joyously shakes the hands of his associates, a collective outburst of positive energy wafting through the room. He hugs his son, who helped engineer it all, and he's never been more proud. What a moment! They've done it! They got Chris Anstey!
...you were expecting me to say someone else?
Yes, just 12 months before a certain German kid joined the Dallas Mavericks, Don Nelson traded down in the draft to get another tall white guy who could supposedly run and shoot. This time the player he sent away was Kelvin Cato, and this time the player he got back was Australian Chris Anstey. Nelson suggested that Anstey would be the game's first ever "point center", revolutionizing the position with his ability to run the floor and shoot from outside.
If you don't remember Chris Anstey, don't worry about it. Just take my word for it that it didn't quite work out like he hoped.
There was, however, a point toward the end of Anstey's rookie season, about a two-week stretch, when it looked like the light might have turned on. Over seven games in March, Anstey averaged 15 points a game which included a 26 outburst against the Celtics, prompting Dwain Price to pen this piece. Understand how horrible Mavs basketball was and had been for so long at that time, that a seven game stretch by an otherwise awful draft pick could have beat writers writing fluff pieces. Anstey would play one more year in Dallas before being traded to Chicago for a 2nd round pick, and after a year in Chicago Anstey would be out the NBA for good.
The lesson here is that if you have a good idea, even if it fails miserably the first time you try it, don't abandon it. Mavs fans everywhere should be very thankful that Don Nelson really, really loved tall guys who could handle the ball, enough to do the same maneuver all over again even right after the last one had blown up in his face. Maybe this is especially important to remember in light of what's happening now with Mark Cuban and the "Plan Powder"?
So, there you have it. The late Robert "Tractor" Traylor for Dirk Nowitzki and Pat Garrity(who you might remember from trade #3 on the countdown). Trades just don't get much better than that. In Texas lore, it's up there with Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell, and the Herschel Walker trade.
There probably isn't much to say about Dirk that hasn't been said already. In this video, which is kind of hilarious, you'll see the youthful Dirk in his days before being drafted, which includes a young look at Holger, and at the 2.15 mark a younger Charles Barkley discussing his attempt at bribing Dirk to play at Auburn.
Dirk apparently considered playing at Kentucky, and former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, who was with the Celtics at the time, was insistent that if Dirk had fallen to pick #10, he would have taken Dirk. Of course, Boston made out pretty well: Paul Pierce was a fine consolation prize for missing out on Dirk Nowitzki.
That Don Nelson, on the same day, traded Robert Traylor and Pat Garrity(and a first rounder), two decent NBA players, for Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash, two future MVP's, should be grounds enough for induction into the Hall of Fame. As a young fan growing up with Nelson and the exciting Mavs, I had my problems with Nellie as an X's and O's coach, but his eye for talent and trade instinct was truly exceptional. I hope he and Mark Cuban patch things up someday, because Nelson deserves to be a key part of this team's legacy.
Other honorable mentions that just missed the countdown:
November 25th, 1985: The Dallas Mavericks trade Kurt Nimphius to the Los Angeles Clippers for James Donaldson
-Straight up trade that netted Dallas the man who was, until recently, the best center in team history.
September 16th, 1980: The Dallas Mavericks trade Mike Bratz to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a 1984 1st rounder
-Bratz was an expansion pick who never played for Dallas. The pick turned into Sam Perkins.
-Howard and Butler had both regressed significantly that year, but Butler was still the more useful player. Haywood would end up being a bit of a disappointment, but still a quality piece. Somehow, some way, DeShawn Stevenson ended up being the most important guy in this trade. I swear, you couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.
The rest of the list: