Mavs have dearth of young talent, says ESPN

USA TODAY Sports

ESPN article indicates future may be bleak for Dallas, who have struggled to develop recent draft picks.

According to ESPN insider, the Dallas Mavericks rank 29 out of 30 teams in terms of "under 25" players:

29. Dallas Mavericks

Players: Jae Crowder (23), Shane Larkin (20), Ricky Ledo (20)

Unlike many of the other teams lacking youth on this list, the Mavericks arenot close to competing for a championship, making their current predicament a little inexcusable. Crowder might be a 3-and-D candidate, but he's a long way away from the "3" part of that. Larkin is a spark-plug point guard, but I don't envision him being better than a high-level backup. Lastly, Ledo is a volatile player with a lot of talent, but also has a lot self-constructed obstacles that will probably prevent him from realizing it.

Since it's Insider, I can't transcribe all of it, but for those curious, the bottom six teams were:

25. San Antonio Spurs

26. New York Knicks

27. Brooklyn Nets

28. Miami Heat

29. Dallas Mavericks

30. Los Angeles Lakers

You'll notice that most of the other teams, Lakers aside, are pretty much playoff-locks, and at least conference final contenders.  Dallas is a long shot to win a playoff series, and will likely be in a tough fight to make the playoffs.  Which makes the lack of young prospects a major point of concern; especially so given that franchise cornerstone Dirk Nowitzki is 35 and has missed time with injuries each of the last three seasons.

Now, Brandan Wright turns 26 in October, and is a fine player, so we can give some small credit there.  Still, this is an indictment of the player development department of the franchise.  They spent three first round picks in a row on combo guards who failed spectacularly, and are now all off the team.  Another first rounder was dumped to save salary space, and another yet still goes to the Thunder, a result of the infamous Lamar Odom trade.

While several of the teams at the bottom are title contenders, the article makes the case that a team can be both a contender and develop young players.  The Thunder rank first, and Chicago, Houston, Indiana and the Clippers, among others, rank in the top 13.

While the Spurs rank surprisingly low this time around, a big reason they have had sustained success and near-annual deep playoff runs is because they have drafted well enough to help supplement their great core.  The Thunder, under Spurs front office graduate Sam Presti, appear poised to do the same, even as their still-young core ages.

Lamenting good young guys isn't purely a cosmetic thing, to be completely clear.  Young players have two major bonuses: they're cheap, making them tremendous contract value, and typically they can remain under team control for as long as that team wishes.  The way the rules are set up, it rewards smart clubs that can identify young talent.

The Mavericks do have a solid group of veteran guys(and debating the ultimate ceiling of the team is a conversation for another time), which might make all this talk about rookies seem arbitrary for the time being, but it is worthwhile to keep in mind the way the outside basketball world views the team.  The cupboard is bare.  Eventually, that is going to matter.

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