Pavel Podkolzin was drafted 21st overall by the Utah Jazz in 2004. Dallas immediately traded their 2005 first round pick, which ended up being 28th overall, for the rights to Podkolzin. At the time, the trade was universally applauded. Chad Ford, for one, felt that "Pavel [would] end up being the steal of the draft at No. 21". At worst, draft reviews thought the Mavs had made a wise gamble.
The reason was simple, coming into the draft Podkolzin was perhaps the hottest name on the draft board. As the draft neared closer, Pavel had gone from a late first round pick to a lottery lock. Podkolzin experienced the same phenomenon prior to the 2003 draft, but he eventually had to withdraw from the draft when it was discovered he suffered from Acromegaly. The disease which was responsible for his size and potential suddenly turned against him. He reentered the draft in 2004, still diseased, yet his draft status soared even higher.
Mock drafts in 2004 had Podkolzin being drafted as high as fifth overall. Scouts everywhere were drooling over his 7'5", 303 pound frame. His size aside, the opinions on Pavel as basketball player were wildly varying. Just read these lines from one report and you'll see how his status as big-time NBA prospect were both unquestioned and doubted at the same time.
"Offensively he plays very timidly. With the ball he doesn't take any initiative... Does not seem to have great touch and has a long ways to go figuring out post moves ... Imposing presence, he's dangerous to take the basketball at.... Defensively does not have a good feeling for the game or sense of the position... Very raw."
" physical structure is well developed, very big and strong with muscles and his size is awe inspiring ... His mobility is very good for a man of this size and he has good flexibility ... His conditioning is actually good, he can get up and down the court, his biggest problem is with his basketball skills and understanding of the game"
After the Mavs drafted him, he finished his season in Europe, then came to the states and had surgery to correct his pituitary gland disorder. By the end of the 2004/2005 season, Pavel was healthy enough to play and appeared in five games for the Mavericks but played just ten minutes total. In those ten minutes, he scored one point, grabbed two rebounds, committed four fouls, and turned the ball over two times.
His second season in the NBA didn't go any better. On October 28th, 2005, slightly before the season began, Podkolzin was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his right foot and had to have surgery. In early March, Pavel finally suited up for the first time all season, but it was for the Forth Worth Flyers of the developmental league. He appeared in 11 games for the Flyers where he averaged 6.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, .7 blocks, and 3.7 fouls per game. He saw his only minutes in the 05/06 NBA season as a Mav during the last game of the season -- an inconsequential loss to the Clippers. Podkolzin, who entered the game to sarcastic applause from the fans, played 18 minutes in that game, scoring three points and getting seven rebounds.
After the season, Podkolzin joined the Mavericks in both summer leagues where he continued to be a disappointment. While he had suffered injuries that set back his progress, it started to become apparent that Podkolzin had almost no feel for the game. Here's what DraftExpress had to say after one of his showings in the Vegas Summer League this season.
In the 2nd half we saw more of the same from Pavel. He had one good move followed by four bad ones, and seemed to get very frustrated both with himself and the referees. Despite his height he still is not able to do a very good job on the glass, and defensively is almost always out of place when its time to rotate and just stick his arms in the air to contest a shot.
Podkolzin's progress only regressed as the summer went on. Many blamed this on tired legs, but after just playing in just 12 games all season, he should have been freshest man on the team.
When the Mavericks resigned DJ Benga, it meant Podkolzin was still the 4th center on the team. Being a third year player, Pavel would not have been allowed to play in the D-League this season. That left the Mavs with only two options - waste a roster space for the entire year or cut ties. The Mavericks decided to buy out the remainder of Podkolzin's contract and end the two year project. The man who was once the next Shaq could very well end his NBA career with nine career rebounds and one block.