Nothing against Mike James, but Mike James represents failure.
When Mike James is your backup point guard, something has gone wrong, which it has for the Mavericks. When Dominique Jones and Rodrigue Beaubois (the Mavs previous two first round draft picks) sit on the bench and watch Mike James brick 22-footers and turn the ball over, there's been a failure.
It also should say something about a team's scouting department when two second round picks appear more ready to play then the team's first round pick. By some miracle, Bernard James has turned into more than just a nice PR story. He looks like an honest to God NBA big man.
James might never be a full-time starter but he's obviously shown in the last two weeks that he's more than capable of being in a team's big man rotation. I'm not as high on Jae Crowder as most are (his shot selection is awful and his defense is more "energy" than technique or skill) but he's still proven loads more valuable than Jared Cunningham.
How long must this continue? When Cunningham was selected, there were no ringing endorsements. Another combo-guard. Another player that is the size of a point guard but acts like a scoring guard. Not that there's anything wrong with that. John Wall, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook were all deemed scoring guards who needed to become more point guard-esque. But those players were also selected No. 1, 1 and 4 overall. A little higher pedigree.
The most frustrating aspect of the drafting of Cunningham was it was more of move to save cap space and create a safety net. When the pick was made, neither Darren Collison nor O.J. Mayo were acquired. Delonte West, Jason Kidd and Jason Terry were all presumably lost in free agency. The current roster featured Beaubois and Jones as the only "point guards" on the roster. Dallas traded down to save some money and grab insurance if the Mavericks off-season didn't go to plan.
What's worse is there doesn't seem to be any progress for Cunningham. With the Texas Legends, Cunningham is getting to the free throw line, but not much else. He's shooting under 40 percent and his assist numbers are low.
Either way, Cunningham has seen playing time regularly only for the Legends. The Mavericks are 20-28. It's simply unfathomable that a team as desperate for wins as the Mavericks have seen their first round pick only play 26 minutes. This isn't the Thunder with Jeremy Lamb or Perry Jones or the Rockets with Terrence Jones -- those are teams that are playing well that can allow their picks to soak up some minutes in the D-League. The Mavericks are a bad team. It's a shame that as Dallas wastes away in a meaningless season that it's first round pick isn't even stationed with the team.
Instead of relying on Beaubois, Jones or calling up Cunningham, the Mavericks signed Mike James. A team routinely eight to 10 games under .500 had to resort to a 37-year-old off the street (TWICE!) to shore up a weak position. That should never happen to a team that isn't a contender. The Celtics signing P.J. Brown for some big man depth? Sure. The Heat grabbing Mike Bibby for insurance before the playoffs? OK. The lottery-bound Mavericks signing Mike James? That doesn't make sense. This team is delusional about its chances. This is all centered around a belief to maximize Dirk's final years. Which seems even weirder when you let go the title team of 2011.
The drafting of Cunningham also represented another mistake: Beaubois and Jones. Had either of those two picks panned out, the Mavericks wouldn't have to draft another combo guard for the third straight year. Oops, I meant three out of four years. The Mavericks traded Jordan Hamilton to the Nuggets in 2011. Remember that?
It wouldn't be so frustrating to watch the Mavericks waste first round pick after first round pick if others were doing the same. The story on the bottom of the first round and beyond is simple -- some teams hit, but almost all of them miss. It's a crapshoot outside of the lottery and it's understandable that a team like the Mavericks, who have picked routinely at the bottom of the first round in the last decade, haven't found any great contributors. The truth is, rarely anyone finds useful long-term contributors toward the end of the first round.
Then you read this excellent piece about cheap blue-chippers from Tom Ziller and you want to throw up:
3. Keep and/or buy those late first-round picks. A ridiculous number of good to very good players come out of that range. Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Jeff Teague went back-to-back-to-back from Nos. 17-19 in 2009. Taj Gibson went No. 26 that year. You had Bradley, Bledsoe, Seraphin, Trevor Booker and Vasquez outside the lottery in 2010. Kawhi Leonard (who I'd call a star on his rookie deal at this point), Iman Shumpert and Faried were outside the lottery in 2011. There is almost nothing to justify trading away a late first-round pick for cash. If you're doing that, you're being shortsighted or you lack faith in your scouts to find the right gem. We can almost guarantee the gem exists. You just need to find it. And no team is 15-deep with talent. You can make a roster spot.
Belch and blerg. Hopefully, the Mavericks plan of saving up and rebuilding the team through free agents will work out. But there's no more time to waste first round picks. The Mavericks desperately need to revamp their draft/scouting department. They need to start hitting in these drafts. This will be especially true since the Mavericks will probably have a pick in the 10-15 range.
It's either that or continue to watch the Mike James of the world. That's an unsettling future for this franchise.