Mark Cuban doesn’t think the Mavericks need to tank this season. Speaking before the Mavericks’ home game against the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday, Cuban talked in depth about his thinking behind the Mavericks continuing to try and win every game, regardless of the circumstances.
“We’ll play it by ear. The one thing you don’t do is panic,” Cuban said. “If we just can’t get healthy, that will tell us one thing. If we can, and we’re just not any good, that will tell us another thing. If we can, and we start rolling along, and we think we can get a lot better, then that tells us what we do there. The crazy thing you don’t do is panic.”
Cuban thinks that a tanking mentality for this team — where they’re actively trying to lose games — is a terrible option, especially with so many young players on the roster.
“We’re still trying to win,” Cuban said. “You see teams out there, and they’re doing everything possible to lose in the fourth quarter. I don’t think that’s good for the players, good for the team, good for the culture. I just don’t like that. You never say never if it came down to it, but I just don’t see that helping any of our young guys at all.”
The other reason holding Cuban back from letting the Mavericks gun for the league’s worst record is that he doesn’t see transcendent talent in this draft.
“If there were two of those guys, three of those guys, we’d be winning 12 games,” Cuban laughed.
He continued: “I don’t see any Shaq’s or LeBron’s or Tim Duncan’s in this draft. You just ignore the haters (who want the team to tank), let them bitch and go about your business.”
That much is true. Like Cuban mentioned several time, the 2017 draft is very good, but it’s currently lacking an Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns or Kevin Durant like player. Players could emerge, and Markelle Fultz is a monster who would probably go first overall if the draft happened right now, but no one is “guaranteed” to be a franchise altering talent like some top picks.
Cuban also talked about the state of the league. Especially in the Western Conference, nearly every team is trying to win. That’s good for Dallas, who can try to win, realize they’re worse at winning than anyone else in the league and still be on target for a top-five pick. As Cuban pointed out, having the worst record only gives you a 25 percent chance at the top pick.
For now, Cuban says the Mavericks are committed to making the playoffs “until we find out that we can’t.” The team is only five-and-a-half games out of the eighth seed, dealing with a tough schedule and multiple injuries. Cuban believes the team will be better when healthy, which may or may not be true. Certainly, it will be incredibly tough to pull out of this hole they’re digging or themselves once that happens — but it’s not impossible.
In all likelihood, the Mavericks will have a very high pick this season. It’s not about tanking or not tanking — this team simply may not be good enough to win games even when they are healthy. The one way Dallas could have better chances at a good pick is to trade a veteran at the deadline, with Andrew Bogut being the likely option. Talking on Sunday, Cuban wasn’t bullish about that idea.
“There’s always circumstances, but more often than not we’ll take the sure thing over the flyer,” Cuban said. “Teams that have five, six picks in the past drafts, I don’t think that has worked out really well for them, you know?”
The worst case scenario is that the Mavericks get healthy and are good enough to win around 35 games — not enough to be a playoff race in March, but enough to push them into the late lottery rather than grabbing a top-five selection. Right now, it seems Cuban believes trying to win every game has benefits that outweigh that risk.