We all know the Mavs are terrible at drafting. Most of us can see that just from the eyeball test. Since the year 2000, the Mavs have either treated their draft picks like drug kingpins treat DEA informants, or they've drafted some project players and then yanked them around by burying them on the bench or in the D-League.
In other words, since drafting Dirk, they don't have a good track record. We all know the reasoning. They did it for cap reasons, to help lure in max free agents, because Carlisle doesn't usually trust rookies, etc. Reasons that have failed year after year. In fact, until last season's selection of Justin Anderson, their draft futility has pretty much been a running joke. An especially unfunny joke.
But how do we prove that they're awful? And how do we compare their futility (intended or otherwise) to other teams?
Using basketball-reference.com I pulled the draft picks for every team in the NBA since the 1999-2000 season. I focused on two stats -- Games Played and Win Score. For each team I summed up the total Games Played by any player they drafted over the last seventeen years, and then I did the same for Win Score, and sorted those sums by team.
Why these two stats? Drafting a player and then making them a part of your rotation for a long stretch of time signifies that the player you drafted is contributing to your team. Essentially, a successful draft pick plays a lot of games. We can talk about variations on points scored, or rebounds, or assists, or various other factors that also signify success, but those are just LEVELS of success. The first thing you want from a draft pick is for them to be a regular rotation player.
Win Score provides a different perspective on the value of a drafted player by showing how much they've contributed to team wins. A high Win Score means that the players you drafted are more than just rotation players, they're playing an ACTIVE part in winning games.
Between these two values, we should be able to get a picture of draft success over a sustained period of time.
(One thing before we dive in to the stats. I started with the 1999-2000 season because it's AFTER the Mavs got Dirk. Dirk has been a fantastically successful player in this league, and the Mavs did good in getting him. What I want this little project to show is how the Mavs have failed to capitalize on that success in the years since, a situation we're seeing play out all over again with the front office's inability to keep a championship-level team on the court post 2011.)
So how does it all shake out? The results are not pretty.
There's an important caveat. A lot of these players were traded on draft day or shortly thereafter, but it would have taken hours of effort to sort of where each player ended up compared to who they were technically drafted by. As a result, you have teams like Chicago taking credit for LaMarcus Aldridge and his 722 games, even though he was immediately sent to Portland.
However, while this list might not be 100 percent accurate with every team, it does show trends from 1 to 30. When the Mavericks are dead last by such a large margin, that's telling.
Dallas, since 2000, has drafted 15 players, who have gone on to play 2,303 games. A quick glance at this chart shows that Dallas is last in the league in both games and players by a pretty sizable margin.
The games column obviously favors teams who use lots of draft picks. Chicago, Portland, Boston, OKC, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Utah, Detroit, and Atlanta all had 30 or more picks who logged game minutes over this span. They range all over the list, but an argument can be made that having more picks and not having a high games played number makes you a bad drafting team (Minnesota, Portland, and Milwaukee to name a few). Well, we account for that with the last column, where we divide the games by the players to get an average games-per-player value.
San Antonio is at the top of that list. No real surprise there. Also in the top ten are Oklahoma City and Chicago, the only top ten teams with 30 or more picks. OKC is number 4, with players like Kevin Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison, and Steven Adams all on their ledger.
Yep, Dallas is last again, and by a pretty wide margin, too. Part of that low number comes from the fact that the Mavs basically throw away draft picks. But look at the Lakers, another bottom 5 drafting team. Their Win Score is almost triple the Mavs, and that's with guys like Ronny Turiaf, Sasha Vujacic and Mark Madsen on their list. They're getting around 100 win shares combined from Marc Gasol and Andrew Bynum, two very solid players in this league, even if Gasol was quickly traded for his brother. But even if you took them off for some strange reason, the Lakers would still be better than the Mavs.
Does this matter to the standings? It does, but even when you take those differences into account the overall shape of the list remains the same. Let's look at all the players the Mavs acquired via the draft or a draft-day or off-season trade from the last seventeen years, courtesy of basketball-reference.com
If we include the players the Mavs traded for or picked up as a rookie in an off-season deal, the numbers go up. The real standouts, other than Josh Howard, are Eduardo Najera, Devin Harris, and Jae Crowder, all drafted by other teams and then sent to the Mavericks. Those three improve the Mavericks totals in win shares and games, but they still fall last in both categories.
I love the Mavericks. I root for them to be successful in everything they do. But there's no denying the fact that the only way to make the Mavs look better in this regard is to sort these graphs in the opposite direction. Justin Anderson is a good start. Maybe Hammonds will be as well. But let's be real ... these draft issues didn't start with the new CBA after 2011. They're not the result of hoarding cap space the last five years. This has been going on essentially since the day after Dirk was drafted. From that moment on, the Mavs have consistently fumbled the ball in the one area that has given them BY FAR the best player in franchise history.
- Denver is pretty low on the list, but they have at least a few notable players drafted -- Carmelo, Jameer Nelson, Jarrett Jack, Kenneth Faried, Rudy Gobert. The reason why they're so low is more a lack of overall picks than anything else. They've only drafted 18 players in the last seventeen years who have logged minutes in the NBA.
- Memphis gets credit for Kevin Love, Shane Battier, Kyle Lowry, Mike Conley, Matt Barnes, and Kendrick Perkins. They don't get credit for Marc Gasol (drafted by LAL) and Pau Gasol (drafted by ATL).
- New Orleans franchise history only goes back to 2003, but they still did better than the Mavs.
- San Antonio only has 19 players on their list, and their score doesn't include Tim Duncan, who preceded the cut-off point for this list. Tony Parker accounts for 1080 games, though.