There’s a lot going on with the Dallas Mavericks this week and none of it is good. From Sports Illustrated’s report on the team’s “toxic culture” and the ensuing chaos of those horrifying revelations to the whopping $600,000 fine from the NBA pertaining to owner Mark Cuban’s comments about tanking, all of it bad news.
It comes during a dead time for NBA coverage, which has resulted in some baffling prognostication from members of the media. Some suggest that the NBA will attempt to force Cuban to sell the team. Others suggest that the pervasive “toxic culture,” the ensuing investigation, and its outcome will result in the loss of the first round draft pick this summer.
Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News even went so far as to say this:
The story is just starting to unfold. The investigation will take time. The NBA has months to consider its options. But it wouldn’t be entirely surprising if the Mavericks no longer own a spot in the first round in June. In fact, I suspect Cuban has a lot of work to do to prevent that very thing from happening.
He’s right about the timetable, but everything else is he says is frustratingly speculative, and it’s wrong when looking at NBA history.
There is a rule in the NBA constitution that allows the commissioner some leeway in assigning penalties for things not covered:
The Commissioner shall, wherever there is a rule for which no penalty is specifically fixed for violation thereof, have the authority to fix such penalty as in the Commissioner’s judgment shall be in the best interests of the Association.
But to make the assertion that losing a draft pick is in the realm of possibility is irresponsible.
The NBA has taken away draft picks exactly one time in recent NBA history. In 2000, the league fined the Minnesota Timberwolves and took away a crazy five first-round picks. That penalty hangs over every serious NBA infraction that occurs.
But remember: the league took those picks away because the Wolves attempted to circumvent free agency, which directly affects what happens on the basketball court. In fact, the threat of losing draft picks has always come as a result of major infractions that affect or could affect what happens on the court, like Magic Johnson repeatedly getting in trouble for talking about other teams’ players in the context of free agency.
Contrary to Mr. Cowlishaw’s opinion, taking away the first-round pick from the bottom-of-the-barrel Mavericks would be more than surprising. It would be outrageous.
What’s happened in Dallas is terrible. The incidents occurred in a business which directly pertains to basketball, but none of these horrendous events have anything to do with on-court play. To punish the Mavericks players and, as an extension, the fans, does not make sense. It’s largely why we haven’t seen draft pick related penalties since 2000.
There’s a lot more to news to come in following weeks and months. In the meantime, don’t fall down the rabbit hole of idle speculation. It doesn’t serve any purpose for our fandom. It only makes people upset and drives site traffic. Remember, we’re all in this mess together.