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Roundtable: the Mavericks’ biggest trade bust

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Nerlens Noel, Rajon Rondo, or Lamar Odom?

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Dallas Mavericks Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Mavericks have found themselves on the wrong end of trades in recent years, to put it nicely. More specifically, the Lamar Odom, Rajon Rondo and Nerlens Noel trades stand out as the biggest disappointments, given that each came with a good amount of hype. For a variety of reasons, none of those players worked out, and we asked our staff:

Which Mavericks trade was the biggest bust: Lamar Odom, Rajon Rondo or Nerlens Noel? Explain.

Ian Cobb (@SmitheeMMB): The answer can’t be Noel. Dallas gave up virtually nothing for a chance to rehabilitate his career after things went sour in Philly. I was very excited about the player, but even though it didn’t work out, it won’t end up costing the Mavs much beyond missing out on capitalizing on his talent. I wasn’t terribly thrilled about the Odom trade at the time, because giving up a first round pick for a 30+ year old bench piece who plays the same position as your best player just doesn’t do much for me as a concept, and because Odom’s 2010 season was obviously a fluke year. Still, it was pretty shocking to see how immediately Odom cratered, due to a variety of personal issues.

The biggest bust is Rondo, because not only did Dallas give up far more for him than the other two, but also because he was clearly the worst fit. The Mavericks began the 2014-15 season blitzing teams on offense with a floor spacing guard in Jameer Nelson next to Monta Ellis. Nelson was not a worldbeater, but he hit enough threes to keep defenses honest, while sharing ball-handling duties with Ellis so Dallas got the benefit of Monta’s slashing attack. Rondo was an upgrade over Jameer defensively, but he had been a train wreck the previous year and a half in Boston (being several major injuries removed from his heyday), and his profile couldn’t have been more different from Nelson: he couldn’t shoot, didn’t want to shoot, wouldn’t shoot, and he had come to expect the ball to be in his hands constantly, completely stifling the flow offense Carlisle had taught his players to execute so well. Rondo’s—shall we say—“unique” personality was just icing on the proverbial cake. And for all that trouble, Dallas gave up what would become the 16th pick in the draft, along with Jae Crowder and Brandan Wright. It doesn’t get much more disastrous than that.

Jordan Brodess (@Jbrodess): Noel doesn’t belong with these other two trades. I understand why, since it’s one of the few substantial trade moves they’ve made since winning the title. But they gave up pretty much nothing for a chance to see what a young center could do. When you’re in a rebuild you need to hit on moves like that, but only really if you’re giving up a major piece or two. The Mavs didn’t.

There was damage done from the other two trades, but the Rondo trade was in a moment when the Mavs were at least mildly relevant mid-season; and post trade everything felt entirely off balance. The pre-trade roster wasn’t going to make a deep run, but dang they were fun to watch. I’ll admit the idea made me excited at the time, even if I know the fit didn’t make sense.

Because of how un-fun they became, and what they had to give up to become un-fun, the Rondo trade is easily the worst. Guys like Crowder and BWright weren’t going to be superstars or lead them to a title. But when you give up young, interesting pieces and the core role players on the roster are removed, it’s hard to get those big fish to sign.

Dalton Trigg (@dalton_trigg): One of the reasons we even have to consider the Noel trade in this discussion is because Donnie Nelson called Noel a “Tyson Chandler starter kit” when the Mavs traded for him last year. No, they didn’t have to give up near as much to get Noel, but the expectations (at least early on) were still pretty high. Unlike the Odom/Rondo trades, where both players were older vets, Noel was a 23-year-old that seemingly had his best basketball ahead of him if he could stay healthy. So even though the Mavs didn’t actually have to give up a first rounder, the trade still has to be considered a big bust because of the expectations that were attached to it.

All that said, the Rondo trade has to be the biggest bust. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited for both the Odom and Rondo trades. I was less excited for the Odom trade because the Mavs let Tyson Chandler walk (the first time), and I knew Odom couldn’t make up for that on the defensive end. With the Rondo trade, I was convinced that the Mavs were going to be contenders. The Mavs were already flirting with the third/fourth seed in the West with Jameer Nelson running the point that season, but they were also pretty bad defensively. I was sure that Rondo was going to help fix that issue alongside Tyson Chandler (he was in his second one-year stint with the Mavs that year). Obviously none of that happened. It was a disaster, and I still have a feeling of regret just thinking about it to this day.

John Howe (@JohnHowe_NBA): I disagree with Dalton. We gave up nothing for Noel. And it’s too early to tell still, in my opinion.

The Dwight Powell trade turned out pretty well, all things considered. Wright hasn’t really done anything since the trade, Crowder wasn’t developing under Rick so it’s tough to say he was going to turn out how he did, all of which leaves Lamar Odom. We gave up value, and got absolutely nothing at all in return. Just terrible. Guy basically never played again upon the trade.