With the NBA draft approaching soon, I wanted to take a look back at every draft pick the Dallas Mavericks have made in the last ten years. It’s a chance to remember the successes and mistakes of the past, and also help understand why the Mavericks stand where they do today.
Here are the rules:
The player had to be drafted directly by the Mavericks or come to Dallas via a draft day trade. That means Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynyk, Mike Muscala, and Shake Milton, though good players at some point, are ineligible. I also only ranked players who logged minutes for the Mavericks. That means Satnam Singh and Tanguy Ngombo won’t make the list.
Let’s get to it:
No. 14: Ray Spalding
One minute. Spalding played literally one minute for the Dallas Mavericks. So he’s last, and I don’t think I’ll get any arguments there. Spalding, the 56th pick in the 2018 draft, came to Dallas in a draft day trade with the Philadelphia 76ers that sent Shake Milton to Philly. Spalding was cut by the Mavericks in early 2019, then spent some time with a few different teams. He last played for the Houston Rockets in 2021.
No. 13: Kostas Antetokounmpo
The last pick in the 2018 draft, Antetokounmpo played in only two games with the Mavericks, totaling only 11 minutes. He came to Dallas in the trade with Spalding. The cynics will say the Mavericks acquired Antetokounmpo to curry favor with his brother Giannis, who would be an impending free agent in 2021. Maybe that’s the case. Or maybe he was the best available player at the pick. Either way, his impact in Dallas was minimal.
No. 12: Tyrell Terry
The Mavericks tried to recreate the magic they found with Jalen Brunson in the second round by drafting Terry with the 31st pick. But Terry never found his place with the Mavericks, playing only 13 total games during his two seasons with Dallas. He never scored more than four points in a game with the Mavericks. He’s currently on the Memphis Grizzlies’ G-League team.
No. 11: Tyler Bey
Bey, the 36th pick in the draft, came to the Mavericks with Josh Richardson in a draft day trade that sent Seth Curry to the 76ers. He appeared in 18 games with the Mavericks while on a two-way contract. He signed with the Rockets in 2021, but never appeared in any games for a rebuilding Houston squad.
No. 10: A.J. Hammons
The 46th overall pick in 2016, the seven-foot tall Hammons only appeared in 22 games for the Mavericks. Dallas brought him in for big man depth, but he couldn’t carve out a place on a Mavericks team that just wasn’t very good. The Mavericks shipped him to the Miami Heat in 2017 in exchange for Josh McRoberts and a 2023 second round pick.
No. 9: Jared Cunningham
The 24th pick in the 2012 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Cunningham came to Dallas in a trade that also brought back Jae Crowder and Bernard James in exchange for Zeller and Kelenna Azubuike. Cunningham only appeared in eight games in a season where the Mavericks went 41-41. A young perimeter player on a team with plenty of veteran guards, he struggled to find minutes and was shipped out to the Atlanta Hawks the next season.
No. 8: Shane Larkin
The 18th pick in the 2013 draft, Larkin came to Dallas in a trade that sent Cunningham to the Hawks. Rick Carlisle, small guard aficionado, definitely gave the 5’11” Larkin every opportunity to succeed, and he appeared in 48 games for the Mavericks. But he only averaged a little less than three points per game for a pretty competitive Dallas squad. In 2014 he was sent to the New York Knicks in a deal that brought Tyson Chandler back to the Mavericks.
No. 7: Josh Green
The 18th pick in the 2020 draft, Green hasn’t had a significant stretch of good basketball in his career. He’s shown flashes, displaying some decent passing and high energy defense. But too often he looks as if he still hasn’t completely grasped NBA level basketball. Maybe in his third year he’ll grab a bigger spot in the rotation.
No. 6: Bernard James
The 33rd overall pick in the 2012 draft, James was brought to Dallas in a trade with Cleveland in order to provide big man depth. The Mavericks had lost Chandler to the Knicks in free agency, so they took a swing with James, who came into the league at age 27 due to his service time with the Air Force. The thought was that he would be ready to play at such an advanced age. But he never found his footing in three seasons with the Mavericks. Still, he was a fun player to have around.
No. 5: Justin Anderson
Anderson’s time in Dallas was short, but went pretty well. The 21st overall pick in the 2015 draft, Anderson played a season and a half for the Mavericks. His first season ended with a decent showing in the playoffs, averaging almost ten points and four rebounds per game in a first round loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Anderson continued improving, upping his scoring average from 3.8 points in his rookie season to 7.1 the next year. He was moved to the Philadelphia 76ers in a trade that brought Nerlens Noel to the Mavericks.
No. 4: Dennis Smith Jr.
The first lottery pick for the Mavericks since 2000, Smith was selected 9th overall in 2017. His first season in Dallas was a resounding success. Smith averaged 15 points per game and made the All-Rookie 2nd team. But the next season saw the arrival of Luka Doncic, and the Mavericks just couldn’t find a way for the two to coexist on the court (off the court they were close). Smith was shipped off to the Knicks in 2019 for a package that included Kristaps Porzingis. He finished last season on the Portland Trail Blazers.
No. 3: Jae Crowder
Crowder spent a little more than two seasons with Dallas, but it was clear he was going to be a winning player. He averaged a little under five points and two rebounds per game in his first two seasons with the Mavericks. Crowder was a key part of the Mavericks’ trade for Rajon Rondo in 2014. He flourished in his first half season with the Boston Celtics, averaging almost ten points per game in the final 57 games of the year. Crowder hasn’t racked up any individual awards, but he’s been a key piece for several championship contenders.
No. 2: Jalen Brunson
Taken with the third pick in the second round, Brunson has completely overshot his draft slot. He’s in line for a huge payday this offseason, and he deserves it. Not only did he post career highs in most stats this season, he saved the Mavericks’ season in the first round against the Utah Jazz. It’s easy to see why Brunson has been one of the most successful draft picks in Mavericks’ history.
No. 1: Luka Doncic
I don’t have much to explain here. Doncic might end up being the best pick in Mavericks’ history, but he’s not there yet. That’s still Dirk Nowitzki. For now, at least. But if Doncic keeps getting named to All-NBA teams and All-Star games, and of course, wins some championships, he’ll leap to the top. But he’s easily the best Mavericks draft pick in the last ten years. He might be the best draft pick in the entire NBA for the last decade.