Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Mavericks Drafting Slump

250px-donnie_nelsonOn Friday, I leave for a week, so before I go on vacation, I think I better touch on a few draft-related topics regarding the Stars and the Mavericks. Today, a look at the recent work of Donnie Nelson and the Mavericks in the last 5 years of the NBA Draft.

I picked 5 years for a few reasons. I wanted the sample size to be large enough to get a good idea of how Donnie has done, while at the same time getting past the year the Mavericks found Josh Howard and Marquis Daniels in 2003. We get it. That was a great accomplishment to find those two gems, but Howard will be 30 this season, so it is time we ask whether or not this team is replenishing the youth supplies often enough in the draft.

Donnie Nelson has done a fine job overall in my estimation, and will forever be lauded as a guy who found 2 MVP's when nobody else could (a 3rd-string PG in Phoenix, and another that was selected behind Raef Lafrentz and Robert Traylor). Name any GM that has found 2 MVPs - and "finding" does not mean winning the lottery and taking the guy everyone would have taken (Duncan, O'Neal, James) - and you will find a GM that will never need a job. Nobody questions Donnie's overall performance, but I believe below you will see why I question the quality of the last 5 drafts.

Also, to position this correctly, we need to remember that the Mavericks during this 5-year stretch have not been trying to rebuild, but rather they have been trying to win a title. Sometimes, that has resulted in some "win now" decisions that have given up many draft picks. Dampier cost 2 #1's, Kidd cost 2 #1's. Trading 4 1st rounders is obviously going to cost you lots of young talent - but you do what you have to do to try to win a ring. I accept much of that logic. But, are they doing enough with the later picks they still had? I recall in at least 2 of these drafts that the Mavs front office told us that they had no room on their roster for their picks due to cap situations. Regardless, with a real shortage of young talent, most of us would conclude that the Mavericks are in the situation they are in right now (with their top 5 players all over 29 years old) partly because they have not done a great job in decision making in the last 5 years. Anyone can point at the Devin Harris trade, but let's try to dig a bit deeper.


This was the draft that was surrounded by the Steve Nash-to-Phoenix story, with the drafting of Devin Harris at first sold to us as "a kid to learn behind Nash" to a week later being "Nash's replacement". They were able to get Harris (The #5 pick) along with Christian Laettner and Jerry Stackhouse in exchange for Antawn Jamison and cash.

Two other trades involved first round picks for the Mavs that year that should not be over-looked.

#1 - The Mavericks traded their 2005 #1 pick to Utah for their pick, the #21 pick in the 1st round. With that pick, the Mavericks drafted the biggest project in the field, Pavel Podkolzin. The 7'5 center played in 6 games in his NBA career, and never scored a basket.

Players taken in the next 9 picks after Podkolzin include: Delonte West, Tony Allen, Kevin Martin, Sasha Vujacic, Beno Udrih, and Anderson Varejao. That's right. 6 of the next 9 players are all NBA regulars in 2009 (with some being better than that) and the Mavericks took an international chance on a giant. Miss.

#2 - The Mavericks actually did own the #24 pick in this draft, until they traded it to Boston as part of the Antoine Walker deal in 2003. The 24th pick was that same Delonte West.

Then, in the late summer of 2004, the Mavericks completed the trade sending Christian Laettner, Eduardo Najera, stuff, and 2 1st rounders for Erick Dampier, Dan Dickau, Evan Eschmeyer, and stuff.


Because of the 2004 Podkolzin trade, the Mavs didn't have to concern themselves with a 1st round pick. Had they not made the Pavel trade, they would have picked #27, where Linas Kleiza went to the Blazers. David Lee went to the Knicks at #30 so a player who averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds last season might have been of interest to the Mavericks there. Ronny Turiaf and Monta Ellis also were in the area after the Mavs would have picked.

One other note; In December of 2004, the Mavericks traded Dickau and a 2nd in '05 for Darrell Armstrong. That 2nd turned into Marcin Gortat the back-up center of the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals this year.


The 2006 draft was pretty weak all the way through, led by Andrea Bargnani and Adam Morrison in the top 3. The Mavericks retained their top pick at #28 where they snagged 4-year college player Maurice Ager from Michigan State. He played in 44 games for the Mavericks in his career and scored 84 points. He was included in the Jason Kidd trade in 2008, and hangs in the league by a thread.

I would like to second guess the pick of Ager, but honestly, Mardy Collins, Joel Freeland, James White, Steve Novak, and Solomon Jones were the next 5 picks. There really wasn't anyone in this draft. Daniel Gibson, Paul Millsap, and Leon Powe did all go later (as did Ryan Hollins!) but 2006 was weak.

Their 2nd round pick (#58) was JR Pinnock, who they traded that night to the Lakers for their 2nd rounder in '07.


In 2007, the Erick Dampier trade took away the 1st round pick (#30). Interestingly enough, the Mavericks were able to get #34 in that draft back for Anthony Johnson from Atlanta. At #34, the Mavs grabbed Nick Fazekas another 4-year college player, and another 6'11 perimeter shooter. Miss. At #35, Glen "Big Baby" Davis went to Boston, and is looking more and more like a quality player. Fazekas played 4 games for the Mavericks and scored 4 points.

Later in the 2nd round, the Mavericks snuck up to #44 to grab Reyshawn Terry - another 4-year college player, and then released him in the 2008 training camp. Sadly, the Mavs missed at #48, center Marc Gasol. It is my premise that Marc Gasol would instantly be the best center on the Mavericks if he were to join the team. Not a real stretch.

At #50, the Mavericks used the pick they got from the Lakers to draft Renaldas Seibutis from Lithuania. This summer, he remains overseas, as the Mavericks are rumored to be interested in Bucks' restricted free-agent Ramon Sessions, who the Bucks selected at #56 in that draft.


Ah yes, the first of the two first-round picks that the Mavericks surrendered for Jason Kidd. The pick ended up being the #21 pick in the 1st round, and the Nets used the pick for Ryan Anderson, a forward from California. The 21-year old had a reasonable rookie year. Right behind him, at #22, the Orlando Magic snagged Courtney Lee, who you also may recall from the NBA Finals. In the next dozen or so picks, George Hill and Mario Chalmers also went off the board if you need a young PG.

At #51, the Mavericks finally got to pick. They used it on 4-year college player, Shan Foster. Despite the Mavs desperately needing youth and help on their roster, he spent the year in Italy. The jury is out on him. At #55, the Clippers found explosive guard Mike Taylor, but it would be a stretch to claim they got this one wrong this soon.


The last 5 drafts have netted the Mavericks almost nothing. They have missed on the international and the domestic 4-year college player over and over. They have missed many gems taken all around them.

Since Josh Howard, the Mavericks have selected 8 players. The best of the bunch is Maurice Ager. He was horrible. That should tell you plenty about the Mavericks on draft day since 2003.

Have the Mavs had great spots to pick? No. But I hope this study has shown there are always players available of quality regardless of where you pick.

The Mavs can find talent. They found Brandon Bass and JJ Barea for nothing. But, on draft day, they must get better.

In 2009, the Mavericks hold the #22 pick. They also held the #52 pick, but traded that, as well as the 2010 2nd and Eddie Jones for Shawne Williams (remember him?). They also owe New Jersey their 1st rounder in 2010 to close the books on the Kidd deal. They must get #22 right. And with reports that other teams are happy to sell their picks, the Mavs should pounce and replenish the youth. They need it pretty badly.

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