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Cuban: “Losing is probably our best option”

Cuban: “Losing is probably our best option”

For those who have been watching the Dallas Mavericks the last month or so, team owner Mark Cuban’s words today come as no surprise. Dallas clearly has pulled itself out of the playoff race and has opted to push forward with its youth movement for the final half of the season as the Mavericks aim to position themselves for a high pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Cuban’s comments came on the inaugural “House Call with Dr. J” podcast (found here) in which he said the following:

There’s a lot to pick apart there. First, let’s start with what we know.

Dallas is 18-40. The chase for a playoff spot is over. It’s time to play the younger players and, though Cuban rarely uses the word, for the Mavericks to “tank” towards the bottom of the standings as they aim to complete their young “nucleus”, meaning Dennis Smith Jr. and one more stud rookie.

Cuban is probably the most transparent owner I’ve seen in the NBA. It’s extremely rare for someone in his position to make an admission of this magnitude especially when it goes so against what you’ve previously stated about your culture and things that the organization prioritizes the most.

Donnie Nelson and Cuban both called the Devin Harris-for-Doug McDermott trade “excruciating”, revealing just how difficult it has been for Dallas to leave no stone unturned in the quest for building its youth movement, even at the expense of some of its most beloved veterans.

Cuban said he wants to always be transparent with his players and organization even if they “hate hearing” what he has to say, which was clearly the case when he told them at the aforementioned dinner that “losing is our best option right now.”

Let that sink in. Though even the casual Mavericks observer has noticed Dallas is clearly prioritizing youth and building towards a Dennis Smith Jr.-led future, for Cuban to come out and say that losing is the best way forward is significant.

The other big thing in Cuban’s quote is that this is apparently the last year Dallas will “tank.” When Cuban says “this will be a year and a half of tanking and that’s too brutal for me,” you’re getting a preview of what next year will be, even with two members of Dallas’ “nucleus” being very, very young.

Cuban is saying here, in not-so-subtle terms, that the Mavericks will push for the playoffs next year. Like, all season. The tank stops this summer.

This is another huge admission on the part of the Mavericks, but we’ve always suspected this rebuild was going to be quick even though opinions vary on how long this will actually take to produce results.

If you’ve watched Smith at all this year, him and every veteran left on Dallas are ready to win now and they will be even more so next year after what figures to end as a 25-to-30 win season this year. Personally, I’m excited to see an even more well-integrated Smith start what Mavericks’ fans hope will be many runs to the playoffs.

So, back to Cuban’s quote. If the priority in the draft is to get “part 2” of the young nucleus (by the way, those are Nelson’s words) and then to start “trying” to win, you can start to get an idea of what Dallas will do with its abundance of cap space this summer.

Depending on how things fall, the Mavericks could end up with north of $25 million in cap space, enough to potentially money-whip a potential young stud like Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle or Jabari Parker or, at least, make it very hard for their cap-crunched current teams so that they have to sweat out a very tough decision.

Will Dallas value more veteran pieces in free agency to aid in Smith Jr.’s first quest for the playoffs next year? The Mavericks’ plan to absorb salary for picks went by the wayside before the trade deadline, but it could still prove viable in the summer as Wesley Matthews potentially opts in to his final deal and becomes an even more attractive trade prospect. The point has always been, at least for the last two years, for Dallas to have the utmost of flexibility for the summer of 2018.

So here we are, as Cuban himself said. Dallas openly expects its young players to try to win the games it has remaining this season, that is the Maverick way after all, but the Mavericks are leaving no doubt as to what is most important as the 2017-18 campaign comes to a close.

 

I'm Zack Cunningham, a broadcast journalism major from Abilene Christian University's class of 2008. I've lived in Texas for 28 of my 31 years on this Earth and I've followed the Mavericks since 1998. My first memory of them was the 2001 playoffs and being extremely happy when they beat the Jazz, but sad when they lost to the Spurs in five games in the conference semifinals. However, seeing Dirk drop 42 stands out to me, punctuated by his dunk in garbage time. I covered high school sports for the Cleburne Times-Review from 2008-12 before moving into the tech industry. Most recently, in 2015 covered the Mavericks for the Fanatic briefly before moving to work with Mike Fisher at DallasBasketball.com. I am married to my beautiful wife, Jessica, and have been for just over five years now. We live in Carrollton with our dog, Zara, and cat, Drake. I'm looking forward to covering them again this season with the Fanatic!

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