During the 2013 NBA Draft, the Dallas Mavericks infamously passed on the ‘Greek Freak’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, instead opting to trade their pick at No. 13 to the Boston Celtics, selecting Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk in their place.
At the time, it was strategic, cost-cutting move by the Mavs who were looking to shed as much salary as possible in order to free up cap to make a run at free agent “big fish” including Dwight Howard. As you may remember, the Mavs had previously missed out on Deron Williams.
The Mavs received the 16th pick from Boston, eventually ending up with Shane Larkin and two future second-rounders. At the time, the 13th overall pick had a cap hold of $1,655,300, so trading back saved them somewhere in the neighborhood of $400,000.
Howard, of course, went on to sign a massive four-year, $88 million maximum contract with the Houston Rockets despite a three-hour sit-down meeting with the ‘win-now Mavs.’
Antetokunmpo went on to become one of league’s brightest and most emerging stars after falling to the Milwaukee Bucks just two picks after the Mavs, at No. 15, in a franchise-alter blessing move.
To date, Cuban and Co., have been rather coy about their decision to the pass on the mysterious Antetokunmpo, who was just 18 years-old at the time. Fast forward four years and the Athens, Greece native developed from a wiry, unknown kid with a sub-par midrange shot, to an athletic and explosive “Greek Freak” with 7’0” wingspan.
In 2017, he became an NBA All-Star, the League’s Most Improved Player, and an All-NBA Second member while averaging 22.9 points, 5.4 assists, and 8.8 rebounds.
So what exactly went into the Mavs decision to pass on Antetokounmpo in 2013?
Cuban joined Justin Termine and Brendan Haywood on Sirius XM NBA radio and reflected on the decision:
“Our guys were like we should take the “Greek Freak.” All we had were two [scouting] tapes. And someone would go to see him, but we were trying to get… that was the Dwight [Howard] year too. We’re trying, we have a plan, we’re going to stick to it. We thought we had a good shot. Didn’t turn out that way.”
Question: How close were you to getting the ‘Greek Freak’?
“We could have picked him and everybody gives me a hard time now.”
Question: Who made the final call was it you?
“It was me. Donnie [Nelson] was like, ‘Okay, I’m putting my you-know-whats on the table.’ He was doing the Sam Cassell, Nick Van-Exel dance…
It’s all in and I’m like, ‘Donnie, we have this plan.’ Because even as good as the ‘Greek Freak’ has turned out to be, he was still three years away, and we wanted to try to get somebody who could help get us to the top right there and then. Didn’t turn out that way, it is what it is, that happens. In 17 year, it was our first losing season.”
Finally, Cuban comes clean. Nelson wanted Giannis, but for Cuban, it didn’t fit the plan for the ‘win now Mavs.’
Dallas went on to have their worst as a franchise since 1998.
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