“I am power incarnate! To Galactus, nothing is impossible!” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds
For the first time in a long while, the Mavs have a sizable crop of rookies on the roster. Jae Crowder (who was selected with the 34th pick) has received the most attention. However, we shouldn’t immediately surmise that he’s the star selection of the trio; who knows what kind of player Bernard James or Jared Cunningham will develop into over the next year or two? Also, Crowder himself may level off as a player or might even continue to improve beyond our expectations. There’s simply no telling beyond our best guesses. If only we had a time machine, so we could glimpse into the future and get a sense of their fate.
Think about that for a second. You have a time machine, and let’s pretend you aren’t going to use it to kill Hitler or revisit household pets long since gone. Let’s pretend you can only use it as a general manager for the Dallas Mavericks. Fantasy draft spirals into the fantasy genre. What would you do? (Feel free to post in the comments.)
The ‘80s would be a good place to start. The Dallas Mavericks had several high draft picks — the 1st and 9th selections in 1981, 4th overall in 1982, 9th and 11th in 1983, 4th in 1984, 8th in 1985, and 7th in 1986. Credit should be given to Dallas Mavericks general manager Norm Sonju — he did well. There wasn’t really a dud in the bunch. The Mavs acquired Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackman, Bill Garnett, Dale Ellis, Derek Harper, Sam Perkins, Detlef Schrempf, and Roy Tarpley with those picks. Include the acquisition of James Donaldson, and you have a team that competed against Magic Johnson’s hall of fame Lakers to the seventh game in the Western Conference Finals in 1988.
But move over Norm Sonju; I have a time machine.
In 1981, the Mavs drafted Mark Aguirre.
Who they could have had: Isiah Thomas (2nd pick)
Isiah Thomas was a 12-time NBA All-Star and one of the great point guards of all time. There’s no doubt he could have done great things with the Mavericks. As a fan, I’m okay with this miss. Aguirre was a great player, and I always found Thomas to be annoying. But as a time traveling GM, I would draft Thomas and hope that he would become a better person by spending more time in Dallas than Detroit. Highly likely.
That year, the Mavs also drafted Rolando Blackman with their 9th pick. I don’t think there was a better player further down the draft list.
In 1982, the Mavs drafted Bill Garnett.
Who they could have had: Fat Lever (11th pick) or Dallas native Ricky Pierce (18th pick)
This draft class was a little boring, in my opinion. It would’ve been fun to have Fat Lever coming off the bench for Isiah Thomas, but instead Dallas got to enjoy Lever as a Maverick later in his career. Moving on…
In 1983, the Mavs drafted Dale Ellis and Derek Harper.
Who they could have had: Clyde Drexler (14th pick)
I would have loved seeing Clyde “The Glide” Drexler as a Maverick. He would’ve given Dallas a legitimately cool basketball presence, and one of the best finishers in the game with good defensive chops to boot.
This next two hurt a little more…
In 1984, the Mavs drafted Sam Perkins.
Who they could have had: Charles Barkley (5th pick)
Sam Perkins’ draft class was an impressive one. Immediately above him at the 3rd pick was some fellow named Michael Jordan, and immediately below was Charles Barkley. We never had a shot at Jordan, but you would have to imagine that Barkley, one of the greatest power forwards to ever walk, would have made the Mavericks a legitimate contender every year.
In 1985, the Mavs drafted Detlef Schrempf.
Who they could have had: Karl Malone (13th pick)
Why waste your time arguing who was the greatest power forward of the 80s and 90s — Barkley or Malone — when you can have both? At the same time, what would Malone have been without Stockton? To me, they seemed like one mega-player divided into two separate spatial entities. I also don’t exactly know how you build a team around two power forwards, but I have would have a fun time figuring it out. I would probably move Barkley a slotted small forward, but either way, I’d like to see anyone in this world stop that fast break.
In 1986, the Mavs drafted Roy Tarpley.
Who they could have had: Arvydas Sabonis (24th pick) or Dennis Rodman (27th pick).
Time travel is fickle, because I honestly believe Roy Tarpley was the best and most talented pick at the 7th spot. Unfortunately, drug abuse destroyed a promising career. If he could’ve stayed healthy and clean, there’s no doubt in my mind that the 90s wouldn’t have been so horrendous with Tarpley leading the team. Dallas needed a center, though, so I’ll go with Sabonis — even though Rodman in his prime would be a joy to watch with the Mavs.
To recap, with my time machine and general manager skills, your revisionist history ‘80s Mavericks consists of: Isiah Thomas, Rolando Blackman, Fat Lever, Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, and Arvydas Sabonis. Nice team, huh? Plus, in the ‘80s, it would’ve been a little easier to hold onto your star talent. Even if you could draft a super team in the present era, it’s difficult to keep that bunch beyond their rookie contracts.
Ironically, I still wonder how they would’ve held up against Magic Johnson’s Lakers, but I like our chances. (Are the Lakers are already in possession of a time machine? It’s worth exploring.) Speaking of Lakers, in case you were curious, in the 1996 NBA draft, the Mavs choose Samaki Walker with the 9th pick; Kobe Bryant went 13th.
David Hopkins is a freelance writer — a regular contributor to D Magazine and Smart Pop Books. All David wants for Christmas is a press pass for the Mavericks. Follow David on Twitter at @davidhopkins.