For the first time since Mark Cuban became the owner, the Mavs have to start thinking about the draft lottery in January. Even with Dirk Nowitzki rounding back into shape, Dallas may have already dug too deep a hole through the first two months to get back into the playoff picture. According to John Hollinger’s Playoff Odds, the Mavs have a 0.1% chance of making the playoffs and they’ll need to hurdle the LA Lakers, Utah and Minnesota just to get to No. 9.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a Tim Duncan, LeBron James or even an Anthony Davis-type prospect in this year’s draft. However, just because there isn’t a franchise-changing player available doesn’t mean 2013 is a “weak draft”. So while Dallas may be tempted to shop their pick, unless they are blown away by an offer, they would be wise to upgrade their talent base with one of the many excellent prospects that might be available to them late in the lottery.
While the Mavs have been selling their fan base on using the cap flexibility they created two years ago to find another superstar, that ship has almost certainly sailed. Most of the players on the NBA’s “superstar carousel” have found long-term homes, while the two biggest prizes this summer — Chris Paul and Dwight Howard — are unlikely to choose Dallas over Los Angeles, especially when the Mavs have so few on-court assets to woo them with.
Dallas isn’t going to find a player who will make them a contender in the draft, but they can start accumulating assets that move them back towards respectability. Potentially, the slotted positions of three players in next year’s starting five appear spoken for, with Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion (who should be able to maintain his current level of production at small forward indefinitely) under contract and O.J. Mayo, whose elite shooting ability makes him a viable long-term answer at shooting guard, a potential returnee should he opt to become a free agent. And while finding a center in the draft who can contribute immediately is almost impossible, almost every draft has a few quality, NBA-ready point guards. The class of 2013 is no exception.