The Kyrie trade has not paid dividends yet. Is Mark Cuban playing it smart?
The Dallas Mavericks have been fined $750k by the NBA for tanking a game against the Chicago Bulls. In a statement, the NBA elaborated by indicating the Mavs had violated the league’s “player resting policy and demonstrated through actions and public statements the organization’s desire to lose the game in order to improve the chances of keeping its first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.” In terms of the actual game, “the league did not find that the players who participated in the game were not playing to win.”
This isn’t the first time the Mavs have been fined for tanking and publicly admitting it. In 2018, Mavs governor Mark Cuban was fined $600k for the same thing. This eventually led to them drafting generational talent Luka Doncic.
Fast-forward to now. On the 81st game of the season against the Chicago Bulls, when Dallas still has a chance to make the playoffs, they decide to throw in the towel. Not playing to win? That’s bullshit, no pun intended. This is clearly a situation where the business of sports undermines the integrity of the game and its competitors. I don’t like it at all, and it’s a bad look for the NBA.
Best Option for Dallas?
At the end of the day, this decision was Cuban’s and head coach Jason Kidd obliged. Cuban has failed to surround Luka with proper talent and might feel he is running out of options. With the Kristaps Porzingis trade disaster, the Mavs have traded their first-round pick to NY unless it falls in the top 10, then they can keep it. So Cuban decided to lose, or put his team in a situation highly conducive to losing, and up his organization's chances of keeping that top-10 pick to almost 80 percent. There is still over a 20 percent chance the Mavs do not get that pick, but Cuban decided to roll the dice on it; quite possibly a smart business decision when you see how bad the team has been since the Kyrie Irving trade. Hate to say I told you so…
Look at his first option: get the 10-seed, maybe win two play-in games to become an 8-seed, to then get trounced by Denver? Doesn’t sound fun. Or lose, keep your key players healthy, and maybe snag a top-10. Is this a “chess not checkers” play here?
NBA Tanking: Shitty and Smart
Apparently, Luka and Kyrie were asked to tank earlier on and said no. Major props to them for staying true to the game and, honestly, I’m a bit surprised Kyrie declined. Sometimes it seems like basketball is at the bottom of his list of priorities. At least we know the franchise player wants to play to win no matter what. It’s also wild to see this Dallas Mavericks team was in the WCF last year and now are in the lottery. Two steps back...at least. If Cuban’s gamble works, however, tanking one game and dropping $750k for a good pick will be two steps forward. Time will tell.
Telling your team to tank sucks, don’t get me wrong. I’d be pissed if I gave my hard-earned money to the Mavs and watched a shitty game. Incentive to lose makes for a bad product on the court and a bad fan experience. Mark Cuban may look like the offender here, but I’ll argue that maybe the problem lies within the NBA’s lottery system.