It happens to every team.
Sometimes, it’s fate dealing a crummy batch of cards to you. Other times, it’s a self-inflicted wound, like not paying enough attention to what’s available.
And, of course, sometimes stuff just happens.
Whatever the case, there are always drafts when a team looks back a few years later and would give anything for a mulligan. With this series, we’ll take a look at the five biggest NBA draft regrets the Mavericks have from the 1980s, 1990s and from 2000s.
We had some fun looking back at the ’80s and ’90s, where there was abundant fodder to point out the misfires in the draft. Now we’re at 2000 and beyond, where the Mavericks generally were picking very low in the draft. For that reason, expectations have to be lowered.
Still, there were some botched drafts. Here’s our top five regrets since 2000:
5. Mo Ager (No. 28 pick in 2006)
Picking 28th usually means you’re grabbing at straws. But at least you hope to get a straw that is at least somewhat functional. But Ager never cracked the rotation and spent a lot of time in the D-League. He did serve one function, however. He was a part of the big trade (Devin Harris was the primary piece) to get Jason Kidd from New Jersey. If they could do it again? P.J. Tucker and Steve Novak went shortly after Ager, but if the Mavericks had the benefit of hindsight, they’d take a second-round guy by the name of Paul Millsap.
4. Jordan Hamilton (No. 26 pick in 2011)
You’ve heard the expression that something is better than nothing, right? Well, the Mavericks got exactly nothing out of this draft. They took Hamilton knowing they were going to trade him to Denver (via Portland) and end up with shooting guard Rudy Fernandez, who had been with the Blazers. Fernandez refused to play for the Mavericks and they ended up shipping him to Denver. It was a wasted draft. If they could do it again? It’s a no-brainer. Jimmy Butler was taken four picks after Hamilton. He’s been named to multiple all-star teams. And a little guy named Isaiah Thomas went last in the second round, but the whole league misfired on him.
3. Etan Thomas (No. 16 pick in 2000)
He never played for the Mavericks, but he did serve a purpose. He was included in the trade for Juwan Howard from Washington. Thomas actually had a functional stretch of seasons with the Wizards while Howard had a decent year with the Mavericks before he was sent to Denver in the deal that brought Nick Van Exel, Raef LaFrentz and Avery Johnson. Overall, this was more maneuvering in the Don Nelson house-cleaning that set up the Dirk Nowitzki/Steve Nash/Michael Finley run. So it wasn’t a bust. However … if they could do it again? In an epically bad draft, if they were going to take a big man, Jamaal Magloire was taken seven picks after Thomas and was an all-star. Hedo Turkoglu went five picks after Thomas.
2. Tyler Zeller (No. 17 pick in 2012)
Oh, dear. This draft triggered a chain reaction of events that were, in the end, pretty dreadful for the Mavericks. Follow us for a moment. First, they took Zeller but traded him down to get the No. 24 pick and the Nos. 33 and 34 picks from Cleveland. Jared Cunningham was a bust. But the two second-round choices yielded Bernard James and Jae Crowder. This sounds like good news, but the Crowder pick ended up going to Boston in the Rajon Rondo trade. And we all know how that turned out. For those who don’t, it was awful. If they could do it again? As some people suggested at the time, there was a versatile, 6-8 player from Michigan State who could pass, score and rebound. Not taking Draymond Green is a franchise-shifting mistake. He went the pick after Crowder.
1. Kelly Olynyk (No. 13 pick in 2013)
Good grief, what a disaster. The Mavericks took Olynyk and turned around to send him to Boston for the Celtics’ pick at No. 19. The Mavs ultimately ended up with Atlanta’s pick, No. 18 Shane Larkin. Keeping Olynyk would have been far preferable. But if they were determined to take a point guard, Dennis Schroder was on the board when the Mavericks took Olynyk. But that’s nothing compared to the miscalculation made in this draft. If they could do it again? Two picks after Olynyk was selected, the Milwaukee Bucks took a chance on a Greek Freak by the name of Giannis Antetokuonmpo. He’s turned into one of the most feared players in the league. Oh, what could have been with the Freak alongside Dirk for a couple of quality seasons.
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