With his team in a rebuilding phase, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has addressed the topic of tanking frequently during the last two seasons, and did so again during a recent appearance on Julius Erving’s House Call with Dr. J podcast. As detailed by The Dallas Morning News, Cuban admitted that he recently told the Mavs it would be in the team’s best long-term interest to keep piling up losses this season.
“I’m probably not supposed to say this, but I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night and here we are, you know, we weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, ‘Look, losing is our best option,'” Cuban said. “[Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again, this was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that’s the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability.”
One of six teams with an NBA-low 18 wins so far this season, the Mavericks are out of the playoff hunt and are currently engaged in a race for lottery positioning. A brief hot streak during the season’s final two months could ultimately drop Dallas by several spots in this year’s draft and cost the club a chance at a franchise player, so it makes sense that Cuban would make the case for the merits of losing.
Still, the Mavericks owner has indicated in the past that the idea of tanking leaves a bad taste in his mouth. After declaring early in the 2016/17 season that the Mavs had no interest in tanking, Cuban admitted at season’s end that his club had tanked down the stretch, once it was clear the playoffs were out of reach.
After the Mavs got off to a 2-10 start this season, Cuban expressed a similar sentiment, adamantly insisting that they wouldn’t tank — at least until they were out of contention for the postseason. At 18-40, Dallas hasn’t technically been eliminated yet, but the team has no real chance to catch the eighth-seeded Pelicans (31-26). So, while the players themselves won’t try to lose, we should expect to see the Mavs playing their veterans less and their youngsters more in the coming weeks.
The NBA will implement changes to the draft lottery in 2019 that will reduce the odds of the league’s three worst teams landing a top-three pick. In the new format, the NBA’s worst team will have a 14% chance to land the No. 1 pick, while the sixth-worst team will have a 9% chance. Under the current format, those odds are 25% and 6.3% respectively, so it will be interesting to see how that impacts the race to the bottom for the Mavs and the NBA’s other cellar-dwellers this spring.