Two games into their three-game trip to the West Coast, most would be thrilled that the Mavericks would be 1-1 in them. They just didn’t expect the one win to be in the first game.
But thanks to Monta Ellis’ heroics, the Mavs got out of Portland with perhaps the biggest statement of a win they’ve had this season. Of course, I’m writing this just minutes after they followed that with a disappointing performance in Sacramento.
Despite that, and despite having to play more back-to-backs in the first month than any other team, the Mavericks have managed to stay above .500 at 13-9 and just a couple of games from going from the seventh spot in the west to the top four.
Not bad for a team that some people wanted to forfeit all integrity and tank this season for a top draft pick that would guarantee to single-handedly transform them from a lottery team to champions overnight.
And how are those top draft picks that those other teams SUPPOSEDLY tanked for doing?
Three of the top five picks in the last draft are currently averaging less than three points per game. That includes Anthony Bennett, who may already be challenging for the worst number one draft pick in NBA history, as he has yet to start a game for the Cavaliers and just recently bumped his scoring average up to 2.1 points per game. Alex Len is doing even worse than that at 1.8 ppg.
Now maybe it isn’t fair to include Otto Porter, since he was just recently activated after starting the season injured. But we’re still talking about the third overall pick, who didn’t score a point in his first two games with the Wizards.
And he’s already guaranteed to have played more games than Nerlens Noel, who was supposed to have been the number one pick before his ACL tear at Kentucky dropped him all the way down to sixth. The 76ers will have to wait until 2014 to see if he was worth getting in a trade from New Orleans.
Not good when Victor Oladipo, the second overall pick for the Magic, is currently the leading scorer among the top five at a whopping 13.6 points per game. Surely he has already made the people in Orlando forget all about Dwight Howard.
Heck, the Mavs have yet to get much of anything from the guy they ultimately got out of the draft, as Shane Larkin is only averaging 2.9 points in 12.2 minutes. Yet here the Mavs are with a better record than any of those teams with a top five pick.
Of course, maybe the past draft was just a bad year. The belief that the college ranks currently have one of their best crops of freshmen talent in history will surely lead to people claiming next year’s draft class will be much better.
To which I will steal a line from WWE star The Miz and say, “Really? REALLY?”
We’re really going to just believe that this class of freshmen coming out to the NBA after just one year is going to be the group that takes the league to the next level?
Because here’s the real truth: In today’s draft, you’re much more likely to get a dud than a stud. And it will continue to be like that, possibly getting worse, as long as players go straight from college to the big leagues well before they’re ready.
The problem isn’t the talent level; it’s the fact that too many wet-eared kids are so eager to legally get paid that they jump into the fire too soon and their team owners/coaches won’t have the patience to put them on a D-League team where they need to start.
This is all getting into territory for a different column that I should put together at some point in the future, so I should probably pull back for now.
The main point is, the performances of the class of 2013, even at this early stage, shows the Mavs did the right thing in not packing it in to conclude last season just to get a better pick. And tanking again this year would have not given them any better of a chance.
Instead, they went and did what Donnie Nelson usually does best; look for shrewd trades and other acquisitions. Not deterred from the fact that last year didn’t work out (and an injury to one Mr. Nowitzki had quite a bit to do with that), they tried again. And so far, despite again getting hit with injuries to the likes of Devin Harris and Brandon Wright, the group of Monta and Company has managed to keep the Mavericks in the playoff picture for at least the first six weeks of the season.
But more than that, they’ve maintained their integrity by refusing to tank. And that for their fan base is invaluable.