The Dallas Mavericks have the worst record in the NBA. Which is somewhat strange, since usually the Philadelphia 76ers hold on to that undistinguished honor. Yet at 3-13, Dallas is dead last in the standings.
The season is still somewhat young though and if Dallas gets healthy, it could still turn things around. That's at least what team owner Mark Cuban is betting on as he doesn't believe the Mavs should start tanking.
From SB Nation's Tim Cato:
"We'll play it by ear. The one thing you don't do is panic," Cuban said. "If we just can't get healthy, that will tell us one thing. If we can, and we're just not any good, that will tell us another thing. If we can, and we start rolling along, and we think we can get a lot better, then that tells us what we do there. The crazy thing you don't do is panic."
"We're still trying to win," Cuban said. "You see teams out there, and they're doing everything possible to lose in the fourth quarter. I don't think that's good for the players, good for the team, good for the culture. I just don't like that. You never say never if it came down to it, but I just don't see that helping any of our young guys at all."
He continued: "I don't see any Shaq's or LeBron's or Tim Duncan's in this draft. You just ignore the haters (who want the team to tank), let them bitch and go about your business."
Cuban is a boastful sort so it is not surprising to hear him still express faith in his team. Plus, it would be ungraceful of him to come out and say the Mavericks are losing on purpose. That would undermine coach Rick Carlisle and create a negative atmosphere in Dallas.
A large part of Dallas' struggles can be attributed to injuries. Deron Williams, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea have been injured, leaving the Mavs' relatively thin in the back court. And a lingering Achilles injury to Dirk Nowitzki has limited him to just five games, which has had a disastrous effect on the Mavs.
At 38 years old, Nowitzki is no longer the player he once was during his heyday but he is still quite effective on offense and is one of the Mavs' best players. Dallas also signed Harrison Barnes in the offseason to act as a No. 2 option next to Nowitzki. With the injury to Dirk, Barnes has been promoted to the main option. He has been playing well and is averaging career highs in points (20.8) and rebounds (5.8). However, Barnes hasn't been able to successfully lead Dallas all by himself.
Of course while Cuban doesn't want the Mavs to tank, that could simply happen without Dallas actively trying to bottom out. Right now, with all of the injuries in Dallas, the Mavs have had to give minutes to several of their young players like Justin Anderson, Dwight Powell, Seth Curry and rookie Dorian Finney-Smith, which in the long run should be beneficial but won't amount to much success this season.
Dallas has its own draft pick in 2017, which has the strong potential to become a high lottery pick if the Mavs keep losing. Sure, there may not be a Shaq or LeBron-type player in this year's draft but adding a promising young player with a lottery pick could help set Dallas up for a post-Nowitzki future.
This wasn't the plan though as Dallas hoped to continue to rely on Nowitzki and surround him with stronger complimentary players. Yet with all of the injuries and Nowitzki being limited, Dallas has to change course. It's not exactly tanking but the losses will continue to come frequently for the Mavs this season.