With Dirk Nowitzki on the tail end of his career, the Dallas Mavericks are without a true face of the franchise. The team had the chance to draft that kind of player four years ago, but the highest seat of Mavericks brass prevented it from happening.
During an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio, Dallas owner Mark Cuban revealed he was the reason the team didn’t draft Giannis Antentokounmpo in the 2013 NBA Draft. While the Mavericks front office certainly saw the potential in the “Greek Freak,” his unpolished game swayed Dallas elsewhere.
“It was me,” Cuban said. “Donnie (Nelson) was like, ‘OK, I’m putting my you-know-whats on the table.’ He was doing the Sam Cassell, Nick Van Exel dance. … It’s all in. And I’m like, ‘Donnie, we have this plan.’ Because even as good as the Greek Freak has turned out to be, he was still three years away, and we wanted to try to get somebody who could help get us to the top right there and then. Didn’t turn out that way, it is what it is, that happens.”
The Mavericks, who held the No. 13 pick that year, instead drafted Kelly Olynyk, who was immediately traded to the Boston Celtics in exchange for the No. 16 pick Lucas Nogueira and a pair of 2014 second-round picks. Antentokounmpo was selected two picks later at No. 15 by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Nogueira also was promptly traded by Dallas, as the Brazilian big man was dealt to the Atlanta Hawks in an effort to clear cap space for Dwight Howard. The Mavs failed in their effort to sign Howard in the summer of 2013, though, as the eight-time All-Star opted for another team in The Lone Star State, the Houston Rockets.
Given how Antetokounmpo has blossomed, we imagine Cuban is kicking himself for overruling Nelson. The Greek Freak had his breakout season in the 2016-17 campaign, averaging 22.2 points 8.8 rebounds and 5.4 assists. He also was named a starter on the Eastern Conference squad in his first All-Star Game appearance.
The Mavericks did find great value in Dennis Smith Jr. with the No. 9 pick in this year’s draft, so maybe that will help alleviate the pain of missing on Antentokounmpo a little bit.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images