Do The Mavs Really Strike International Gold?

There is a piece of 'accepted wisdom' that my colleague Mike Fisher writes about often. National observers of the Mavs do the same. Dallas is credited with being 'the best franchise in basketball when it comes to knowledge of and connections with overseas players' and I'm wondering whether that's at all true.

Fish's recent piece on the Dallas Mavericks' interest in Dario Saric includes this paragraph:

"The Mavs remain the best franchise in basketball when it comes to knowledge of and connections with overseas players. The rest of the NBA is catching up to GM Donnie Nelson in that department, but..."


My question: How is that still true?

The Mavs certainly struck gold with Dirk Nowitzki more than 15 years ago. And they certainly continue taking stabs at recreating that golden feeling. (Oh, and Fish does an unmatched job at sniffing around Dallas' interest in prospects, as you can see by perusing's pre-draft coverage here.) But post-Dirk, have we seen any evidence to demonstrate any sort of mastery or superiority in international talent recognition for the Mavs?

The "deep connection'' part, in terms of history? I buy that. The Mavs in Eastern Europe, in Africa, in China ... this organization helped construct those NBA bridges.


And maybe, besides Fish "Washing Donnie's Truck,'' that's why these words represent an "accepted wisdom" that continues to reverberate.

But scouting, especially, is (or should be) a "what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business. And if you look around the NBA, you will see in fact that it's the Spurs who are head-and-shoulders above the pack and above the Mavs in that area -- and I think that has been the case for a very long time.

San Antonio continues to find one useful player after another from outside the US and even finds stars in that manner.

Meanwhile, I'm having a hard time seeing how the Mavs have shown anything positive in international talent-acquisition since Dirk.

Here's a quick look at the Mavs' international track record since Dirk, with my one-word review of each pickup:

Antsey - whiff
Sundov - whiff
Zhizhi - whiff
Rigaudeau - whiff
Sekularac - whiff [picked immediately before Luis Scola, interestingly]
Yuyang - whiff
Mbenga - meh
Podkolzin - whiff [picked a few picks before Varejao, interestingly]
Stefansson - whiff
Seibutis - whiff
Beaubois - whiff (in the end)
Mekel - ?

In addition, we have seen one hidden gem after another come from overseas to the US, cheap, in the second round, or a free agent, but it seems to me it's never the Mavs who found them.

If the Mavs are "the experts in this field,'' how can this be?

I could list the SA forays into international waters over the same time period, but it would just make me sick. Anyway, I'm trying to figure out how Donnie's international contacts have somehow been benefiting the Mavs in actual production on the floor, and I don't see it at all.

To some degree, I believe the Mavs' reputation here is still surfing off the acquisition of Dirk ... and a time when it was notable that the roster included a Mexican forward, a Chinese center, a Canadian point guard, a German forward and a French swingman.


I wouldn't discourage Dallas from continuing to search under every stone for talent. Germany's Niels Giffey? Fine. Russia's Artem Klimenko? Super. Go for it. (Meanwhile, the US probably has worthy talent as well. So go for that too.)

Dallas' international connections have resulted in lots of players, yes. But that's different than a result of lots of players who can play.

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