DONUT 1: LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY
It wasn’t that long ago that the Dallas Mavericks had just beaten the Cavaliers, the Spurs, and a Trailblazers team that was, at the time, just ahead of them with Denver for the 8th seed in the West.
After starting the season a franchise-worst 0-5, after a miserable 4-17 start over the first 21 games ... the Mavs had put together a stretch of basketball where they went 11-5 from January 12th to February 11th.
If the Mavs had managed just two more wins, as long as one of them was vs. Denver, they’d have temporarily nudged their once-broken season into the 8th seed in the Western conference.
Team Lotto, Team Draft Pick, Team Tank - MY team - we were starting to sweat.
DONUT 2: DENVER IS WHAT DALLAS ISN'T
But, Denver demolished the Mavericks on February 6th. Portland edged them by a point the following night. They beat a pretty good Jazz team, destroyed the Magic ... but then lost quietly to Boston and Detroit to head into the All-Star Break.
While they were losing, Denver kept winning just enough (including a dominating win over the Warriors) to turn a 1.5-game lead into a 3-game lead.
Team Draft Pick was picking up steam again, bolstered by a surprise trade by Denver and Portland that netted the Nuggets a young and solid Mason Plumlee. His 11.1 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game were a clear upgrade over his replacement, and he put up almost exactly those numbers in a loss to the T-Wolves in his debut.
Does the addition of Plumlee make Denver a great team? No. Does it make them better? Absolutely.
DONUT 3: WHAT EIGHTH GETS YOU
In the 2016-2017 Western Conference, you only need to be a little bit better than "OK" to hang on to a very lackluster 8th seed (and a first-round demolition by the Golden State Warriors).
If you’re a Mavs fan, or a Mavs front-office guy, you should’ve already been looking toward the future -- not toward an embarrassing Globetrotters-vs.-Generals first-round matchup. Once the Mavs lost four of their last six games leading into the All-Star Break, they should’ve tilted even further towards blowing things up and selling off what few assets they could.
The Denver trade - especially after Denver ate the Mavs up without an extra big man - tipped that needle even further toward the inevitable.
At that point, everyone should’ve been ready to sell old guys, collect solid (read cheap and expiring) contracts, and stack some draft picks. It was time to move players and exchange them for assets.
DONUT 4: THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE
Then the Louisiana Purchase 2.0 happened, and the needle didn’t just tip towards “sell” ... it shot past it and buried itself on the other side.
The facts are pretty clear: The Mavericks are 22-34, they’re in 12th place in the Western Conference, and they’re in 24th place in the NBA. They’re three games behind Denver, who has beaten them two out of three times this season.
Meanwhile, the New Orleans Pelicans are 23-34, they’re 2.5 games behind Denver, who they did lose to on opening day -- but they still have three games left against them in the second half of the season.
DONUT 5: FIRST-HAND SCARE
If you think the historically-bad 0-5 start for the Mavs skews their actual talent, you’d be right. But, then I’d have to tell you that the Pelicans started this season 0-8 before getting their first win.
The Pelicans were 4-2 over the last six games before the All-Star Break, but they just watched Anthony Davis re-establish his presence with a 10-game stretch that saw him average 27.2 points per game, 11.5 boards, and 3 blocks.
Oh, and they just traded away a turned-out pocket and an empty promise to bring in DeMarcus Cousins -- one of the top three big men in the NBA.
I was dubious that the Mavericks could catch the slightly better Nuggets. I certainly don’t see how they can catch a New Orleans team that was almost as talented as them BEFORE they traded for a top-20 player.
(Dallas resumes play on Friday at Minnesota and then on Saturday is back home at the AAC for a firsthand look at the new-look Pelicans. Scary.)
DONUT 6: THE LEGIT TRADE SCENARIOS
Fish, here on Twitter and here with the rest of us MFFL on DBcom Boards, is keeping everyone advised about all of the possible trade stuff -- from the probable, to the incredulous. There are suitors for Deron Williams (click here for all the D-Will stuff) and there are suitors for Andrew Bogut (click here for all that info) right now that range in probability and value.
DONUT 7: THE, ER, LESS LEGIT TRADE SCENARIOS
And, entertainingly, we have detailed offerings on Kevin Love, Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose, too.
Hey, sometimes information on the stuff that's not gonna happen can be as educational as the stuff that might.
DONUT 8: A REBUILD BLUEPRINT
I’m not here to speculate on who moves, who should move, or what/who the Mavs should or might get back.
I read David Lord pieces like this outstanding one, on a Mavs Summer Blueprint For Rebuilding. I see him doing the research, the homework at the math to use new CBA rules to tell me stuff like this (click here).
And I come away not mad at Dallas, but rather, hopeful that it can pull off what D-Lord is suggesting here.
I must add: The very best Mavs-related journalism, including the challenge of deadline journalism, is here at DallasBasketball.com. I'm proud to recommend these two pieces as proof:
Hey, enjoy DallasBasketball.com however you wish ... free, subscription, whatever. (Yesterday, more than 50,000 Mavs fans read the site.) But know that for 10 cents a day, your subscription supports this sort of effort, content, detail, excellence. Please consider a Mavs Premium subscription.
DONUT 9: DON'T GET MAD, GET ... REBUILT
Now, back to my point. What I am saying, without a doubt, is that it’s time to embrace Team Tank and it’s time to embrace the sweet trust-fall into the lottery.
There was an outside chance that the Mavericks could play well enough, get enough lucky bounces, and see Denver, Portland, Sacramento and New Orleans (as each was previously constructed) to get into the playoffs. It was a very unlikely outside chance, but there was one.
They may still finish this season ahead of the now tank-ready Sacramento—but even if Denver, Portland or New Orleans somehow implodes enough to let the Mavs sneak up the standings—it’s unlikely all THREE will implode at the same time. The NBA is just too good for that.
The Mavs, however, are just not good enough to gain ground on any team that isn’t in a free fall. They couldn’t even gain ground on Denver while they played .500 basketball this month.
DONUT 10: QUOTABLE
"It’s been, overall, not really consistent enough to deserve a playoff spot. It’s been overall not really consistent enough to deserve a playoff spot. You've got to put a little string of wins together if you want to be able to sneak in and we haven’t (made) this a race.''
He's serious there. Though I love that he's a self-effacing kook here:
DONUT 11: SO HERE WE ARE
I’ll write more about the Mavs lotto chances next week -- once today's 2 p.m. trade deadline passes and I know for sure the people in power have made the right decisions -- but for now, I'm here in Donuts and I'm here on Twitter to encourage each of you to join me on the Tank-Wagon.
Call it "Team Draft Pick" if tanking makes you squeamish ... but it’s time to get on-board.
DONUT 12: THE FINAL WORD
"We're tanking, while we're trying to win.'' - Mark Cuban.