Giannis Antetokounmpo is a 6’11” wing play (well, point guard if you ask Jason Kidd) for the Milwaukee Bucks who has an electrifying skill set, and is already showing a significant level of improvement in just his second NBA season.
If Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson had gotten his way back in 2013, Antetokounmpo would now be playing for Dallas.
Mark Cuban chose to override Nelson’s instincts, however, opting to “stick to the plan” of having enough cap space available in case he could lure a big name free agent to sign with the Mavericks.
The president of basketball operations was a big fan of Milwaukee’’s Giannis Antetokounmpo going into the 2013 NBA draft.
He made his sentiment known to owner Mark Cuban, who was receptive, sort of, but when it came time to make hard choices, Cuban elected to go with a plan that the Mavericks had set in place and passed on Antetokounmpo with the 13th pick, which they eventually traded down to the 18th pick and, where they got Shane Larkin.
“He’s making us look bad for sticking to our plan,” Cuban said Tuesday. “That was Donnie. That (taking Antetokounmpo) is what Donnie wanted to do and I said we should stick to the plan. The whole point was that I wanted to stick to the plan and Donnie was like, this guy’s going to be good. I’ll risk everything that he’s going to be good. I said, I believe you Donnie.
“But still, what if all of the sudden we find out that so-and-so (free agent) is dying to come to the Mavs and now you don’t have the cap room. That’s why we put together a plan and our consolation wasn’t too bad.”
The Mavericks got Tyson Chandler back in return for trading Larkin to the Knicks this past offseason.
Hindsight is always 20-20, but teams like Dallas are always trying to improve immediately by chasing superstar free agents each summer. Taking a risk on young talent to forego that pursuit was too risky in Cuban’s eyes, and it’s hard to blame him for choosing that course of action — even when seeing how great Antetokounmpo has been thus far.