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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Christian D'Andrea

The Mavericks seemingly are opting out of the NBA Playoffs

When the Dallas Mavericks traded three draft picks and two players to land Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets, the franchise had visions of a long playoff run in mind. The Mavs were 29-26 and trending upward in the NBA’s Western Conference after adding an eight-time All-Star. Irving was still in his prime on the court despite a litany of concerns off it.

Instead, the Mavericks stand on the periphery of the postseason race with two games to play. At 38-42, they’re one half-game game out of the 10th and final play-in spot in the conference. They need to win tonight just to keep their playoff hopes alive.

But Dallas doesn’t seem especially concerned about making that happen.

The team will be without Irving, Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood, Josh Green and Maxi Kleber for a showdown with the Chicago Bulls. Those five players have 108 starts for the team among them.

While it’s reasonable to assume the Bulls could rest their veterans after locking in a spot in the Eastern Conference’s play-in, the Mavericks seemingly are content to let their postseason hopes lie with Luka Doncic, Reggie Bullock, Dwight Powell, Jaden Hardy and JaVale McGee.

It’s a bold decision after Irving, Hardaway Jr., Wood, Green and Kleber combined for 160 minutes and 82 points in Wednesday’s 123-119 win over the Sacramento Kings. With designations like rest days and recovery dotting the team’s injury report, it certainly seems like Dallas is setting its sights toward this summer’s draft. The Mavs only hold the rights to their first round selection if it falls in the top 10 following the NBA Draft Lottery thanks to the unfortunate trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Texas from the New York Knicks.

Purposefully missing the play-in is one way to increase the odds of keeping the pick, though it’s certainly possible Doncic lifts his team to victory over a Chicago team whose postseason fate is already set. This Dallas squad has woefully underperformed late in the regular season, going just 7-16 after a 31-26 start. There’s plenty of roster work that needs to be done this offseason, and while the Mavericks have the some spending room for 2023-24 they also only have six players under contract.

Hitting on its 2023 draft pick would be one fix, though a selection outside the top 10 is hardly a guaranteed contributor. Still, this team needs all the help it can get after falling on its face over the past month. A not-so-subtle tank job to protect their draft pick might be the simplest solution to all the Mavericks’ problems.

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