After getting through plenty of trials and tribulations, the Dallas Mavericks 2017-2018 season is finally over.
On the court, the team finished tied for the third-worst record in the NBA (24-58). Off the court, the organization is still dealing with the fallout from a Sports Illustrated story that exposed a prevalent culture of sexual harassment within the business operations department.
The fact that 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, the greatest player in franchise history, will return for his 21st season is a positive story. But for a number of reasons, these next few months could be the most critical time period in the history of the organization.
Here are the five questions facing the Mavericks as they try to rebuild their roster and restore their image and office culture this off-season:
What are the Mavericks NBA Draft Lottery odds?
Because Dallas tied for the third-worst record, all of the teams have the same odds of either drawing the No. 1 pick (12.1-percent) or a top three pick (42-percent) at the NBA Draft Lottery selection in Chicago on May 15. No matter what, each team will have the same number of ping-pong balls.
However, this coming Friday there there will be a random draw to determine a tie-breaker. The purpose of the draw solves this situation such as this: If the Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies (the teams with the two worst records respectively) land two of the top three picks and another team leaps into the final top-three draft position, then Mavericks, Hawks and/or Orlando Magic would be locked into the fourth, fifth and sixth picks. Which means, that the tie-breaker needs to be determined in advance.
How will the organization’s internal sexual harassment investigation play out? And how will the NBA League office respond?
Owner Mark Cuban denied knowledge of the transgressions and claims told to Sports Illustrated by over a half-dozen current and former female employees. Still, he took full responsibility by condemning the behavior, firing his human resources director and replacing him with the highly-accomplished former AT&T executive Cynthia Marshall.
In addition Cuban hired attorneys Evan Krutoy and Anne Milgram, both of whom have impressive resumes, to investigate the “Animal House” culture in the business workplace, according to the sources in the Sports Illustrated report.
What Marshall and the two legal investigators find has the potential to start repairing the Mavericks’ public image, or uncover more damaging information. Those findings are also likely to determine if the NBA league office decides to conduct an investigation of its own.
What will the team do with the current roster?
Only six players who saw significant minutes are under contract for next season, including Nowitzki, leading-scorer Harrison Barnes and star rookie Dennis Smith Jr. Guards Wesley Matthews and J.J. Barea, as well as forwards Dwight Powell and Maxi Kleber will also be back.
Depending on how the draft and free-agency play out, the front office could elect to bring back shooting guards Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry (who missed almost all of this past season with an ankle injury) on reasonable contracts.
Who will the team target in the June 21 draft?
Let’s just say for the sake of argument that they end up with the No. 4 pick. It’s impossible to know how talent evaluators separate the top half-dozen or so prospects. But with all due respect to the aging Nowitzki and the team’s other two developing big men, the odds are good the front office and head coach Rick Carlisle will target a power forward.
Deandre Ayton out of Arizona seems to have emerged as the consensus number one overall pick. Yet, the Mavericks still could end up choosing from a group of high-potential power forwards such as Marvin Bagley III out of Duke, Jaren Jackson Jr. out of Michigan State or Mohamed Bamba out of Texas.
How will the Mavericks approach the free-agent market?
Dallas has a history of swinging and missing on big name free agents. Assuming the mega-stars (Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Paul George) all re-sign with their current teams, management will be left chasing second-tier players such as forwards DeMarcus Cousins, Aaron Gordon or Jabari Parker, amongst others.
There should be two critical elements to their approach. First, they shouldn’t overpay for players who could hamstring their financial flexibility down the road. Second, the team must look to add pieces who can help Dennis Smith Jr. and whichever rookie the draft on June 21 blossom into true superstars.