The Top 5 Best and Worst Dallas Mavericks Draft Picks Since 2000

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2014

The Top 5 Best and Worst Dallas Mavericks Draft Picks Since 2000

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    Since taking Jason Kidd back in 1994, the Dallas Mavericks haven't exactly been a draft powerhouse. 

    Many of the teams' recent first-round picks have been traded—either before or after the selection. That's left the modern Mavs as we know them to build primarily through free agency or trade. There's a reason for that, too.

    As the organization attempted to surround Dirk Nowitzki with talent, it prioritized the acquisition of known commodities who can help the team win now. For a club that's virtually always a part of the playoff pictures, that kind of strategy makes some sense.

    It just means there hasn't been a whole lot of in-house talent to develop, which probably isn't entirely ideal.

    Kidd, of course, was the third consecutive first-round pick who made an important impact for the Mavericks. The team also selected Jim Jackson in 1992 and Jamal Mashburn a year later, both of whom went on to have outstanding careers.

    There hasn't been the same kind of success rate since 2000, though. And a couple of Dallas' very best picks never played in a Mavericks uniform.

    Here's a look at the best and worst of Dallas' recent draft selections.

Best: Kelly Olynyk

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    Selection: No. 13, 2013

    Olynyk never actually made it into a Mavs uniform on account of a trade that immediately sent him to the Boston Celtics on draft night.

    But he's worked out pretty well for Danny Ainge and Co., at least so far.

    Only time will tell how Olynyk's career pans out, but his limited body of work has been a promising one. The 23-year-old averaged 8.7 points and 5.2 rebounds in just 20 minutes per contest this season. His ability to spread the floor from either the 4 or 5 spot makes him a valuable commodity in today's NBA. Floor spacing is as important as ever, and so too are big men who can facilitate it.

    As SBNation's Kevin O'Connor put it, "He brings exceptional complementary scoring skills in the sense that he can stretch the floor, clean up offensive rebounds, and he can even put the ball on the floor."

    In the end, Olynyk was good enough to be named to the league's all-rookie second team.

    Per ESPNBoston's Chris Forsberg:

    Olynyk was the top vote-getter on a second-team that also features Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Minnesota's Gorgui Dieng, Charlotte’s Cody Zeller, and Oklahoma City's Steven Adams. Olynyk earned 19 first-team votes (worth 2 points apiece) and 81 second-team votes for a total of 119 points, tops among second-teamers. 

    None of this benefits the Mavericks, however. They ended up with Shane Larkin instead, and the jury is still out on him. Olynyk's skills may have been too redundant with Dirk Nowitzki, so it's not entirely clear that he would have found the right fit in Dallas.

Worst: Maurice Ager

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Selection: No. 28 overall, 2006

    Maurice Ager never managed to stick around the NBA for long. He played just 32 games as a rookie and another 26 during a sophomore campaign in which he split time between the Mavericks and New Jersey Nets.

    After just four seasons in the league, Ager was a goner. What's he up to these days?

    The State NewsOmari Sankofa II wrote in 2013, "Now that his playing career is finished, Ager has moved into the next phase of his career: designing beats and occasionally rapping under his nickname 'Moe Ager.'"'s Chris Palmer initially discovered him pursuing music back in 2011: 

    Ager, who took up residence in Los Angeles last spring, found this place through Westside Rentals and it’s become ground zero for the pursuit of his next career: hip-hop music producer. 

    At 27, the former 2006 first round pick of the Dallas Mavericks played just four games for Minnesota last season and is currently an unrestricted free agent. With basketball seemingly in his rearview mirror he envisions himself as the next Dr. Dre. 

    So maybe Ager was just in the wrong business. In any case, it doesn't sound like he'll be making an NBA return anytime soon. He's already on to the next thing.

Best: Tyler Zeller

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Selection: No. 17, 2012

    Starting to notice a trend here? Like Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller never played a game for the Dallas Mavericks. He too was traded on draft night, this time for three other inferior picks. The Mavs have clearly shown a penchant for taking some talented prospects and then trading them away immediately.

    In both instances, Dallas made good selections. It's the trades themselves that are questionable.

    So it is that Zeller has spent his first two seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers, where he's managed to play pretty well in spite of a crowded front line. The 24-year-old averaged 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds as a rookie. His production actually waned in his second season because of his minutes getting cut from 26.4 per contest to just 15.

    The limited playing time and reduced role have muted Zeller's emergence, but he's still shown flashes when given the opportunity. highlights his best performances of 2013-14:

    On January 28, the former Tar Heel got his first start of the season and didn’t waste the opportunity. With Anderson Varejao on the shelf with a left knee injury, Zeller turned in his best performance of the season, doubling up with 13 points and 10 rebounds in just 21 minutes of play. (That loss to New Orleans was also rookie Anthony Bennett’s coming-out party in 2013-14, with the No. 1 overall pick netting 15 points and eight boards off the bench.)

    After two more starts, Zeller rejoined the second unit. But Varejao was sidelined with a sore back right before the All-Star Break and Zeller returned to the starting lineup. During that six-game stretch, Zeller improved on his previous best – tallying 18 points and 15 boards against Philly and notching 16 points and six boards the following night against Orlando. During those six starts, the Wine and Gold were 4-2.

    Whether it's in Cleveland or elsewhere, Zeller will make it as a solid rotation player in this league. He just has to find the right situation, and he might have actually been better off had the Mavericks kept him. They could have used another big man behind Samuel Dalembert.

Worst: Etan Thomas

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    Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    Selection: No. 12, 2000

    Sometimes Dallas' knack for trading first-round draft picks might work out for the better.

    But that doesn't mean the original pick was a good one—not in this case. Etan Thomas actually went on to have a solid career, good enough that you could have justified taking him late in the first round.

    But at No. 12? 

    That's a lot harder to justify. Thomas wound up playing most of his career for the Washington Wizards, whom Dallas traded him to in 2001. His best season came in 2003-04, when he averaged 8.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in 24.1 minutes per game. Thomas later started in a career-high 32 games during the 2006-07 season.

    Again, he was solid—a rugged, strong defender who did a lot of the little things that don't show up on stat sheets.

    He just shouldn't have been a lottery pick.

    After 11 seasons in the NBA, Thomas has become something of a motivational figure (and poet, to boot).

    He recently wrote for The Huffington Post, "Since the release of my bookFatherhood Rising To The Ultimate Challenge, and my CDFatherhood Words Of Passion, I have traveled the country to encourage young people that they can be anything they want to be in life, no matter what their circumstances."

    In other words, Thomas may be making more of a difference now than he ever did in the NBA.

Best: Josh Howard

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    Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    Selection: No. 29, 2003

    Josh Howard spent his first six-and-a-half seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, and he had some pretty good ones. He steadily raised his scoring average in each of his first five seasons, eventually posting a career-high 19.9 points per contest in 2007-08.

    Though several severe injuries eventually took their toll on Howard and forced him into more limited roles during his later years in the league, it's hard to complain about him during his prime. The 6'7" swingman had a solid in-between game and kept defenders off balance with his ability to either shoot or get to the basket. He gave the Mavs a nice athletic complement to Dirk Nowitzki.

    Howard started off his 2013-14 season in the Development League but never got called up to an NBA team. 

    At the time he told Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears, "Beggars can't be choosy is what my grandma said. I'm just happy to be out there playing."

    Here's to hoping the comeback attempt isn't over yet.