The Dallas Mavericks have seemingly decided to prioritize their first-round pick in the 2023 NBA Draft over chasing a spot in the Play-In Tournament. Facing a must-win game against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Mavericks rested Kyrie Irving, Christian Wood, Tim Hardaway Jr., Josh Green and Maxi Kleber, while Luka Doncic played just the first quarter.
Dallas entered Friday half a game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final spot in the Play-In Tournament, but without the tiebreaker between the two teams. As a result, the Mavericks need to win both of their final two games and have the Thunder lost their last game in order to get into the No. 10 spot.
That would seem doable given they're playing the Bulls and San Antonio Spurs, while the Thunder have the Grizzlies. It would also seem like a team that just gave up Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and a future first-round pick for Kyrie Irving a few months ago would want to get into the playoffs by any means necessary.
Most years they would, but the Mavericks are in unique spot. They owe the Knicks a first-round pick via the Kristaps Porzingis trade, and the selection is top-10 protected. If the Mavericks made it through the Play-In Tournament, they would automatically give up the pick because they would not be in the lottery. Even if they were eliminated in the Play-In, their odds of keeping the pick would be slim, and their best chance is to miss out entirely.
There is also another layer to consider: the Mavs entered Friday tied with the Bulls for the 10th-worst record in the league. The 10th-worst record has a 77.5%chance of getting a top-10 pick in the lottery, while the 11th-worst record has just an 11.6% chance of doing so. Thus, it's not enough just to miss out on the Play-In; they need to lose to the Bulls in the process. Hence, the personnel decisions they made on Friday.
Whatever ends up happening with the Mavericks' pick, this is a shocking end to their season, and it will spark plenty of debate about tanking, especially given the impact this will have on other franchises -- namely the Knicks.