What if the Bucks never traded Dirk Nowitzki to the Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki is one of the greatest power forwards to ever play the game. If you had the privilege of watching a prime Nowitzki, it was like watching poetry in motion.
Dirk is one of two players to have an unguardable shot (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, sky hook). His fadeaway jumper was impossible to stop . His release point was so high that you would have to be nearly eight feet tall to actually block it. He hit that shot consistently, and it helped him win a championship with the Dallas Mavericks — as well as a league MVP.
When you picture the legend of Nowitzki, you picture Dallas. Dirk played all 20 of his seasons with Dallas and has been an incredible ambassador for the franchise.
But did you know that Dirk wasn’t actually drafted by the Mavericks?
That’s right. Dirk was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks and traded to the Mavericks on draft day for Robert Traylor. If you don’t know who Robert Traylor is, it’s because he was a rather forgettable pro.
Traylor never averaged more than 5.5 PPG throughout his career and was completely out of the NBA by his seventh season.
This poses the question: What if the Bucks never traded Dirk to the Mavs?
Let’s dive deeper into it.
What would the Bucks look like?
At the time of the 1998-99 draft, the Bucks had a young, yet promising team. Two years prior, they had acquired Ray Allen and still had a young and emerging Glenn Robinson on their roster. They were poised for a breakout season. If you add Dirk Nowitzki to that core instead of Robert Traylor (who they traded after two years), it could have made a huge difference.
Let’s say they draft Dirk. If they draft Dirk, they can also keep the 19th overall pick that they had which was also included in that deal. Just for the sake of the deal, let’s say they take Pat Garrity, the guy who actually got taken 19th overall.
Both Garrity and Nowitzki struggled in their rookie year, so I don’t expect them to make much of a difference. The Bucks, however, did improve. Their record was 28-22 in a shortened season.
They finished the season as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and lost in the first round to the eventual Eastern Conference champions — the Indiana Pacers.
Although Dirk and Garrity would have definitely helped the Bucks against the Pacers, it is unlikely that they do enough to will them past a Reggie Miller-led squad.
During the 1999-00 season, however, the Bucks added veteran point guard, Sam Cassell. They would then lose to the Pacers once again — this time in a decisive Game 5 — during the 2000 NBA playoffs.
Milwaukee’s younger players developed into stars and the Bucks made the Eastern Conference Finals the following season before falling short to Allen Iverson and the 76ers in a hard fought seven-game series.
The Bucks roster was already one game away from the Finals. If you add Dirk into the mix, it can be presumed that the Bucks face off against the Kobe-Shaq Lakers in the finals.
Third-year Nowitzki averaged 21.9 PPG, and 9.2 RPG, shooting 47.4 percent. To say that he wouldn’t be an impactful player in that series would be blasphemous. A third-year Nowitzki would have given the Bucks that extra push and helped them advance to the NBA Finals.
Would they have won the championship? Probably not.
That Kobe-Shaq duo was virtually unstoppable. The Bucks wouldn’t have won more than a couple of games at most. Regardless, this would have effectively changed the entire landscape of the NBA.
The Bucks would have had two future Hall-of-Famers in their prime on the brink of stardom already in the NBA Finals. The sky is the limit for that team.
If the young Bucks core of Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson, and Dirk Nowitzki stay together, it can be assumed that they reach the Finals at least one more time and potentially even win a title.
This was a bigger mistake than Bucks fans may want to admit.
What would the Mavericks look like?
It is weird to think about Dirk Nowitzki not in a Mavericks jersey. If the Mavericks didn’t execute the deal to land Nowitzki, their franchise would look completely different for years to come.
In Dirk’s rookie year, the Mavericks won less than 20 games and finished last in their division. The year after they also struggled and failed to make the playoffs. The year after that, however, the Mavericks began a 13-year playoff streak which resulted in 2 Finals appearances and 1 NBA Championship against the heavily favored Miami Heat.
It would be very hard to believe that without Dirk the Mavericks even make the playoffs at all. He was the teams center piece and reason for sustained greatness in the Western Conference.
It’s possible that after a couple of the years where the Mavericks struggled to win games, they draft a prospect that helps them win games in the future. Just based on this trade, however, the Mavericks would have really struggled to make the playoffs, never mind win a championship.
Impact on the NBA Landscape
The NBA landscape could have been very different if this trade never happens.
The Mavericks could have potentially been a bottom feeder for years without a superstar talent like Nowitzki.
Maybe LeBron James wins another ring with the Heat in 2011 and adds to his legacy even more. Maybe Dirk and Ray Allen team up and take a win away from the Spurs or Pistons in the next few years. We’ll never know the exact impact that this would have made, but we can be certain that the NBA would look very different.