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Pistons of the 1980s could’ve been the Dallas Mavericks of the 1980s

Trying to play revisionist history looking back at mistakes made drafting players is always an exercise in futility — dozens of factors are at play when it comes to why players are or are not drafted, and why prospects do or do not turn into stars. But it’s also a lot of fun. David Hopkins of The Two Man Game, the TrueHoop Network’s Mavs affiliate, recently looked back at the Dallas Mavericks of the 1980s, and with a couple of different moves, the team would’ve had a Pistons feel:

In 1981, the Mavs drafted Mark Aguirre.

Who they could have had: Isiah Thomas (2nd pick)

Isiah Thomas was a 12-time NBA All-Star and one of the great point guards of all time. There’s no doubt he could have done great things with the Mavericks. As a fan, I’m okay with this miss. Aguirre was a great player, and I always found Thomas to be annoying. But as a time traveling GM, I would draft Thomas and hope that he would become a better person by spending more time in Dallas than Detroit. Highly likely.

In 1986, the Mavs drafted Roy Tarpley.

Who they could have had: Arvydas Sabonis (24th pick) or Dennis Rodman (27th pick).

Time travel is fickle, because I honestly believe Roy Tarpley was the best and most talented pick at the 7th spot. Unfortunately, drug abuse destroyed a promising career. If he could’ve stayed healthy and clean, there’s no doubt in my mind that the 90s wouldn’t have been so horrendous with Tarpley leading the team. Dallas needed a center, though, so I’ll go with Sabonis — even though Rodman in his prime would be a joy to watch with the Mavs.

In Joe Dumars’ recent drafts, many have said how lucky he is that Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond fell to him late in the lottery. This post by Hopkins is just another in a long line of examples that ‘luck’ and teams making baffling decisions has always and will always be a part of the draft process.


  • Dec 5, 201211:39 am
    by John V


    Thank you Udoh and Golden State.

  • Dec 5, 201211:52 am
    by V.


    I read articles like these sometimes and wonder how writers like Hopkins got their gigs. I mean, did he ever see Aguirre, Isiah or Tarpley play? 

    I’m sure Jack McCloskey was thrilled when the Mavs whiffed and picked Aguirre over Isiah. Yes, IMHO, that was a whiff (in a nutshell, Bobby Knight coached PG>wing player from overrated program, when talent is about equal). 

    Tarpley had several productive seasons, winning 6th Man of the year in IIRC 1990, before drug problems took their toll on his career. It’s not like he was a stiff previously. Moreover, IIRC, very few teams even knew about Worm. 

    While Dumars may take the high road and say he was “lucky” for having Moose and Bull fall to him, he still has to make the pick. Thank goodness for the stupidity of the other GMs, and especially thank the grace of God for having no decent SFs available and us desperately needing big men when it became time to make a pick. I guess you do need to be lucky to have people picking ahead of you making inferior decisions, but then again, they’re usually the same organizations year in and year out. 

    I note that none of my DBB brethren ever mention Bismack Biyombo anymore.  

    • Dec 5, 20122:14 pm
      by XstreamINsanity


      lol.  You know you wished DBB stood for Drafted Bismack Biyombo.  :)

  • Dec 5, 201212:33 pm
    by kamal


    Isiah had a lot to do with the Mavs picking Aguirre.  Isiah recently said he didn’t want to play for the Mavs and told them, when he was interviewed by the team, that Aguirre was the better player and that they should draft him with the pick.

    Pretty sneaky by Isiah but it worked out for us. 

    • Dec 5, 20126:39 pm
      by 19880607


      I heard a similar story about Grant Hill and supposedly that is why the Mavs took Jason Kidd instead of him.

      • Dec 5, 20127:03 pm
        by tarsier


        Kidd vs. Hill. If not for injuries, that would be a good debate.

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