Adam Silver reflects on Mavs' immoral act that kept Knicks from 2023 draft pick

Dallas went from tanking in 2022-23 to the NBA Finals.
New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks
New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks / Stephen Maturen/GettyImages

The New York Knicks didn't have a pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. There was speculation that the team would trade into the draft, but it was a quiet night.

New York was close to having a lottery pick even after finishing No. 5 in the East and advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Instead, Dallas tanked the last two games of the regular season to ensure a top-10 pick. In turn, the Mavericks (who owned the pick from the Kristaps Porzingis trade) selected Dereck Lively II after they traded down in the draft.

The NBA fined Dallas $750,000 for tanking, which, in retrospect, is a punishment Mark Cuban, Nico Harrison, and the Mavericks would gladly take again. Lively has been impressive in his first season, averaging 8.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. Dallas needed a big man, and Lively has delivered.

Adam Silver spoke with the media on Thursday before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The commissioner addressed the $750,000 fine and said it was "appropriate."

"In terms of what Dallas did last year, we sanctioned them. We did what we thought was appropriate at the time," Silver said. "I would only say that the success they saw this season, that they're now seeing in the playoffs and here they are at the finals, I don't attribute it to one draft pick — as important as that draft pick has been to their team."

Adam Silver, via AP

Adam Silver talks about Mavs tanking to keep top-10 pick from Knicks

Silver is right. Lively isn't the reason that the Mavericks are in the NBA Finals. Dallas is in the position because of a culmination of moves that go back to 2018 when the Mavs drafted Luka Doncic. Before the 2023 deadline, Dallas traded for Kyrie Irving. Before the 2024 deadline, the Mavericks traded for Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington, two players who have boosted their defense.

It's not like the Knicks had their sights set on Lively. New York wouldn't have selected a center with Mitchell Robinson, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Jericho Sims on the roster. Maybe the Knicks will do so in the 2024 draft, as Hartenstein could leave in free agency, and Robinson has a concerning injury history. Zach Edey could be on the board when the front office makes their back-to-back picks, but that's only if they don't trade them.

Looking ahead, there's a real chance that New York could make it to the NBA Finals next year without the added assistance of tanking for a high draft pick.