History of the No. 5 pick shows Mavs could get a good one on draft night

The Mavericks didn’t win the lottery. Fate played a cruel joke on us all when Dallas — which won an earlier tiebreaker against Atlanta to move up to the No. 3 spot in the lotto order — was passed up by those very same Hawks last week, along with the Sacramento Kings. It’s the second year in a row the Kings have gotten lucky on draft night, while the Mavs are again left wanting more — although last year turned out OK for them.

At the end of it all, after the ping pong balls and superstitious rituals and summoning energy from around the world, the Mavs will pick fifth on June 21. Luck has certainly been kinder throughout the course of the Mavs’ history as a franchise, but then again this is still the fifth pick we’re talking about. It’s OK to be disappointed about dropping two spots, but also recognize that there have been a heck of a lot of talented players drafted fifth overall in the last few decades.

As a matter of fact, one could make the case that fifth has almost proven to be the place you want to be. Since the end of the 1988-89 season, when the NBA expanded from two All-NBA Teams to three, players who were selected fifth overall in their respective drafts combined to make 46 appearances on the all-league teams, second-most of any draft spot behind only those chosen first overall. (Coincidentally, players chosen third overall sit in third place on that list, combining for 41 appearances.) All together, 10 players chosen fifth overall have made an All-NBA Team in the last 30 years, including two players who spent time with the Mavericks. Below is a list of players chosen fifth who have made an All-NBA Team since 1989.

Player All-NBA Appearances (1989-present)
Kevin Garnett 9
Charles Barkley 8
Dwyane Wade 8
Scottie Pippen 7
Mitch Richmond 5
Ray Allen 2
Vince Carter 2
DeMarcus Cousins 2
Kevin Love 2
Juwan Howard 1

Many of the names on the above list are surefire Hall of Famers, including a couple of Dirk Nowitzki’s greatest rivals. (Nowitzki leads all No. 9 picks with 12 All-NBA appearances.) Each of those players came into the league and immediately made an impact. Two of them, DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, are still in the prime years of their career and could possibly add more honors to their collection in the future.

Of course, when you say that 10 players out of nearly 30 have made an All-NBA Team, the cynics will immediately realize it means nearly two-thirds of them didn’t. There have been players chosen fifth overall in the past who didn’t go on to have standout NBA careers; there have been players taken fifth who didn’t play beyond their rookie contract. But drafting has never been easy and it almost certainly never will be. Where there’s risk, though, there’s reward. If you’re looking for upside, five is a solid place to be.

Although the draft is under a month away, there’s still plenty of time for things to change. Teams just got up-close glimpses at most of the top prospects at last week’s Combine, and between now and late-June the top players will make their tour around the country for private workouts. As it stands now, mock drafts are all over the place with what the Mavericks will do at No. 5. Some have them selecting Texas center Mohamed Bamba, while others have them going with Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. One says Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr., with another yet predicting Duke center Wendell Carter Jr. There’s no consensus, which means we could be in for a surprise on June 21.

It’s important to remember, too, that the Mavs’ work won’t be done after pick No. 5. The club also holds picks No. 33 and 54. No player in either draft slot has ever made an All-NBA Team, but that doesn’t mean that player’s ceiling won’t be high. Keeping it local, the Mavs hit on Jae Crowder at No. 34 in 2012 one pick before the Warriors hit a home run with Draymond Green. Green is a game-changing defender and hugely important part of the Golden State Warriors’ success while Crowder has carved out a very nice career as a rugged defender and 3-point threat and proved to be a very valuable piece to the Utah Jazz as they stormed down the finish line this season. Other notable names recently taken in the 30-35 range include Jimmy Butler (30), David Lee (30), and DeAndre Jordan (35).

What the Mavs do at 33 is anyone’s guess; it’s very difficult to forecast what will happen between the bottom of the first round the top of the second round because there are typically a handful of trades in that range. If I had to guess, though, Dallas will probably draft a player of a different position at 33 than at No. 5. But you didn’t need me to tell you that. The Mavericks are committed to acquiring and developing youth, so whoever they end up selecting at 33 could compete for playing time immediately if he proves himself. Dallas has shown in the past it doesn’t limit its gaze on players taken in the first round; this season alone, four of the top eight Mavs by minutes played went undrafted while another, Dwight Powell, went in the second round in 2014. That group includes Yogi Ferrell, who made the All-Rookie Second Team for his work as the starting point guard in 2017. (Dennis Smith Jr. recently received the same honor.)

If you’re still bummed about what happened at the lottery, rest easy. History shows that Dallas still has a good chance to draft a stud prospect who could join names like Barkley, Garnett, and Wade as success stories at No. 5.