Once it became apparent that the Dallas Mavericks would miss the playoffs, Mark Cuban and his team of executives had a choice to make: To tank or not to tank.
That was the question.
“Oh, absolutely,” Cuban said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “We were 2-8 (down the stretch) for a reason, and I was upset we won last night for a reason.”
Dallas beat Memphis, 100-93, in its regular-season finale Wednesday. The Mavs (33-49) went 5-13 over their final 18 games.
“It is what it is,” Cuban said of tanking. “That’s the way the structure of the draft is. We played our young guys because we wanted to see them, we wanted to give them experience, so there was long-term benefit to playing Nicolas Brussino at point guard. But I would be lying if we said we were putting our best lineups out there to win as many games as possible.”
Cuban was also asked about Russell Westbrook. Cuban said last season that Westbrook was a star but not a superstar. Westbrook, though, just set the NBA record for triple-doubles in a season, with 42.
“What he’s been able to do is incredible,” Cuban said. “I’ve never tried to take anything away from his individual accomplishments. Individually, you can arguably say it’s the best season in the history of the NBA – individually. But most valuable player – most valuable player – is a value not to yourself, but your value to the team. Not to take anything away from Russell Westbrook, but I think James Harden is the MVP.”
Cuban then explained his rationale for what differentiates a star and a superstar.
“I have a criteria,” he said. “Can you take your team to 50 wins? And can you win a round in the playoffs? If you can do that with a team that otherwise wouldn’t make it, you’re a superstar. He didn’t get the 50 wins, but I’ll cut him some slack. If they win in the first round, I’ll say he’s a superstar. If not, I’ll stick to my criteria.”
Cuban added that if he were building a team, he would take Harden over Westbrook as his centerpiece.
“Harden would be in the top three or four guys I would pick to build a team around,” Cuban said. “I would not put Russell in that category. Again, not to take anything away. If he wins the first round of the playoffs, I’ll say he’s a superstar, and we can stop talking about that stupid conversation. I just don’t see him as a guy that I would say, ‘You know what? He’s that guy I want to build a team around.’ Again, he’s great, but I would put LeBron and Steph and Kevin Durant and Harden ahead of him right now.”