NBA news: In case you didn’t know, Dirk Nowitzki almost became a member of the Milwaukee Bucks. In fact, the 14-time All-Star was officially drafted by the Bucks in 1998 as the No. 9 overall pick. However, Milwaukee did not want him, and they ended up trading him to the Dallas Mavericks on the same night.
NBA News: How Massive Draft-Day Trade Changed Landscape of NBA
Former Mavs coach Don Nelson was the architect of Dallas’ masterful swoop on the German. Speaking in a recent interview, the 83-year-old described how they ended up finessing the Bucks out of a player who would end up establishing himself as the greatest player in Mavs franchise history:
“The Milwaukee Bucks wanted ‘Tractor’ Traylor. We had no interest in ‘Tractor’ Traylor,” Nelson told sportskeeda. “So we swapped picks so they could get ‘Tractor’ Traylor and then we thought Dirk would be available because we were ahead of Boston. We traded picks and I think they gave me a million dollars, too. We got our guy and it worked out perfectly.”
Indeed it did.
According to Nelson, though, they almost passed on Nowitzki as well. At that point in the draft, Paul Pierce was also still available, and the Mavs seriously considered selecting him over Dirk:
“We were afraid if we didn’t get ahead of Boston that they were probably going to take him. We get to the draft and both he and Pierce are still available. Dirk [Nowitzki] was my favorite guy in the draft. But there they both were. I’m trying to make my decision. We’re on the clock, and they’re both available. I’m saying to Donnie, “Pierce is a terrific player.’
“Donnie said, ‘Come on Dad; we’ve already been through all of this! Let’s make the choice. We know we’re taking Dirk!’ I said, “My God, you’re right.’ So we took Dirk ahead of Pierce. But Boston got a hell of a player, too. It’s funny the way things work out.”
I can’t imagine Paul Pierce in a Mavs jersey. Picturing Dirk in a Celtics jersey — or any other jersey other than the Mavs, for that matter — is an even more difficult task.
NBA News: Who Did Bucks Get Instead of Dirk Nowitzki?
Don Nelson touched on this earlier. He said that the Bucks had their eye on Robert ‘Tractor’ Traylor all along. The Mavs picked him up as the No. 6 overall pick, under the premise that they were sending him to Milwaukee in exchange for Nowitzki, who the Bucks scooped up ninth overall.
For what it’s worth, Traylor, a 6-foot-8 big man from Michigan, played just two seasons in Milwaukee before they decided to trade him to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a three-team trade that also involved the Golden State Warriors. In 93 games for the Bucks, Traylor averaged 4.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 13.3 minutes per game.
Now that we have the benefit of hindsight, it’s pretty clear that the Bucks made an awful call that night.
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