NBA to investigate whether Mavericks rested players against Bulls to tank for better draft pick

The Mavericks will be investigated by the NBA for sitting players Friday against the Bulls. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Dallas Mavericks had better have a good reason for sitting some key players during Friday's loss to the Chicago Bulls. The NBA will investigate the team's motivation for sitting those players, league spokesman Mike Bass said Saturday.

Bass said the league would look into the "acts and circumstances surrounding the Dallas Mavericks’ roster decisions and game conduct" from that game, which Dallas lost 115-112.

In other words, the NBA will investigate whether the Mavericks tanked for a chance at a better draft pick with two games to go.

With a play-in spot still possible, Dallas sat Kyrie Irving, Maxi Kleber, Tim Hardaway Jr., Josh Green and Christian Wood. Luka Dončić played into the second quarter before he was removed from the contest. Prior to the game, it was reported Dončić would only play in the first quarter.

The loss eliminated the Mavericks from the playoffs. It was a precipitous fall for the team, which sat in fifth place in the Western Conference when it acquired Irving in February.

Though the Mavericks had a shot at the play-in heading into Friday, it was unlikely the team would secure that spot. Dallas was chasing the Oklahoma City Thunder for the final spot in the play-in. The Thunder held the tiebreaker over Dallas, meaning Dallas would have to finish the season with a better record than the Thunder. Dallas entered Friday's game trailing the Thunder by one win.

Making the playoffs also might have cost the Mavericks a first-round draft pick. The team still owes the New York Knicks a first-round pick from the Kristaps Porzingis trade. That pick, however, is top-10 protected. With Friday's loss, the Mavericks are most likely to land the 10th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft lottery. If that holds, the team would not give up its first-round pick this season.

Considering what was on the line, and how the Mavericks approached Friday's game, an investigation makes sense. It will be up to the league to determine whether the Mavericks intentionally tried to lose the contest to reap some rewards down the road.