Nico Harrison makes a list and checks it twice
Tonight the long wait is finally over. The months of speculation, intrigue and hype will all come to a head when the Dallas Mavericks make a choice about what to do during the 2023 NBA Draft. As you may have heard, Dallas has the 10th overall pick. Against all odds, the Mavericks finally have a coveted asset they can use to improve their team around Luka Doncic. While their pick isn’t exactly top tier, it still has a lot of value in the league. This is Dallas’ best chance to add blue-chip talent in a long time.
Should they stand and clap and choose? Trade back to acquire another asset? Trade out of the draft all together for proven veterans? Most media expect one of the latter two things to happen. Whatever choice Dallas makes, it’s nice to have options. It’s hard to lock into one plan or mindset when we really don’t know how much value pick 10 will have until tonight. If Dallas is smart, they’ll have a good idea of the guys they like and who might be available where. If one of their top players is on the board, they will make the pick. If they have to settle for a second-tier guy, they’ll have a loose framework for a trade to pounce on. Here is a wish list of things I would like to see happen.
Keep the pick and draft one of the top 9
Most pundits and analysts agree that this draft has a consensus top-nine prospect. These players are: Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, Brandon Miller, Amen Thompson, Jarace Walker, Ausar Thompson, Cameron Whitmore, Anthony Black and Taylor Hendricks. After this group there is a perceived level drop. So, of course, there’s a good chance neither of those guys will be available when the Mavericks make their picks. But Dallas can’t count on that being the case. In virtually every draft, there is a wild card pick in the top 10. Kobe Bufkin and Bilal Coulibaly are examples of players who have stepped up a ton in the pre-draft process, and teams selecting in the top nine can reach one of them. If that happens, Dallas needs to be ready to grab whoever falls.
I think the group of players that could be there at 10 includes Ausar Thompson, Black, Whitmore and Hendricks. Thompson is a big longshot, but he’s the kind of talent you can’t pass on. Black is my dream target for the Mavericks, but I think he’s also very unlikely to be there. Hendricks would fit perfectly with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, and there’s a real chance he could make it to 10. Whitmore has reportedly been falling into disrepute due to poor training; if by some miracle he’s on the board, dallas needs to draft him. Whitmore is an athletic freak with great size who would thrive in a tertiary role in the offense and should be a capable wing defender. He throws down dunks with reckless abandon and plays with a tremendous amount of thrill in him. Even if he drops to nine, I’d encourage the Mavericks to find a way to move up a spot to get him. He is so good.
The downside to standing at 10 is that you don’t get additional assets to improve the guard. And Dallas needs plenty of help, more than one rookie can provide. But that would be shortsighted thinking in my opinion. The players listed above would all represent an injection of talent that would be much more of a difference maker than some veteran role players and a lottery or late first round pick. Bet on the blue-chip talent and find out the rest of the list later.
Trade back to the late lottery/teens, buy a frontcourt player, and draft Cason Wallace
If all nine top players are off the board, Dallas almost has to trade down. I know there’s been a ton of reported interest in guys like Dereck Lively II or Bilal Coulibaly, but I really can’t see a world where Dallas takes such a raw project guy at 10. So trade back and get a veteran frontcourt player in the process makes a lot of sense. In the last week, Dallas has been linked to Atlanta Hawks with trade discussions involves trading picks 10 and 15 and one of either John Collins or Clint Capela being given to Dallas.
If a deal like that comes to fruition, there aren’t a ton of prospects that I love for Dallas in the late lottery/late teens. Most of the players mocked in these spots are offensive-minded guards, something that Dallas really doesn’t need. But even though guard isn’t a position of need for the Mavericks, I still think Cason Wallace could actually fit.
I’ve seen Wallace mocked anywhere from eight to 17, so there’s a chance he could be available if Dallas does, say. The Hawks deal. Although Wallace is a guard, he is probably the best perimeter defender in this class. He would help the Mavericks poverty defense so much. Offensively, he’s more of a tiebreaker than a lead guard; he takes good shots, hits catch-and-shoot threes at a respectable clip and makes good, solid reads with the ball. The only concern would be finding consistent minutes in Dallas’ heavy guard rotation. I’d probably advocate making a trade with someone in the Green/Hardy/Hardaway family for additional frontcourt help if this is the way Dallas goes. But if they don’t pick Wallace in this round, I think they need to think about trading a little further back.
Trade back to the late first round for even more assets
If the Hawks deal doesn’t fall through, this is the more likely path I see Dallas taking. The 20-30 range is filled with guys that make a lot more sense for Dallas. That Brooklyn Nets reportedly has been purchase choices 21 and 22 and acquiring one or both of those picks and/or one of their many veteran wings could be a good move. There are a ton of exciting leads that will be available here. I’m a big fan of Leonard Miller, and even though he’s a bit raw, I think he’d be a flyer worth taking. I also like Oliver-Maxence Prosper, Kris Murray, Maxwell Lewis and Noah Clowney. There are a ton of options in this selection.
Ultimately, the Mavericks have three great avenues to meaningfully improve the team tonight. The only thing I would really hate is if they traded out of the draft entirely. This is a great class and it’s so much fun as a fan to project young players and root for homegrown talent. It would be short-sighted to opt out this year.