The team desperately needs a shutdown perimeter defender, now and in the future. They may have found their answer.
The Dallas Mavericks were one of the busiest teams last week NBA Draft. It was long predicted that the team was interested in trading back from their 10 spot, and also looking to shed a contract or two. If the draft was a checklist, they ticked all the boxes.
It’s quite a turnaround in momentum after last season’s fiasco, when the Mavericks tripped into a lottery pick amid the disgust of NBA Twitter’s competitive integrity committee. But amid the frenzy of the Mavericks, who now have two young defensive talents in Dereck Lively and Olivier-Maxence Prosper added to the fold, it’s worth reminding ourselves that rookie development often takes time (seasons) and is fraught with growing pains. . The Mavericks desperately need depth and contributors up and down the roster next season. Before we get to free agency this coming week and better understand how they fit in, let’s take a look at what they can deliver next season, and so on in their development. First, we covered Livelyand now we thrive!
The Mavericks finished last season without a quality defenseman on the ball. Reggie Bullock still looked gassed from last year’s playoffs, and it’s possible given his age that this is his new normal. Josh Green, for all his efforts, is undersized to be a true wing and hasn’t grown into the lockdown asset the team needs. In the absence of Dorian Finney-Smith, who did the Lord’s work on the trip to the Western Conference Finals, there was quite a bit left before the trade. The team badly needs that piece.
Prosper, who turns 21 on July 3, is by no means a finished product. But his raw technique, effort and tenacity will be crucial for the Mavericks. His combine performance has earned him plenty of attention, and rightfully so. To compare it to those previously mentioned, he mirrors Finney-Smith’s physical frame (similar height and weight with added wingspan) and pairs it with some of Josh Green’s impressive athletic feats (similar sprints and verticals).
Where Prosper impresses the most, arguably ahead of both Finney-Smith and Green when they entered the league, is his navigation of perimeter moves and his ability to utilize both his length and agility in equal measure.
OMax tracks the circumference
Thanks to clips from Box and One with Coach Spins, I highlight this section because of the versatile style that Prosper displays against some talented NBA prospects. Similar to Lively, there will be a learning curve here. The Mavericks won’t be able to throw Prosper to the wolves night one and expect this level of impact. But the tools are there for Prosper to be the most versatile defenseman the team has from the jump.
It’s clear the front office is interested in getting more athletic. How that ties in with Luka Doncic’s controlled style of play with the Mavericks remains to be seen. But if they’re looking for more options to arm athletes, Prosper fits the bill perfectly on the offensive end. His role for the foreseeable future will be a spacer and slasher. His three-point percentage improved on the year in college, although the volume was low (34 percent last season on just 115 attempts). But he profiles as the kind of player who will excel at corner threes and attacking finishes for impressive straight lines. His 65 percent at the rim last season is strong, and should be his focal point next year, taking advantage of Doncic’s spacing and vision to dump out for well-timed cuts.
OMax for the rim
Prosper’s place in the rotation next season depends on what else happens this summer, but he should see minutes at both three and four off the bench. If the Mavericks had better depth, he’s the ideal other wing off the bench to bring energy and defensive disruption.
The biggest area of growth for Prosper will come on the offensive end. When you watch tape, you can see the mechanics moving for him with the ball in his hands. That is why he is best suited for the role mentioned above. Prosper may never be a tertiary ball handler for the Mavericks, and that’s okay. He’s not a playmaker for others (averaged just 0.7 assists per game last season). If he fills a role similar to Finney-Smith, it will never be necessary. But it would be nice to see more fluidity when tasked with attacking a closeout.
There will also inevitably be a learning curve on his three-point shot. Getting comfortable with the timing and athleticism of NBA defenders and learning to adjust his release or how he attacks will take time. As mentioned above, his shot numbers were reasonable, but the volume was low. But his shoots look robust enough to believe that natural growth will take place here.
The key foundation is already there on the defensive end for him to be successful early. The next step is to develop his skills as a help-side shot blocker. It’s been reported consistently, but Prosper’s shot blocking in college was unusually low for one of his skill set. Not all elite defenders are shot blockers, but given his length and athleticism, it would be nice to see this become a focus on his court.
It’s pretty easy to see Prosper growing into a key defensive-minded starter in a playoff rotation over the next several years. The kind of shutdown defender who opens and closes plays to disrupt the other team’s superstar. The Mavericks are looking to overhaul their defense right away, and Prosper, along with Lively, will be tasked with cleaning up messes that rookies shouldn’t have to deal with. But the good news for both is that they should never be asked to do more than step into their roles, which should allow them to thrive.