It’s NBA Draft Week! With star-studded trades already underway across the league, rumors are swirling stronger than ever. MMB Draft Nerds Ian and Jordan took some time over the weekend to delve into where the Mavericks currently stand and the growing feeling that they will trade the 10th pick in Thursday’s draft.
JORDAN: It seems more and more likely that the Mavericks will move the 10th pick in the draft. It’s impossible to fully judge how smart or unsmart it is, but I’m assuming we’re on the same page that we’d rather they pick than trade it, yes?
IAN: Obviously, I never want to be locked into anything, but my take on it really comes down to me seeing the 10th pick as an asset with far more value internally to Dallas than externally to the rest of the league . Stranger things happen, and it’s true that with the new CBA and fears of the financial implications of the “double apron”, a wild NBA offseason for trades could loom, but I have a hard time seeing a realistic scenario where Dallas gets one back for the 10th pick that really provides the kind of talent injection the team needs.
This feels especially true given much of the reporting about Dallas’ desire to shed salary, and the recent buzz that the Mavs have been coaching players expected more into their 20s or even 30s. I really hope I’m wrong, but it feels like the stage is being set for Dallas to use their pick to get rid of Davis Bertans deal, or add depth guys rather than true difference makers. I see this as a terrible use of a top 10 pick. The Mavericks have only been able to draft someone that tall three times in 25 years – a quarter of a century! — and if you don’t take the opportunity to add a potential capstone, I don’t know what you’re doing.
JORDAN: We’re on the same page about how awful it would be to pack the pick with a bad contract just to lose salary. If that’s the strategy, they’re doomed. You mention that the choice is more valuable internally than externally and I think you are right. The interesting aspect of it is that I could see the value growing in the eyes of other teams if one of the consensus top nine prospects is still on the board when the Mavericks are on the clock. In that case, I believe more so the Mavericks should select and keep that player.
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The scenario I thought about this most recently was a reported conversation with Atlanta Hawks, where the Mavericks would send 10-plus Bertans to Atlanta for John Collins and their first-round pick. I would imagine Atlanta would be most interested in that deal if someone like Taylor Hendricks or Anthony Black were still on the board. But I’d rather the Mavs just keep Hendricks or Black. Am I off base there or maybe overestimating this class?
IAN: It is quite possible that we both overrate this class. If I’m being honest with myself, I suppose I might have a tendency to overrate the draft in general. After all, the draft is (to me) cool, and represents the unknown future, the possibility of tomorrow. Said less poetically, new is fun! I think sports fans often prefer to see a young homegrown team develop together, as opposed to a roster of free agents that to the outsider is kind of akin to a group of mercenaries, to use a harsh term.
All that said, I’d still argue that UCF’s Taylor Hendricks and Arkansas’ Anthony Black are in the ranks of prospects outside of the top 5 worth sticking around for unless we’re talking about a true star player coming back as a Return. John Collins doesn’t quite get that distinction, although I think he could be very useful as a pick and roll partner for Luka and Kyrie (if he returns). Collins has long been linked to Dallas in trade rumors, but he comes with a fairly significant price tag and is coming off his worst season as a pro. Crucially, he’s also not doing much to fix what most failing this iteration of the Mavericks: their defense, specifically on the interior.
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Now to examine it from a scenario where Dallas is wiped out by 10 o’clock, where Wemby-Scoot-Thompsons1 and2-Miller-Whitmore-Walker-Hendricks-Black are all gone? Then I’m much more intrigued by the idea of trading back. You’d lose Bertans’ deal, add a productive frontcourt player with playoff experience, and you’d still have the opportunity to grab a prospect at pick #15, perhaps someone like Duke center Dereck Lively, who has arguably become the most popular fake picks for the Mavs. Taking Lively at 10 I have to admit makes me a little sad, but if it’s 15 and you compliment his flaws with someone like Collins, I can get on board.
JORDAN: There we are on the line. But deal or otherwise, it’s time to start getting comfortable with the idea of the Mavericks moving back. Perhaps it is best to start talking about this in two areas: choose 15-20 and then 25-35. Who are players in the front row (not named Lively) you are interested in? Or if Lively is the primary target for you in that area, sell me on that idea.
IAN: At a certain point it gets pretty hazy as to where guys should be ranked or grouped. I’m not sure I have a “primary goal” for these areas. Lively is someone who was initially mocked in her 20s and has slowly risen (at least in the media’s estimation) to be consistently associated with Dallas as a 10-year-old. I suppose it’s primarily a needs-based match, which certainly makes sense, but I felt more comfortable with where Lively had been in the past.
Why? For starters, because Derek Lively averaged 5.2 points per game last year. That’s not typically a number you associate with a top 10 pick, not even a defensive specialist. If you include the preseason, in Lively’s first 20 games at Duke, he got 20 minutes of action just four times. Part of that was due to a calf injury that slowed his progress, and he certainly came on late in the season — especially in the conference tournament — but even if you include the games where he played a lot more, he didn’t log a single double-double all season (34 games played).
It speaks to the risk involved in taking Lively so highly, I guess, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to like there. Lively is very long and very athletic, and he looks like he has a better feel for the game than you would expect from someone who got relatively few minutes. He blocks or deflects tons of shots and has the kind of lob radius that you can easily imagine Luka exploiting. There are even some signs of blossoming skills, as he had a solid assist-to-turner ratio and looked surprisingly good at finding guys out of the short throw. A mega-prospect coming out of high school, he had shown a little perimeter game for Westtown in PA, but lately that kind of range has only been visible in practice videos posted online. If he hits and he’s a super rim protector who can move the ball and hit the occasional corner three? Well, duh, that’s worth the 10th pick and is the absolutely perfect compliment to the guard-heavy, defensively compromised roster they currently have.
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Another guy I would say I’m intrigued by outside of the lottery would be Lively’s teammate, Dariq Whitehead. Whitehead, also a big man in high school who had some rocky moments in college, could be a can’t-buy type as he’s dealt with multiple injuries, most notably a broken bone in his foot that required a second surgery last season month. Whitehead’s high school tape showcases a noticeably bouncier, more explosive athlete, so the odds are you might get a value pick similar to fellow Duke wing Adrian Griffin Jr. Like AGJ, Whitehead can really shoot, and at 6’7 with a 6′ 10 wingspan, he has good positional size. If the athleticism is still there once (and if, although recent reports suggest he’ll be ready for training camp) he heals properly, there’s real upside, and if you could get him in the 20s, I think I, you might be looking at a steal. Does anyone stand out to you?
JORDAN: I think Whiteahead is the right call. And I think the fuzziness of identifying one or a handful of prospects that would be ideal for the Mavericks in the back half of the first round is what makes me weary of trading back. And maybe it makes more sense to go with Lively, although I hesitate to draft a center that will have a steep learning curve.