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Mavs fans suffered through the NBA playoffs while waiting anxiously for the 2018 NBA Draft. The LeBron vs the Warriors saga has jumped the shark and the conclusion surprised absolutely no one. Let’s pass on the inevitable LeBron destination debates and talk NBA draft prospects for the Dallas Mavericks.

We’re goingn to avoid the Trae Young and Wendell Carter crazy talk. Unless Porter Jr.’s medical exams are made public, a pick is traded, or someone gets injured, the range of Mavericks’ prospects should be pretty straight forward.

There’s still quite a bit of unpredictability to discuss. Six players qualify abs legitimate options for the top five slots, and not one of them is a lock for any specific spot. Each pick will reshape the landscape of possibility for teams drafting next.

For example, if Luka Doncic goes #1, we know with certainty that DeAndre Ayton goes #2 to Sacramento. That means Bagley or Jackson will head to Atlanta. And Memphis probably takes the guy left standing. Porter and Bamba are the two guys I expect Dallas to end up debating over. But that’s only if Doncic goes #1.

If Ayton goes 1, then we have some question marks. Conventional wisdom says Doncic to Sacramento, but we know the Kings never sent anyone over to Europe to watch Doncic play in the playoffs. Neither did Memphis or Atlanta. So it’s entirely possible, though maybe not probable, that Doncic shows up at #5 for a Dallas team who HAS expressed sincere interest in the Euro star.

Let’s revisit the 5 players Dallas might ACTUALLY have a chance to draft.

#1 Luka Doncic

Luka has been called everything from the obvious #1 pick to the most inflated prospect in the draft. We really have no idea where he’s going to fall. Will he get passed over by Sacramento at #2 and Atlanta at #3?

Scenario 1: Doncic Drops

If Doncic drops, two things are virtually guaranteed: A) Bagley will be drafted in the top 3 and B) Memphis won’t let Doncic slip past #4. The reason I can’t see Memphis passing on Doncic is because Bagley is the only other obvious top-tier fit for this broken Grizzlies roster. Memphis parted ways with head coach David Fizdale over an unfixable breach between Fiz and star center Marc Gasol. Gasol reportedly gave Grizzlies front office an ultimatum: either Fizdale goes or I go. Memphis chose Gasol.

Some fans in our Facebook group don’t think that will stop Memphis from considering a center like Bamba at 4, but there’s no way they waste that pick on another center. You don’t pass up a good coach for a center and then draft his replacement when you need to win to make him happy. Gasol needs to sniff the playoffs to even consider being happy he’s still on this roster.

Memphis needs a shooter more than anything. A shot creator of any kind second. But their greatest weakness in the 2017 was outside shooting. Doncic creates his own shot and can create spacing on the floor to get other guys open. Michael Porter Jr. is the ideal scorer for Memphis’ needs, but I seriously doubt they’ll risk Porter’s back with the 4th pick. Doncic gives you backup point guard play, spacing, and play making. And hey, maybe there’s a solid Euro connection to build on between Gasol and Doncic.

Scenario 2: Doncic goes #1

I’ve argued this position until I’m blue in the face. I think Phoenix SHOULD pick Doncic #1, and there’s plenty of reasons why. First and foremost, they hired his old coach. They have Igor Koskov, the coach who won a title with Doncic in Europe. What better way to kick off the second stage of a roster rebuild than with a coach and star guard who have chemistry and championship history?

Scenario 3: Doncic goes #2

I know, I know. DeAndre Ayton has fans salivating for a chance to watch him play for their team. Maybe he will be the next great big man in the league. I’m not saying he won’t. But I’m not convinced he’ll be all that special on the professional stage. Time will tell.

Ayton is the “safe” pick at #1, and he played for the University of Arizona before declaring for the draft. Some think that Arizona connection is the icing on the perfect cake. Maybe. I won’t be surprised if Ayton goes first. And if he does, then Doncic likely goes second to Sacramento.

The Kings are a fascinating study. They drafted four rookies in the first round of the 2017 draft: DeAaron Fox (5th), Frank Mason (34th), Harry Giles (20th), and Justin Jackson (15th). Pairing Luka Doncic with Fox, Jackson, and a healthy Giles would make for an exciting 2018 season. Zach Randolph and Vince Carter are free agents, paid a combined $20M last season. Even if Shumpert and Temple opt in for the final year of their contracts, Sacramento is sitting on a sizable stack of available cash to chase after free agents and/or re-sign Zach Randolph.

It’s a young team that might not make the playoffs this coming year, but they’re going to get it figured out and become a young playoff contender within the next three years – regardless of whether they land Doncic, Ayton, or Bagley.

And that’s it, folks. Those are the only three scenarios I see outside of a trade or a holdout. The question is, which scenario will play out?

#2 Marvin Bagley III

Bagley is the guy nobody really talks about because nobody expects him to drop to 5. While Doncic “might” be the top pick in the draft, he also “might” slip to 5. Bagley, on the other hand, is going Top 3 no matter what. He’s not likely the #1 pick for any team, but he’s the solid #2 pick for many GMs and fans league-wide.

Most Entertaining Player

I’d love to see Marvin Bagley on this Mavericks roster. His athleticism and speed make every play must-see tv. But, as I’ve said before, there’s no chance he falls to 5. Dallas could move up to get him, but popular opinion has Donnie coveting Luka Doncic if a trade up is considered. Then again, last year we were sure that Donnie wanted Frank Ntilikina, which appears to have been a huge smokescreen covering up the hope at acquiring Dennis Smith Jr, the best Mavs pick since JHo.

At 6’11” 220lbs, Bagley is the Josh Jackson of the 2018 draft. He’s the most athletic, athletically gifted player in the draft. Trouble is, no one can tell me what he does better than anyone else. Except that he gets his second jump before others land from their first, which leads to a significant number of rebounds off the glass.

Worth the risk but, but not an option

Bagley is a crap shoot, but worth the gamble. I’ve said before there’s no way he drops below the Top 3. That’s not entirely true. If Phoenix and Sacramento go Ayton and Doncic in either order, Atlanta still has to decide which path to take. Jaren Jackson Jr. is a popular choice at #3 because he is supposedly the most complete two-way player. I’m not buying it. The kid couldn’t stay out of foul trouble, he failed to contribute during the tournament, and he plays too far from the paint to get enough rebounds to be a legit center. He’s either a power forward or a Draymond Green type of center. I like Draymond, but he’s an established member of the newest NBA dynasty and he’s still not a top 3 pick. Sorry. Bagley deserves to be the 3rd pick.

#3 Michael Porter Jr.

Michael Porter Jr. is the biggest mystery of the top 10 prospects. He’s the only guy projected to go Top 10 that didn’t really play last year, and the tape on him is from high school. Porter and Bagley were frequently talked about as the shoe-ins for #1 and #2 last Spring, but things change. Injury kept MPJ from the court most of the season and DeAndre Ayton played like a beast during the regular season.

We all know MPJ had surgery on a back injury. I remained convinced he’d be fine throughout the NBA season. The biggest surprise to me was realizing that the surgery addressed an injury he’d had previously in high school. Now, I’m no doctor, so I can’t tell you whether the surgery was a stopgap or a complete repair. I doubt even Porter knows. He could turn out to be another Greg Oden constantly injured flop, or he could turn the corner and have a great career. We just don’t know. But I’ll wager Dallas has a pretty solid understanding of his health and the possible dangers.

What can I say? He’s my guy

I’m so high on MPJ, I can’t say it enough. He’s my MUST HAVE player of the draft for Dallas. Pair him with Dennis Smith Jr., Seth Curry, Harrison Barnes, and Nerlens Noel and you have the makings of a great young squad. Of course, Noel is a total question mark to everyone, even himself. I understand the argument for Bamba at #5 because Noel was a disappointment and we were told to expect the reincarnation of Tyson Chandler.

That final third of the season, though… Noel played really well for a guy who sat out the middle of the season. I really can’t get a bead on the guy, so I can’t offer any assurances he’ll return or play at the same level we know he can. But… IF Noel returns, it’s safe to say Bamba isn’t the best choice at #5, which leaves my man, Michael Porter Jr.

If Marvin Bagley is the Josh Jackson of this year’s draft, then MPJ is the Jayson Tatum. The guy who could have gone 1st and turns out to be a top scorer in the league. He’s been compared with Kevin Durant and Joe Johnson, and I’ll take that style as my #5 pick any day. He can create his own shot, score at will, and face down any defender without hesitation. He’ll need to improve his handles, passing, and defensive presence, but at 6’10” shooting better than Kevin Durant in high school, I say you take the risk and jump in with both feet.

Michael Porter Jr. is the player you want, even if you don’t know it yet.

#4 Mohamed Bamba

Bamba is the center you want. He’s the young, fast, long center you deserve. He may very well be your newest Mav. And I’ll be okay with that if it happens. Blocked shots and alley oops are fun to watch. Will Bamba be Tyson Chandler 2.0 with perimeter shooting skills? Could be. The question is whether you want to bet your franchise’s future on it. Bamba owns a place among the top 5 NBA draft prospects, but he’s not my top choice.

The skeptic in me imagines Shawn Bradley 2.0, and that’s simply not good enough for me. Bamba is faster and probably a better shooter, so it’s not fair that I have this obscene comparison glued in my mind. But it’s there, and I can’t help wondering if the guy who can practically dunk standing still is going to pan out.

The New Freak In Town

At 7’1″ 225lbs and an 8′ wingspan, Bamba is the freak of nature in this year’s draft. Dallas can’t be blamed if they go big man here. My primary concern is that Dallas doesn’t have the positional coach they’d need to maximize his talent. Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon are well known HOF centers now working with budding stars. I’m not sure who’s available out on the street, but if I’m Donnie Nelson, I’m knocking on doors and making some phone calls to square up a legitimate position coach before I draft Mohamed Bamba. He’s going to need a lot of work.

#5 Jaren Jackson

Jaren Jackson Jr. is more of a mystery to me than Michael Porter Jr. Nationally, he’s considered a lock for the top 4. That’s fine, if someone wants to gamble, but as I said above, Jackson didn’t prove to me that he’s really all that. Constant foul trouble is the first concern. Staying on the court for the whole game is a must for a top 5 lottery pick. Can that really be coached out of him?

Best two-way player Sitting on the bench

And then there’s the argument that he wasn’t utilized properly by his head coach. Really? Because the head coach had a top 5 player in the country and decided to sabotage his team by not maximizing said player’s abilities within a system? C’mon, man. You know better than that. If he sat more than you think he should, look at the player, not the coach.

I won’t lose my mind if Dallas picks Jaren Jackson at 5, but it’s my hope and expectation that he’s already gone. He’s the obvious 4th pick in the draft if Memphis can’t land Luka Doncic. Pairing Jackson with Gasol would make Memphis a sizable threat once again. As I said, drafting MPJ at 4 is probably a stretch for Memphis and the new coach, so look for whoever’s available out of Doncic, Bagley, or Jackson.

The Unspoken Possibility

If you look at all the talk around NBA draft prospects, hardly anyone is discussing the possibility that the Mavs draft Mykal Bridges. Let’s say they’ve fallen in love with Michael Porter Jr., but his physicals leave room for concern. Dallas might swing over to Bridges to supply the outside scoring and spacing they were hoping to get with Porter. I don’t like to imagine this scenario because my wagon is hitched to Porter.

But let’s keep Bridges in the backs of our minds because if Dallas goes Bamba at #5, there’s a rumor they look to trade with Philly or someone else to nab Bridges later in the 1st round.