Every year when the NBA universe prepares for the draft, various factions of people become enamored with certain prospects, and disgusted by others. This year is no different, and with the Dallas Mavericks drafting higher than they have since 1994, the interest among Mavs fans is at an all time high.
The pressure on the Dallas front office to hit on this pick is huge. For one, the early returns on the 2019 draft are that it isn’t very deep. Secondly, it stands to reason that this young Mavs team will be a little better next year. They lost more close games (7 points or less) than any team in NBA history, and did it with most of the roster under the age of 26. More than likely, Dallas won’t be picking quite this high next year.
Outside of free agency (which hasn’t been kind to the Mavs), this is the best chance to get a young star that can grow and develop with Dennis Smith Jr. and the rest of the Mavericks young core. How this draft pick fits among them, especially Smith Jr., is crucial to this team’s future success. The young point guard has sky-high potential, and his development will be crucial to how good the Mavs will be over the next 10 years.
Defense Wins Championships, But Offensive Stars Carry The Load
Every year when you look at the top teams in the league, they all have one thing in common: a legitimate number one scoring option. The best teams from this last season all had them.
Golden State – Kevin Durant, Steph Curry
Houston – James Harden
Cleveland – Lebron James
Boston – Kyrie Irving
Toronto – Demar DeRozan
Philadelphia – Joel Embiid
You aren’t going to have a realistic chance of contending for an NBA title without one. Every single NBA champion has had at least one, if not more. When you look at the Mavericks roster that is probably the biggest thing that they are lacking. Yes, Harrison Barnes is a very good player and is still somewhat developing, but he isn’t a prolific scorer. He is more of a second or third scoring option on a contending team. Dennis Smith Jr. could get there one day, but it is extremely rare for a team to win a title with their point guard as their best scorer.
Teams can find guys that play defense, shoot threes, rebound, block shots or pass the ball well. Those are the role players that you put around your main offensive option. There are players like that available every year in free agency, that are made available in trades, or available after the top prospects are taken in each draft.
However, the hardest thing to find in basketball is a legitimate offensive star that can score the basketball when you need him to. It is what separates the top tier of NBA superstars from the rest of the stars in the league. You build great teams by finding your offensive stars, and surrounding them with guys who can do the other things.
What Do You Want When Drafting This High?
Drafting in the top 5 is rare, and ideally you want a player who has the following skills (in order):
- Scoring ability/potential
- Overall offensive skill/potential (ball control, vision, passing, etc)
- Primary defensive ability/potential (guarding on the ball)
- Off the ball defensive ability/potential
If you are a team drafting this high, you want a player with star potential. Grabbing a guy who ultimately just becomes a role player would be a poor use of the opportunity you are given. The whole reason to be excited about drafting this high is the potential to get a young star player. If none are available by the time your pick comes, that is when you trade back for value.
Who Should The Mavericks Ignore?
The consensus top prospects in this year’s NBA draft are Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley, Mohamed Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Michael Porter Jr.
One person or another has described all six of these players as having tremendous potential. Exactly where that potential lies is what should separate them as targets for the Mavs.
So, who doesn’t fit with the parameters of drafting fifth overall and what the Mavs need?
Mavs should ignore
Jaren Jackson Jr.
There are a lot of things to like about Jackson, and he may turn out to be a really great player in the NBA someday. The problem here is that he doesn’t really project out to be a top offensive option. A lot of people have been putting a lot of stock into his overall “potential” because he is still just 18, on top of how well of a 3-point shooter he was in college. He was also a great defender at Michigan State, which should translate well to the NBA (if he can stay out of foul trouble, which was his biggest problem in college). He may turn out to be a great defensive center who can stretch the floor and knock down threes, and that would be a great player to have…but the Mavericks should be hoping for more than that with the 5th overall pick in the NBA draft. First, he may take a few years to really make an impact. Second, the Mavs would still be looking for the main piece to their team, an offensive star who can score.
This isn’t going to be a very popular take with a lot of people, but Doncic would be a subpar pick at #5 specifically for the Mavs. Doncic is a wing who has shown to have a very high basketball I.Q., great court vision, good form on his 3-point shot, good dribbling ability and some craftiness around the rim. The two main problems are:
1) He appears to have very average athleticism by NBA standards. He doesn’t jump very high, has average lateral quickness and doesn’t have a great burst. Yes, he has been playing great in Europe is what many people say is the 2nd highest level of competition in the world. However, it is still far below the NBA. His lack of explosiveness at the wing may prevent him from becoming an elite level scorer, and could be a liability on defense. Even with that said, he could still become a very impactful player on a team if he was the primary ball handler. He could end up being a player that averages something like 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. Which is great and a player that anyone would love to have on their team, but…
2) Doncic’s biggest impact is made when the ball is in his hands, and that doesn’t fit well with Dennis Smith Jr. The Mavs soon to be sophomore point guard is also best with the ball in his hands, and was expanding his ability to create for others on the team as the season went on. Neither guy is a great spot up shooter. Taking the ball out of Smith’s hands takes away his biggest strength, and it is the same with Doncic. That would be putting a cap on what both guys can potentially do. They could make it work, but both would be better playing with someone who complimented their strengths.
This isn’t to say that Doncic won’t be a really good player in the NBA, but he isn’t what fits best for what the Mavs already have in place. Drafting this high, wouldn’t you want to be able to get the absolute most out of that player’s potential?
Mavs should target
He will almost certainly be gone by the time the Mavericks pick, so this is mostly a pipedream. However, he has displayed the potential to be a great offensive center, and great rebounder. His defense was lacking in college, but the physical tools are there for him to be dominant in that area.
If being judged immediately after his college season ended, he wouldn’t be in this category. He appeared to mostly be a defensive center who would get most of his offense from lob passes and offensive put backs. However, since working with development specialist Drew Hanlen and completely changing his jump shot, the view on Bamba has changed. His camp has put out videos showing a very smooth and release in which he consistently nails one NBA ranged three after another.
On those videos it also shows a new array of post moves that look extremely coordinated, quick and controlled. It has also been reported that when tested, he ran the ¾ court sprint in 3.04 seconds. That’s a faster time than point guards like Russell Westbrook, John Wall and Kemba Walker. With his potentially new offensive potential on top of his defensive and athletic ability, this guy could be a monster.
Although his defense was suspect in college, he checks just about every other box. He will be too small to really play center, but projects to be a great small forward/power forward combo. He has elite athleticism, is a great rebounder, has a developing 3-point shot and is skilled in the post. If he can develop his ball handling skills, he could be a nightmare for opposing teams while playing the small forward position.
Michael Porter Jr.
If his back gets the “all systems go” report from the Mavs medical staff, he is possibly the most natural scorer in the draft. At 6’10’’, he uses his length very well and isn’t affected shooting over defenders who are up on him. He has good court vision, is crafty around the rim and is a good rebounder. The bottom line is that this dude can score the basketball. His back issues will always be in the back of everyone’s mind, but he has the potential to be an elite level scorer in the NBA.