Rumours have been cast around the Internet regarding the Atlanta Hawks supposedly shopping their first-round draft pick - #24 overall - for $3 million, to pool up the cash to resign Joe Johnson. Of course this isn't a certain fact, but nevertheless sets up a ton of speculation from teams looking to pick up a rotation guy in a pretty deep draft.
Obviously the Mavs don't pick in the first round thanks to the Kidd trade, and who knows what's going on with Cuban's financial situation, dealing with notable bad apple Ross Perot Jr. But if the Mavs do make the move (providing the rumour itself is true) and spend the cash to buy themselves a pick, they're basically in a similar situation to last year.
So who could the Mavs look to get if they did make this move? Of course the draft combine has just finished but there haven't been any official workouts yet, so this is still just early conjecture. But amongst all this early buzz over upcoming free agency, one may as well take a look ahead and see who's coming into the league.
First things first, we all know the Mavs absolutely need a reliable second scorer to go with Dirk (he's resigning, come on). Caron Butler played two strong games to finish up the SA series, but he shot the Mavs into a hole in the three losses from Game 2 to Game 4 - that just can't happen. Obviously the Mavs want LeBron and that's been well discussed, but that seems a very slim chance of happening.
There's other spots that need to be resolved - most notably the center position, with Haywood due to become a free agent and Damp likely being used in a package deal. Thankfully, this draft is loaded with interesting big guys projected in the middle and late first-round, but I'll break down the draft board first.
Who I see as absolutely gone by the time #24 is up:
John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors, Wes Johnson, DeMarcus Cousins, Al-Farouq Aminu, Greg Monroe, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Patterson, Xavier Henry, Cole Aldrich, Ed Davis
All for a variety of reasons, but twelve guys which I view as absolutely certain candidates not to be Mavs barring an even crazier move.
Of the big men who are either possibly there, or likely to be there, I'm looking at:
Larry Sanders, Hassan Whiteside, Solomon Alabi, Daniel Orton
Firstly, obviously all four of these guys are going to be projects, not guys who can immediately be really solid centers. Athletic, length, potential pretty much apply with all these guys. They're going to need some developmental time, which makes resigning Haywood...or *gasp* bringing Damp back after trading him and watching him getting waived, really important.
I don't really see Whiteside falling far enough to the late first-round. Even with his really iffy fundamentals, I think he's earned enough out of his terrific production on the defensive end - four blocks a game, I think - and there's always the idea that a guy with his projectables is capable of figuring something out offensively...then again, it hasn't helped Hasheem Thabeet so far.
Sanders is really my favourite guy here. Even though he's bunched with everyone else in terms of being "extremely athletic" and "freakish wingspan", he's probably the most ready offense-wise, in terms of finishing at the rim and getting out on the break. I don't think he will be that bad on D, though I keep hearing how he's not strong enough. If he adds some weight, he could probably be a real force. If you can get him in to play the shorter-end minutes of a center tandem, I'd have high hopes.
Alabi and Orton seem a little closer to the project end of the scale, though of course you can't exclude any of them from that tag. They just don't seem as honed in on particular things as the other two...you can try to guess what I mean there.
I'm not quite certain any of these players will be around and they don't exactly fill a pressing need, but still want to mention them, especially if the Mavs find themselves going for BPA, looking for important post-Dirk figures:
Avery Bradley: I'm really not sure where he's going in this draft, but I'm still a big fan of Bradley even after an inconsistent freshman season. I suppose he's a bit of a tweener - I don't think he'll be a good point guard, maybe ever, but he looks like he will be a scorer with a great jumpshot and pretty decent finisher. Apparently he's got the tools to become a really good defender, but I never got to see that - probably got caught up in Texas' cloud of suck.
Epke Udoh: I don't see him passing Houston at #14 unless they have a clear-cut better option around. Like him as a rebounder, a lengthy defender and obviously a shot-blocker. His face-up game is improving and he's got a nice little jumpshot. I sort of compare him to Earl Clark, who was pretty much my favourite draft prospect last year...which of course didn't get me too far, though I suppose he was always a project.
James Anderson and Paul George: See a pattern here? I'm always fixated on these guys who have both range on their jumpshot and the athleticism to finish at the rim, even if they can't pass or create their own shot with any particular aplomb. The Mavs are little loaded at SG and SF, but I wouldn't mind giving either these guys a shot and see if they can get open looks from Kidd.
Willie Warren: Actually, not really. But I'm a sucker for athletic scoring types who can shoot the ball really well.
In summary, if the Mavs could get Sanders as a late first-rounder to be a front-court player, I'd be extremely happy, though if Bradley or Udoh does fall, I'd probably want the Mavs to pick either guy. Speculation is fun.
Obviously there are plenty of other guys I haven't covered, and who knows, none of these nine could be on the board by #24...and the Hawks might not be doing this at all. But you have to do something to cure off-season blues, right? Worrying over Dirk certainly isn't the solution.