The 2012 NBA Draft Combine will be televised starting tomorrow at 10 AM. In case you've forgotten, your Dallas Mavericks are slated to make the 17th selection in this year's draft, which, as has been discussed within these (web)pages, may be one of the more important drafts in our team's short history.
Dallas is, for the next few weeks, still NBA champion. Even when the distinction is eventually passed along, that banner will still hang. The black mark on the resume of one Dirkivus Maximus Nowitizkimus, has been erased, forever. But, how does his career wind down? Or, more directly, what kind of team is Mark Cuban, with the help of many others, going to put around Dirk, as the end of the proverbial tunnel approaches?
Most of Mavs fandom will be too busy waiting with baited breath to hear what Deron Williams wants to do, and understandably so, but there's a reason people like me spend so much time talking about the draft. Not to beat the same drum over and over, but contending teams can't simply be bought, especially not in this new financial landscape. Acquiring and developing cheap talent is what puts teams over the top, and helps them withstand the inevitable drain that comes from age and injury. Whether Dallas keeps the pick, or trades it for something equally useful, it's an important asset, and every asset that goes wasted is an obstacle keeping Dallas from getting back to the top of the mountain.
So, with that being longwindedly said, who is going be there when Dallas goes on the clock? I'll take a fairly straightforward approach here.
PG - 16/96, 16.7%
07: Conley, Law, Stuckey
08: Rose, Westbrook, Augustin, Bayless
09: Rubio, Flynn, Curry, Jennings
11: Irving, Knight, Walker, Fredette
SG - 19/96, 19.7%
06: Roy, Foye, Redick, Sefolosha, Brewer
07: Brewer, Young
08: Mayo, Gordon, Rush
09: Evans, Derozan, Williams, Harden, Henderson
10: Henry, Turner
11: Thompson, Burks
SF - 21/96, 21.9%
06: Morrison, Gay, Carney
07: Durant, Green, Wright, Thornton
08: Gallinari, Alexander
09: Clark, Johnson, Daye
10: Johnson, Aminu, Hayward, George, Babbitt
11: Williams, Morris, Morris, Leonard
PF - 23/96, 23.9%
06: Alridge, Thomas, Williams, Simmons
07: Jianlian, Wright, Young
08: Love, Thompson, Randolph, Speights, Beasley
09: Griffin, Johnson, Hansbrough, Hill
10: Favors, Udoh, Davis, Patterson, Sanders
11: Thompson, Vesely
C - 18/96, 18.8%
06: Bargnani, O'bryant, Armstrong, Sene
07: Oden, Noah, Hawes, Horford
08: Lopez, Lopez
10: Cousins, Aldrich, Monroe
11: Valanciunas, Biyombo, Vucevic, Kanter
I looked at the number of players chosen from the 2006 draft on, in the first 16 picks, and the decision to go with '06 was not arbitrary. That year, of course, was the first following the rule-change requiring that draftees be at least one year removed from high school to be draft eligible. One thing that I feel was notable about the era of high school draftees was that it favored frontcourt players heavily. Not many of the high prep to pros picks were perimeter players, as talent evaluators gave preference to size and projection over skill. Not coincidentally, this led to some especially embarrassing busts. Playing alternate universe for a moment, I wonder if Byron Mullens, or DeAndre Jordan, bigtime high school players who underachieved in college, would have been lottery picks prior to 2006?
As teams have backed off slightly from the raw center, we've seen the hybrid "combo guard" archetype become a rising commodity on draft boards. 2006, curiously, saw no point guards taken in the first 16 picks, but from '07 on they have been taken early and often. Combining the two backcourt spots, a total of 31 guards have been taken in the first 16 picks the last five years, which comes out to basically six guards a draft. Now, this of course doesn't mean we should expect six guards, no more and no less, to be taken at the same point on June 28th, but it's an interesting benchmark, since that's close to the number currently being projected to be gone by the time pick 17 rolls around(Beal, Waiters, Lamb, Lillard, Ross, and either Marshall or Rivers).
The power forward spot, meanwhile, is always en fuego, never out of style. It's perhaps been the most stacked position in basketball the last decade, and since '06 it has seen a whopping 23 players at its position taken in the top 16 picks, nearly four a year, though, keep in mind, there are a few players that are not so easily classified and thus forced me to make a judgement call on. The well will get deeper in 2012, as, not surprisingly, there are a ton of 4's in this draft. Dallas has a Hall of Famer already holding that spot down, but the depth at this spot could make a PF the best player available, and too attractive to pass up, so I don't think the presence of His Dirkness eliminates these guys from consideration. Stay tuned to see if a name like Sullinger, or Jones, or Moultrie is linked to Dallas as D-Day approaches.
Conversely, a position I would be a little surprised to see Dallas look to, and I may be stepping too far out on a limb here, is point guard. I know Chad Ford mocked Kendall Marshall to Dallas recently, and I'm not here to dis his work, but I, personally, feel that's not the crop the Mavs will be looking to take from. Deron Williams is, in all likelihood, plan A(and this plan may, theoretically, have Kidd along for the ride) for Dallas at point guard going forward, and I wonder if Steve Nash isn't plan B. Then you have Chris Paul potentially on the horizon, should Deron find employment elsewhere, and remember what I've said about the "keep the powder dry" approach. Add that group to the bevy of point-ish guards Dallas has already used draft picks on or acquired by trade recently, and you have my conclusion on Dallas not drafting a point guard. The draft will take place well before Dallas can legally get on the phone with Deron, Nash, or anyone else, and unless they completely fall in love with someone, it seems risky to take a player knowing it may require a good deal of shuffling to un-clutter things. This is the right draft to pass on a point guard, anyway, in my view.
Also, let's not mince words: Dallas could use help just about everywhere else. The two wing players under contract at this moment are a combined 69 years old, and as for center, well...who knows what's going to happen there.
If you're the type that is desperate for Dallas to get some youth on the wings, I would think you'd be encouraged by the depth of this draft. If you're like me, and really hoping a center can be found here, it looks a little dicier. A total of 40 "wing" players(shooting guard and small forward types, your bigger perimeter guys) were taken in the aforementioned sample set, which rounds up to an average of seven. Even if that number is low for this draft, you'll probably still see a quality prospect available at 17. With 18 centers taken, you're looking at just 3 per draft, which, much like the guards, lines up pretty well with where you're seeing draft boards at the moment, and if that average proves spot on, it would likely leave Fab Melo as the best available center, and maybe the only other center with first round status right now.
The way I see it now, how early Andre Drummond goes may seriously put a dent on the prospect of Dallas getting a high-upside big man. Right now we're seeing a lot of mocks with Zeller and Leonard floating around the middle of the first, the 16-17-18 range. I have a hard time seeing it staying that way. The '08 draft saw Roy Hibbert taken at pick 18, but remember: Hibbert was about 20-30 pounds heavier when he was at Georgetown, and there were serious questions about whether he could ever play more than 20 minutes a game in the league due to his poor conditioning. Zeller, meanwhile, runs the floor better than just about any college 7-footer you'll see. I think Leonard and Zeller have more going for them than Hibbert did coming out of school.
As I've said before, this is far from a sure predicative method, and its purpose is primarily to give an idea of how GM's and scouts have valued certain positions and certain needs. It's one way of looking at how the draft might play out. Using this method, we have six guards, seven forwards, and three centers projected to be taken. I think this actually fits in a lot of ways, based on what information is out there about the draft board. With more "it's still early" caveats, this is about how I'd group the players with that prediction:
Guards(6): Beal, Waiters, Lillard, JLamb, Ross, Marshall
Forwards(7): Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Robinson, Barnes, PJones, Henson, TJones
Centers(3): Drummond, Zeller, Leonard
So, who does that leave? A pretty solid collection of perimeter players, such as Moe Harkless, Austin Rivers, Royce White, Percy Miller, and Tony Wroten, and some very intriguing backups for Dirk, like Jared Sullinger and Arnett Moultrie. Maybe I'm overranking Marshall, or one of the Jones boys, or underranking Rivers, or Sullinger, but for part one I think this serves as a good starting point for who Dallas might realistically be looking at.
After the combine, we will have a rumor roundup session and take a look at who might be falling and who might be rising, as well as which players Dallas may be bringing in for personal workouts.