LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 07: Jared Cunningham #1 of the Oregon State Beavers blocks a shot by Brock Motum #12 of the Washington State Cougars during the first round of the Pac12 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Take a look at our own Alan Smithee's wrap up of the expert's draft grades for the Mavericks draft last week, and you can see that there are all sorts of varying opinions about it. To me, though, the deciding factor for the Mavericks' draft will depend on where Deron Williams decides to sign.
By trading down from 17 to 24, picking up second rounders, selling another late one, and dumping Azubuike off on the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Mavericks saved some money. Not a lot of money, but somewhere around $1.5 million. It's not a ton, but if the Mavericks had out a max contract to Deron Williams, it all adds up. Not only do the Mavericks now have an extra million and a half to finish filling out their roster, they also picked up three players about as cheap as can be gotten to put a dent in their twelve man roster.
Clearly, they could have got a more skilled player, a higher risk with a higher reward, but this was the only way they could get three different players, all of which play hard and have good character. On a team starring Deron Williams and Dirk Nowitzki, these are the types of players you want to fill in around them. There is just not a lot of money to dole out after those two, and the Mavericks now have a guard, forward, and center to help fill out the team.
Jared Cunningham seems to be an interesting prospect, for sure. What he is not, though, is an immediate impact guy that many thought was important for the Mavericks to get. Many think he can eventually develop the point guard skills needed, but right now, he is just a smallish two-guard who can't shoot well enough to play shooting guard. Except when paired in the backcourt with a star point guard like Deron, where he can play off-ball, use his athleticism to get easy hoops, and not worry as much about spreading the floor. Not only this, but to watch and learn from a great point guard as Williams is surely can't hurt his development. I think it's much to rash to make any sort of ruling on whether Cunningham is going to be a good NBA player or not, but I find it hard to believe he will make a consistent, serious impact, without a great point guard to help him succeed.
Now let's consider the alternative: the Mavericks don't get Deron. They will still look to be active in free agency, we know that, but that extra million and a half doesn't have quite the same importance when you're trying to sign people for just half of what DWill would have received. The Mavericks now have more money to play with, have a much easier time filling out their roster, and really render what makes this draft so unique worthless. With that much money and fewer and fewer free agents to spend it on (as players continue to agree to terms right and left), acquiring three players like the Mavs did cheaply finish filling out a roster just doesn't seem as important. Acquiring someone with a ton more potential, such as Perry Jones or Jared Sullinger, or getting an immediate impact player like Tyler Zeller, would have been the better move.
The plan was to go all out for the top free agent prize, and the Mavericks have done that in every part of the offseason this year. In just a few hours, the trio of Donnie, Carlisle and Michael Finley (still not sure I understand why he's part, but if it helps, be my guest) will meet with the Nets superstar to give him their best argument. When he finally makes his decision will the Mavericks know whether their moves of the past year were worth it, or just a valiant effort to finally land a big time free agent falling through once again. All three new Maverick prospects intrigue me, but I'm afraid that it will be a couple of years before they have the skills to make an impact for this team, if they ever do. So many things hinge on Deron Williams' decision he will make these next couple of days, the draft is just one more to add to that list.