The 2013 NBA Draft is closing in and the Dallas Mavericks' plans continue to be a complete mystery. Whether we should be intrigued or terrified by this is up to personal choice.
As expected, the summer has been dominated by questions of whether Chris Paul or Dwight Howard will leave their respective teams, and that should continue to be the case as the latest "report" is that the pair are considering playing together again. However unlikely a scenario it may be, Dallas obviously would love to be the team to make that happen, and as such, the organization may view the draft as little more than a salary obligation and impediment to completing their precious Big Three. Rumors have surfaced that Dallas' first choice may be to draft someone they can stash for a year, thus eliminating the cap hold for the #13 pick, or, failing that, trade the pick(possibly along with Shawn Marion and the $9+ million he's owed next year).
With all that in mind, we learned today(the withdrawal deadline for early entry draft candidates) about the latest news on Croatian forward Dario Saric:
Dario Saric (ranked No. 11 on our Big Board) is officially withdrawing from the draft. Story coming soon …— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 17, 2013
Saric was considered one of the top draft prospects in the draft, and perhaps the premiere foreign talent, making the 19 year old a potentially ideal "draft and stash" project for Dallas. The Mavericks, led by Donnie Nelson and a host of scouts, had reportedly flown to see Saric play in person in the Croatian playoffs, where the precocious point forward won tournament MVP.
The noise on Dallas' interest in Saric had grown loud, but now the team must look elsewhere if they are to take a player on June 27th. Saric is not the only touted foreign player Dallas could stash for a year, but he may have been the only one good enough in Dallas' eyes to justify taking. It is possible that this may push Dallas further into considering simply dumping the pick to clear salary, or something else equally dubious.
However, Dallas does continue to work out collegiate prospects, giving hope that they do, infact, intend to pick someone who can help next year. Here's the latest breakdown:
Just finished my workout with Dallas! It went great #draftdreams— Michael Carter-Willi (@MCW1) June 12, 2013
Michael Carter-Williams, for those that don't know, is the tall, athletic point guard from Syracuse, and favorite of many a draftnik. He has been mocked anywhere from #6 to the late teens, but most consider him unlikely to fall to Dallas at pick #13. As recently as May, it was reported by Mike Fisher that MCW was #1 on Dallas' list of draft point guards, ahead of Trey Burke, and for a team with a clear need at the point position, Carter-Williams might be at or near the top of their draft board overall.
As a prospect, Carter-Williams is tantalizing. At 6'6, with a 40+ inch vertical, and legitimate point skills, there may not be another guy in the NBA like him. The closest approximation might be Shaun Livingston, who appeared destined for stardom before one of the most horrific injuries you'll ever see derailed his career. His assist and steal rates corroborate the scouting report on both his great court vision and strong defensive instincts.
Of course, there are rubs. He'll turn 22 in October, so he's a good deal older than the average sophomore, and that's important when you consider his upside, because there are still raw areas to his game. An extremely inconsistent shooter, MCW shot below 40% from the field, below 30% from three, and below 70% from the free throw line: the ignominious trifecta. He also had a sky high turnover rate, making his assist to turnover ratio less impressive than you might expect given what a prolific passer he was. The book here seems to be that Michael is prone to bad decisions, either in forcing passes or taking ill-advised shots. Some of this can be coached out, but you wonder if Dallas would be ready to hand the reigns over to a young point guard like this after already dealing with a point guard who couldn't shoot(Dominique Jones) and a point guard who too often made the wrong decision(Darren Colison).
From Chad Ford's June 11th Big Board:
Larkin's worked out for the Celtics, Bucks, Jazz and Suns. He's got the 76ers and Mavericks this week.
Another point guard, Shane Larkin is a very different prospect from Carter-Williams. Larkin has a fine shooting stroke and is, comparatively, less turnover prone, but at 5'11 with short arms, it's hard to imagine him defending at the next level, even with his speed and leaping ability. However, he tested well enough at the combine and in workouts that his stock has unquestionably risen in the last month and a half, and it isn't unreasonable to think a team somewhere in the middle of the first will take a gamble on him, hoping for the next Chris Paul. SB Nation's own Indy Cornrows just mocked Larkin to Dallas, and while I would prefer any of the three guys they project right after that pick, it is interesting food for thought(as is their suggestion of Marion and #13 for Danny Granger).
Kadji, a teammate of Larkin's, is a 6'10 power forward who most likely would be an option for Dallas' second round pick at #44. A transfer from Florida, Kadji came into his own at Miami, and profiles as a stretch four who would space the floor, something Dallas values highly from their bigs. Already 25, Kadji may not have much room from improvement, but his skillset could make him a quality 8th or 9th man on the right team.
Finally, some minor notes related to the draft/summer league:
- Former second round pick of the Pistons, Terrico White will apparently get a shot with the Mavericks summer league team. White, who suffered an injury his first year and consequently has never played a regular season game in the NBA, spent the last year in Serbia. Still just 23, the 6'5 shooting guard is known for his athletic ability and some pretty spectacular dunks, which you can check out here.
- Duke forward/center Mason Plumlee was apparently scheduled to work out for Dallas, but after scouring the internet I cannot find any confirmation of this. However, he did interview with the Mavs, and gave an insight into what is apparently a fairly unique approach to that process.
- Dallas is apparently one of a few teams interested in point guard Gal Mekel, who after two unimpressive seasons at Wichita State has been playing well in Israel. Marc Stein is undoubtedly elated.