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2104 Draft Primer, Part 2: Will Dallas trade up into the first round?

Some possible value picks in the latter third of the first round.

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As recently discussed, the Dallas Mavericks do not own a first round pick in the upcoming 2014 NBA Draft.

But could they get one?

It would hardly be unprecedented. In 2010, when the Mavs owed their original first rounder to the Nets as the final charge in the Jason Kidd trade, Dallas paid the maximum allowable cash total of $3 million to trade with Memphis and essentially buy their way back into draft. Who did they end up taking? Well, that's not important. Let's just focus on the fact that they did it.

There are several teams with multiple picks in this year's draft. The Phoenix Suns, for example, own three selections (14, 18 and 27). Also owning more than one pick are the Thunder (29 and Dallas' 21), Bulls (16 and 19), newly-named Hornets (9 and 24), Jazz (5 and 23), Celtics (6 and 17), 76ers (3 and 10) and Magic (4 and 12). I would definitely be curious to see if Phoenix or Charlotte were interested in trading the later of their first rounders.

If the Mavericks do have eyes for a trade-up scenario, here are some names I would at as potential value picks somewhere in the 20s.

Dario Saric, 6'10 SF/PF, 20 years old, Croatia

With my list of second round prospects, I presented them alphabetically, but here I'm going to start with Saric, because he's the most interesting and most highly touted name on the list. I should clarify: he is unlikable to fall to the 20s, so Dallas would almost certainly have to trade up a little higher. The only reason I'd even entertain the possibility that Dallas might do so is because the Mavericks reportedly have a longstanding love affair with Saric. The Croatian forward was linked heavily to the Mavs last year, before he ended up withdrawing his name from the draft. There was speculation he might do the same again this time around, but as Monday's deadline passed, Saric is now officially "in".

Saric has been a star in Croatia for a while now, making it no small wonder the 20-year old has been on the prospect radar so long, but he really stepped up his game this past season. Saric did not seem fazed by the growing buzz around him after flirting with the 2013 draft, posting per-36 minute averages of 18 points, 10 rebounds and nearly 4 assists in the Adriatic League. It is his playmaking skills at 6'10 that make him such a dynamic prospect, and especially so for Donnie Nelson, who according to several articles has taken many trips to personally watch Dario play. Remember that it was Donnie's father who longed for the dream of the "point forward," who could rebound the ball and then start the fast break himself. Saric would seem to fit that bill to a tee.

Saric also made strides as a shooter (improving his 3-point percentage from 30.3 to 34.5 and his free throw percentage from 50.0 to 68.1), enough to the point where envisioning him as a threat from outside no longer requires major projection.  If he continues to improve in this area -- and at 20 he certainly could -- Saric could be an All-Star at the offensive end. His feel for the game and basketball IQ (traits Dallas tends to covet) are universally praised, and there are few players at his size with the same skill level in the NBA, let alone in this draft.  Unlike a player I profiled recently in Isaiah Austin, Saric would appear to have the desire, smarts and confidence to actualize these tools.

Defensively, there is less room for optimism with Saric. He may not be quite enough of an athlete to guard opposing small forwards, which would leave him at the power forward spot, where he'll be asked to bang in the post a good bit. His effort and intelligence are not considered concerns, so it is possible that Saric could mitigate his lack of athleticism on defense somewhat. In any event, with talents like Saric, you worry about what position he guards later. Dallas should know this: it was the same approach with Dirk Nowitzki.

Also clouding the picture for Saric is his timetable for actually coming to the NBA. His father apparently wants him to stay overseas another year, and maybe more. It is unclear if Saric even wants to play in the NBA next season, and if so, how easily he can be bought out of the contract he recently signed with a Turkish team. I may be wrong about this, but I think this might actually be a benefit to the Mavs. How soon he can come over could cause Saric to drop a little in the draft, and from everything we've heard Dallas has no problem keeping a player like Saric stashed for a year or so.

Kyle Anderson, 6'9 SF/PF, 20 years old, UCLA

Anderson is the perfect guy to follow Saric, because I think in many ways he is the domestic version of Saric. Like fellow Bruin Jordan Adams, Anderson is a personal favorite of mine, though I think a major key to his success at the next level will be the role he's given, and how well he fits on the roster he joins.

Just as Saric is considered an exceptional ball-handler and passer for his size, Kyle Anderson separates himself by being a prolific passer at 6'9. Despite playing forward, Anderson finished sixth in the country in assists per game, and ranks first on Draft Express's top 100 prospects in assist rate. For a non-point guard (never mind non-guard), that is almost unheard of. Anderson does other things well, too, of course. He hauled in almost nine boards a game, shot 48 percent from three, and contributed two steals and a block per night, also. Anderson could be aptly described as a "stat-sheet stuffer."

There are rubs, naturally. Kyle Anderson's nickname is "Slo-Mo," and while it was given because of the effortless and deliberate manner in which Anderson plays, it also happens to be an accurate description of his foot-speed. Anderson got to the places he wanted to on the court in college, but in the NBA his lack of quickness and explosion will hurt him on offense. On defense, you would think Anderson's size at 6'9 and incredible length (at the combine his wingspan was measured just shy of 7'3) would help him dominate, but Anderson was beaten when asked to move laterally against quick wings.

There is also some question about exactly how good a shooter Anderson is. Though his 3-point percentage as a sophomore was tremendous, he didn't take a lot of threes, and the percentage itself was a big jump from his freshman year. Anderson's shot looks good leaving his hands, but he has a kind of slow, unwinding delivery. He shoots much better spotting up than moving around screens or off the dribble.

I am a believer in Kyle Anderson, as generally guys who do so many things well find a way to contribute in the NBA. However, with Anderson I believe it will be especially important he land on the right team. Specifically, a club that will allow him to do what he does best: handle the ball, pass, put him in different spots on the floor, and surround him with enough athletes to cover his defensive inadequacies. Anderson as a player is incredibly unique, but if his coach isn't, he may languish.

Clint Capela, 6'11, PF/C, 20 years old, Switzlerand

Capela's stock seems to be a bit volatile at the moment, which makes some sense, as he's an athletic but raw international player. I have seen him grouped in with guys at the back end of the lottery or late teens, however in Chad Ford's latest mock draft, he has Capela going 27th to Phoenix. That would be a perfect spot to target as a trade up destination, since it seems unlikely that the Suns (who won 48 games and narrowly missed the playoffs) will bring in three rookies.

If I had to identify one position I'd most like to find in the draft, it would probably be a rim-protecting big man. After possible number one overall pick Joel Embiid, Clint Capela is probably the best guy fitting that description. At the Nike Hoop Summit he measured at 6'11 with a 7'4 1/2 wingspan, making him tied with Isaiah Austin as the longest player in the draft. By all accounts Capela is a terrific athlete, who combines quickness and leaping ability with great timing as a rebounder and shot-blocker.

Though it would seem that his offensive game is extremely limited at the moment, Capela did score fairly well in his most recent French League campaign. Watching his game tape you can see he has some aptitude handling the ball, and is very aggressive running the floor and attacking the basket. He also averaged two assists per 36 minutes, along with an assist to turnover ratio of basically 1:1, which isn't too bad given the talk about how raw he is.

The best-case scenario would seem to be someone like Serge Ibaka, who posted very similar numbers at the same age in the Spanish League and was something of a mystery man who OKC scooped up with the 24th pick in 2008. Of course, it should be noted that Ibaka made tremendous strides over his first few years, and players who make those kinds of improvements that fast are the exception, not the rule. Still, from a physical tools and production standpoint (aside from Ibaka's advantage in free throw percentage, hinting at his potential as a midrange jumpshooter), they are comparable prospects.

I have seen some stuff around the web about Capela's demeanor and passion for the game. These are the areas where drafting becomes more luck than science, especially with someone relatively under-exposed, like Capela. I really can't attest to how good a teammate he is, or how much he likes basketball, or how hard he'll work once he gets his first big NBA paycheck. I suppose I can't really attest to that to too great a degree with any prospect, but that uncertainty is intensified in light of the fact that I haven't actually seen Capela play all that much.  Players like Capela are mystery meats: you might be acquiring high grade stuff, or you might be acquiring something else entirely.

Elfrid Payton, 6'4, PG, 20 years old, Louisiana Lafayette

If Capela's stock is volatile, Payton's is pure helium. A month ago, Payton was being slotted at the end of the first round. By the time I planned to do this article and target possible first round options, Payton was moving up, and now that I'm actually writing the article, Payton is being discussed not only in the lottery but possibly even in the top 10. That is crazy, though it's possible this could all level off a bit. I had considered shifting focus to Tyler Ennis (who would seem to be the victim to Payton's rise up draft boards), another point guard I also like very much, but as Payton is such an interesting player I decided to stick with my plan and risk looking silly if he goes super-early.

In my second round prospect breakdown of Spencer Dinwiddie, I noted that Dallas could do well to try and find a player capable of fitting in better with Monta Ellis in the starting backcourt, while also noting such a player is extremely rare.  Monta's perfect guard-mate is someone big enough to defend either PG or SG, capable of initiating the offense so Monta is not over-taxed in this regard, but also capable of playing off-ball and hitting open shots.  Payton is emphatically the first two, but probably well below ideal in the third area.

Still, Payton's combination of size, athleticism, and defensive tenacity is exciting, making it not too surprising that he is being elevated on prospect lists. Playing in the Sun Belt Conference, Payton did not get much exposure during the regular season. The junior guard put up the kind of numbers you would probably expect a future NBA player to put up against that kind of competition: 19 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2.3 steals. Payton finished his NCAA career with 24 points and 8 rebounds in a loss to Creighton in the tournament.

In addition to his prototype height and length for the point guard position, Payton stands out for his superb quickness, allowing him to get to the basket at will while also preventing his counterpart from doing so. Payton was third in the nation in free throw attempts, demonstrating how often he got into the paint. Payton could finish once there, as well, making nearly 54 percent of his 2-point attempts. Payton's strong steal and rebound rates show that his athletic ability is not simply theoretical but translates to on the court results.

Payton's biggest weakness is not an insignificant one. He made 26 percent of his threes and barely 60 percent of his free throws as a junior, and that's no fluke. Payton's outside shot was simply non-existent during his college career. We've heard rumblings that his form has improved during pre-draft workouts, but who knows how accurate that information really is. Payton is still very young (while a junior, he is only 20), so there is time to correct his shot.

Given the lack of success Dallas had with Dominique Jones, it is possible that Payton just isn't the type of player Dallas will want to take a chance on right now. However, I think Payton's athletic profile and defensive reputation put him a cut above the DoJo's of the world, and having a ball-pressuring point guard could go a long way toward shoring up the disappointing Maverick defense.