Each year, SB Nation does a mock draft, featuring representatives from each teams' blog picking for their respective clubs. I have handled draft duties for Mavs Moneyball the last two years. In 2012, I picked Tyler Zeller (and technically, so did the real Mavs), although at that time trades were not allowed in our mock draft. Had they been, I would have likely traded back, as Dallas ended up doing. In 2013, trading became legal in our mock draft, but after failing to move up I stayed at pick #13 and took Shabazz Muhammad. The jury is still out on that one, but given how historically bad the 2013 rookie class performed, Muhammad's relatively decent if infrequent play could make him one of the more promising players from that group.
This year, with trades allowed and a draft class as highly prized as any in the last decade, things were poised to get very interesting. And that they did.
I will say, for my part, I was intent on trading up into the first round. For one, I think this is a tremendous draft to acquire first round picks for, and would be thrilled if the actual club did just that, but perhaps just as importantly, since the SB Nation Mock Draft only features the first round, I wouldn't have had anything to write about otherwise. So, the question became: who to trade up for?
The first few picks went about as expected (more on this later). The first moderate surprise came when Orlando took Julius Randle fourth. Then when the Celtics came up at pick #6, what I'd like to call "Blogger Draft Fever" took over. The Celtics executed a trade for Kevin Love with Minnesota, who then took Aaron Gordon with the sixth pick. Then with pick #8, the Kings engaged in a three-way trade with Philadelphia and Chicago that essentially turned the draft on its head. The 76ers ended up with the eighth pick (and the 19th), the Bulls took #10, and the Kings got #16. For more on this, check out the Mock Draft breakdown.
At this point it seemed like the wheels of sanity on this little project had come loose, and it was at this point I decided to try and make a really big splash. I had noticed that Marcus Smart was falling a little. I am a huge Marcus Smart fan, and thought he would be a prize worth giving up just about anything Dallas had. I tried unsuccessfully to make a move with Charlotte at pick #9, but saw that they took Doug McDermott instead. Chicago also rebuffed me, but their head writer had told me they intended to take Nik Stauskas. So Smart apparently was still falling.
My next email was to Orlando at pick #12. My offer was focused around Brandan Wright, Dallas' 2015 first rounder, and Shane Larkin. I was even willing to put Monta Ellis on the table, though this would likely mean taking back salary from Orlando. I imagine had I traded Monta, there would have been some significant backlash, but my rationale was that Marcus Smart could do a lot of the same things Monta can (drive to the basket, create plays for himself or others in pick and roll situations, etc.) with the added benefit of being a potentially superb defender. For all the good things Monta did for Dallas last season, I still think there is cause for concern going forward, as building a team that both features him and adequately covers up his shortcomings will be difficult.
In any event, Orlando did not seem too interested in this proposal. At this point I confessed to Tim Cato that this was a sobering lesson on how barren Dallas' trade asset cupboard was, and made the analogy that it felt like being the fat pimply nerd with rabid acne trying to ask out the head cheerleader.
Salvation came in the form of an email from Philadelphia. The 76ers were apparently negotiating a deal with Toronto for the 20th pick, and were looking to turn that pick into a 2015 first rounder. Now armed with this pick, I went back to Orlando, and suddenly the conversation changed. If Smart continued to fall, it now seemed at least possible that I had a shot at landing him. It was as exciting as a completely fake transaction brokered via internet collaboration could be.
Just as I was starting to imagine how I would write my "in defense of trading Monta" piece, Tim emailed me with bad news: Chicago had reversed course, apparently having not realized Smart was still on the board, and was taking the Oklahoma State point guard. The feeling of sadness that came over me is probably a lot like what the real GMs experience, only not delusional and pathetic.
Back at the drawing board, I decided that if I couldn't have Marcus Smart, I'd try making a splash by pairing the 20th pick with a second first round draft pick, somewhere in the 20s. I quickly narrowed my focus to two players I saw as possible late-round steals: Jordan Adams and Clint Capela. Adams was the well-rounded scorer and ball-thief who could offer much needed bench scoring to Dallas once Vince Carter decided to retire. Capela was the super-athletic big who could block shots and finish above the rim.
I had some discussion about who to take first, assuming I would later get a second pick. I settled on Capela, as I thought he would be the more sought-after prospect. I made initial inquiries about pick #21, #22 and #24, hoping Brandan Wright and the 34th pick would be enough to make it happen.
Then, news broke about Joel Embiid's foot injury. Embiid had gone first in this mock draft, and as speculation spread about the possible recovery time -- and larger dangers clouding his future -- the draft proceedings were put on hold and a "do-over" option was discussed, with much consternation in both directions.
What ended up happening was that the first five picks were re-done the following day, which was unfortunately an extremely busy one for me. I was unable to communicate with any other bloggers, and thus my "master plan" to acquire a second pick did not come to fruition.
So, what I present now is sort of a half-realized mock draft scenario that is meant entirely as good fun and not any sort of realistic prediction or suggestion for Thursday's big night:
Dallas trades: Shane Larkin, Ricky Ledo, and an unprotected 2015 1st round pick
Dallas receives: 20th pick, Arnett Moultrie, Jason Terry (previously traded to PHI from SAC)
Dallas selects: Clint Capela, F/C, Switzerland
Giving up on Shane Larkin might seem like a hasty decision, and admittedly I had done so under the assumption I would add another perimeter player with my second selection. Although I didn't technically get another first round pick, it is possible that some quality options will be available at pick #34.
What I see with Larkin is a player who is most likely too small to be a full-time starter in the NBA at 5'11, who struggled in limited minutes as a rookie (with a shooting slash line of .380/.316/.640, a sky-high turnover percentage, and a dismal 8.3 PER), and is currently behind Jose Calderon, Monta Ellis and Devin Harris (likely to be either resigned or replaced by a player of similar stature) on the depth chart. If it seems counter-intuitive to trade him -- the 18th pick -- in a package for the 20th pick, just 12 months later, keep in mind the widely-accepted difference in quality of draft.
Ricky Ledo, while something of an internet favorite, is even less proven as a professional, and while I still hold out hope he'll develop, his chances of success are put into proper context when comparing his performance in the D-League to 2014 draft prospect and fellow member of the Texas Legends, P.J. Hairston (someone I considered a backup plan if Jordan Adams had been taken). Hairston played fewer minutes with the Legends than Ledo, at a younger age, yet averaged six points per game more, and shot better from the field. Hairston is not expected to go in the top 20 picks.
Of course, much more important than what might go wrong with Larkin or Ledo is what might go right with Capela. A bouncy, 6'11 forward who just turned 20, Capela rates well not only in traditional scouting circles that fawn over his size, length, and athletic ability, but also with analytics-types, who see his tremendous shooting percentages, block and rebound rates, and envision an efficient scoring defensive anchor like Serge Ibaka. Capela rated as the second best prospect in Kevin Palton's WARP-projections, ahead of Embiid, Parker and Wiggins, and just behind Marcus Smart. While the noise in translating international players might be a little louder than with college players, that's still quite an endorsement.
Having the chance to look at Capela's tape, you can't help but see an electric athlete who plays above the rim at both ends. While he's not quite as big as Tyson Chandler, if he puts on 15 or so pounds of muscle, it's not too hard a stretch to imagine him having a similar kind of defensive impact. This is the exact kind of profile Dallas needs in a frontcourt mate for Dirk Nowitzki. Someone big who can cover ground, protect the basket, and rebound on defense, and finish his chances inside on offense.
With this trade, Dallas also gets to give Jason Terry a farewell/reunion tour in Dallas(hopefully also hitting a few open three-pointers along the way), and has a chance to take a look at Arnett Moultrie, a talented big man with a questionable attitude that Dallas expressed interest in back in 2012. Moultrie had a surprisingly good rookie season, where he rebounded well, and even showed off a solid midrange game. His second year was a complete disaster, and if the Liberty Ballers site is any indication, he has worn out his welcome in Philly.
Maybe the biggest price Dallas pays in this deal is giving up next year's first rounder, but there are a few things I'd like to say about this. It's important to remember that due to the Ted Stepien Rule, Dallas cannot trade their 2015 pick solely for a veteran (or veterans), because the rule forbids trading picks in consecutive years, and Dallas has already ceded their 2014 selection to Oklahoma City. This move is sort of a way around this rule, as Dallas is acquiring another 2014 first rounder.
For a team with a 36 year old franchise player, waiting a year to either draft someone or trade their pick then for a veteran seems next to pointless. Dallas needs players now, and has little choice but to go for it all while their window remains oh-so-narrowily open. While it would seem Philadelphia is banking on Dallas being out of the playoff race this upcoming season, I expect the Mavericks to play hard and sneak in once again. Perhaps, with some smart off-season moves, they can do even better than sneak in. Either way, I would bet on that 2015 pick being higher than #20.
So, this was my pick, such as it was. What do you think, Mavs fans? Do you hate it? Love it? Something in between? Would you have taken someone else still on the board? Give us your thoughts.