The Dallas Mavericks and the NBA Draft are not the best of friends. Most of that has to do with the Mavericks and their inability to find some decent, young talent, or trying to trade picks to get better players.
That's worked before, though. Dallas traded its first and second round picks from last year's draft to the New York Knicks to bring back Tyson Chandler. But that meant no picks last year, and also shipping away Shane Larkin, who the Mavs got in the 2013 draft in a trade with Atlanta.
Tyler Zeller turned into Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder and Bernard James. Jordan Hamilton was traded for Rudy Fernandez. Solomon Alabi plays in the Philippines now. The horse has been beaten to death enough.
Dallas holds the 21st pick in this year's draft, and need to make sure it finds gold with it. The Mavericks likely won't have a first-round pick in 2016, thanks to the trade for former Mavericks legend Rajon Rondo. There's plenty of talent to be had in this draft, so let's talk about it.
How crucial is this draft for the Mavs, and is it more vital than drafts in recent years?
Tim Cato: The Mavericks' failure to draft usable young prospects in the recent years makes each successive draft more and more important. If Dallas misses on this pick or trades it away into the oblivion of the early second round (hello Jae Crowder!), I'm sure they'll manage just like the have the past five. It's not like the franchise is going to end or something. But as I've written before, a starting player who's still on a rookie-scale contract is one of the most valuable assets a team can have. At some point, in the quickly approaching post-Dirk era, they have to find some young players like that. Now seems like a good time to start.
Jonathan Tjarks: I would say every draft is crucial in the sense that the name of the game in the modern NBA is accumulating assets and growing your overall talent base. Teams grow stale, guys get old and you are constantly racing against every other franchise to put together the best possible roster. If you aren't constantly bringing in fresh young talent it's eventually going to come back to haunt you, as the Mavs have found out over the last few seasons. The only reason it's more vital than in recent years is that the team owes a future pick as part of the Rajon Rondo trade so they really have to take advantage of the opportunity to draft a good young player at 21.
Alan Smithee: So, I've probably said that past drafts were crucial for Dallas, too, but I'm going to say it again. Dallas is headed for a cliff -- the cliff that invariably comes when you have an aging core and a dearth of young talent -- and even though the Mavs have avoided that cliff by making the playoffs the last two years, the edge is still close. Dallas really needs a useful player to come out of this draft, and that would be true even if they didn't owe next year's pick to Boston because of the Rondo trade. Pick 21 doesn't guarantee they'll get that guy(and it makes getting a stud less than likely), but one need look no further than this year's free agent class to realize that star level talent can be found outside the top 20. DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Danny Green, Draymond Green, Wes Matthews ... Butler is the only one taken in the first round, and he went 30th overall.
Should the Mavs entertain any trade offers? If so, what's the best haul?
Alan: I don't know what Dallas could realistically get for a non-lottery draft pick. I would doubt that it would be enough to induce Denver to give up the disgruntled Ty Lawson, for example. What might work is if Monta opts in and you package him and the #21st pick. I would kick the tires on Indiana's George HIll. Quality point guard with defensive chops. The Pacers could take Monta and they'd have two picks; one of which they could use on a point guard to replace Hill.
Tim: The best haul would be to get rid of Raymond Felton. If the Mavericks have several prospects they like but nobody they love at no. 21 and could entice a no. 24 through 27 pick holder to take on Felton to swap picks (maybe send them a future second, too, if needed), that would be a quality move for the front office. Besides that, it's impossible to say -- I don't expect a Tyson-like trade, but we didn't expect that last year, either.
Jonathan: I really don't think the Mavs need to worry about a trade. They have the tendency to get too cute when it comes to the draft and try to get one over on the rest of the league when the reality is they haven't had an edge when it comes to evaluating young talent since the late 1990's, when they were one of the teams on the cutting edge of the international market. There's going to be a few good players on the board at 21 and the Mavs have long-term needs at almost every position on the floor. Take your time, make the sound pick and find a quality young player. The worst thing they could do is over-complicate something that doesn't need to be all that complicated. If they were going to make a move, they should think about trading up and getting a higher quality young player. The problem with that, of course, is they don't have a lot of assets that other teams would be interested in in large part because they spent the last 5+ years in the draft trying to be something they are not.
Which prospect do you like the Mavs taking with the 21st pick? How would he help them?
Jonathan: I'm a big R.J. Hunter fan and taking him at 21 seems like the perfect mix of BPA and team need. That said, I've talked about him at length on this site in the past so one guy I'll bring up who seems to be sliding in a lot of the latest mocks is Sam Dekker from Wisconsin. This is a guy who could end up being one of the steals of the draft if he falls this far. There are concerns about whether his 3-point shot will translate to the NBA line as well as his overall ceiling because he's a junior but there's still a lot to like. He's got great size - he's not a 6'9 combo forward, he's a true wing who sprouted a few inches in college and that gives him the versatility to play a number of positions at the next level. He's very athletic, he's a very smart player and he has been coached up a lot in college. He can step in right away and thrive in a half-court NBA system and he could be a lot more productive in a more wide-open system than what he played at Wisconsin. He can get out and run, he can defend multiple positions and he knows how to play on and off the basketball - he's the kind of young player that Carlisle would play right away. Imagine a much, much better version of Jae Crowder.
Alan: I think the extent I've written about R.J. Hunter could qualify as fawning, but I'm a fan. We saw when Rondo joined the team how clogged up the Dallas offense became, with too few shooters to force opposing defenses to stay honest. Hunter can space the floor, but also handle the ball and make plays as a passer. Plus, at 6'6 with long arms and a frame that could support more weight, Hunter upgrades the team's size on the wings. If Hunter isn't there or isn't atop Dallas' wishlist, I expect them to take advantage of the positional depth in the draft at point guard or power forward.
Tim: I love R.J. Hunter. If he's there at no. 21, I'll be thrilled (or devastated if he isn't the pick) because I really think he has the shooting, playmaking and ball handling combination that can eventually turn him into a solid two-guard in this league. Besides him, I'd be okay with any of the tall point guards. Just not Tyus Jones, please, for the love of God.