The Draft is here. It's today, hours away. This is not a drill.
Weeks and months of workouts and rumors and mock drafts and big boards have led up to this moment, and it will all go out the window when two picks in the Lakers will trade the 2nd pick for Dwyane Wade...'s movie collection. Then the 76ers will take Riley Curry, Phil Jackson will take an obscure Chinese prospect "because Zen and stuff" -- as Chad Ford cries silently into his non-alcoholic beer -- and the floodgates of weirdness truly open.
For draft enthusiasts who follow the Mavericks, mock drafting is an especially pointless exercise. Every year I try to make an educated guess about who Dallas will take, and every year my guess is horribly, horribly wrong because Dallas mostly never drafts anyone at all. Just to refresh everyone's memory, the last time Dallas stayed at their draft spot and took a player was 2006, when they took this guy.
Anyway, now I'll try to make an educated guess about who Dallas will take.
Let's a quick top 10 of the prospects mostly likely to be Mavericks after tonight, from least to most likely:
10. Terry Rozier
Rozier is a point guard, and if there's anything the mock drafts are trying to tell us, it's that Dallas is definitely going to take one of those. Rozier ranks no. 10 because I think he makes less sense than the other first round point guards, but with Monta Ellis now officially out the door, the Mavs will need somebody to take some shots. Physically, Rozier has the size and athletic ability to fit in with the new breed of NBA lead guard, at both ends of the floor. His basketball IQ has been questioned, though, and in the past that has been something the Mavericks have valued perhaps highest of all.
9. Montrezl Harrell
Harrell, Rozier's fellow Louisiville Cardinal, is yet another short power-forward with a freakish wingspan who covers a lot of ground defensively and has a diverse if burgeoning offensive game. You can probably blame Draymond Green for there being a hundred of this type of guy on the first round bubble. Harrell's draft stock is hard to properly pin down, as he is expected to go somewhere in the 15 to 35 range, but most likely in the 20's. He worked out for Dallas, and you can probably assume the Mavs are interested because of his defensive mobility, motor, and toughness; things that would compliment Dirk Nowitzki's finesse game fairly well.
8. Rashad Vaughn
Vaughn has been a late riser on draft boards, to the point that he seems to be a possible pick in the latter half of the teens. He's very young and has all the tools of a classic shooting guard, highlighted by a scoring mentality. Subjectively, I have some issues with his game, as he seems like more of a hero-ball gunner than a quality team player, but as a developmental prospect with upside Vaughn does make sense to fill the hole currently at off-guard. Vaughn has apparently been wowing teams in workouts, but I suspect the interview process will be key for him as a fit in Big D.
7. Delon Wright
Wright is a favorite of mine. With his size, I imagine what a defensive unit on the perimeter would look like with him next to Chandler Parsons and potential free agent signee Danny Green. Wright has been knocked for his age and his lack of a jumpshot, although he did fare well in spot up situations according to synergy. Wright is generally favored in analytic circles, which Mark Cuban is often lumped into. There hasn't been much buzz connecting Wright to Dallas, however, so this may qualify as wishful thinking.
6. Sam Dekker
Curiously, Dekker has been sort of the forgotten man in this draft process. While Frank Kaminsky is being discussed as a top 10 pick suddenly, Wisconsin teammate Dekker has slipped somewhat in the most recent mock drafts. I don't see him as a great fit next to Chandler Parsons, but he may be the best value for the Mavs at pick #21 should he fall. Dekker has perhaps the fewest holes of any prospect outside the top five or six, though he doesn't have one elite trait necessarily, either. Bold as it may sound, I think Dekker has a better chance at sticking as an NBA starter than Kaminsky because of his versatility and defensive potential.
5. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
The ultra-athletic Arizona wing is going to be drafted based almost solely on his potential as a defensive stopper/energy guy, or basically what Al-Farouq Aminu was for Dallas last year. Aminu is a free agent, of course, and could get a sizable raise after his playoff performance against Houston. Hollis-Jefferson would be a terrific replacement should Aminu get an offer he can't refuse from another team. He doesn't offer any help as a floor-spacer, however, and that is why he's ranked here and not higher.
4. Justin Anderson
Anderson had a breakout year with Virginia, after some mechanical adjustments helped him improve his three-point shooting tremendously. If those improvements are real and can be carried over to the NBA three-point line, Anderson has a great chance at being a "3 and D" role player, as he has a strong, athletic frame for a swingman. I'm not entirely convinced he can play guard longterm, but a team like Dallas might decide to pull the trigger now and find his exact fit later.
3. Jerian Grant
Grant also saw great improvement in his last college season, seeing gains in his finishing as well as his decision making. Grant had one of the best assist rates in the country this past year, and excelled particularly in pick and roll plays, a staple of the Dallas offense. Grant's experience might make him attractive to a team like the Mavs, who tend to like immediate contributors, but it also limits his upside, as it's very possible he's maxed out his ability. If that's the case, his lack of consistent jumper and tendency to fall asleep on defense may keep him on the bench.
2. Tyus Jones
Jones has been by my count the most mocked player for Dallas, which doesn't mean as much as one might think. Jones' beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Those who see his youth, passing acumen, and improved shooting stroke see a true point guard and floor leader. Those who see his small stature and pedestrian athleticism question how he'll defend at the next level or score when teams take away the outside shot. Which perspective Dallas falls closer to is anyone's guess, but there does continue to be a loud rumor that Houston has made him a promise at pick no. 18.
1. R.J. Hunter
I'm going to call this "karma." Hunter has been a favorite of mine for some time now, and a popular MMB staff pick in mock drafts. He can shoot, handle, and pass, which is a rare package in a 6'6 (plus 6'10.5 wingspan) frame. Hunter is a coach's son who has been called a "gym rat" with a quiet, cerebral demeanor. Though the small-school zone he played will make his learning curve difficult on the defensive end, Hunter is an almost perfect fit for Dallas and as good as I think they can hope for to come away with from this draft.