The Dallas Mavericks recently announced that they are bringing up former Baylor standout Johnathan Motley to the official 15-man roster. This move comes just one day after learning that Nerlens Noel will be away from the team for a while, as he is supposedly having surgery on his thumb. Motley, who was at one time projected as a late first-round draft pick, suffered a torn meniscus in the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen back in March. That injury caused Motley to go undrafted in June, which in turn, led to him signing a two-way contract with the Mavs.
As you can see, the Mavs are really trying to temper everyone’s expectations. In all seriousness, though, it is pretty exciting to see Motley getting a shot with the big boys. In his time with the Texas Legends, Motley played like a man amongst boys, averaging 22.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.2 steals in a little over 33 minutes per game.
Obviously, his knee hasn’t been an issue so far, but the Mavs have definitely done the right thing by letting him get his feet wet in the G-League before taking the next step. That’s the beauty of these new two-way contracts the NBA introduced this year. Teams can develop a couple of intriguing prospects outside of their 15-man roster without having to worry about another team scooping them up.
Although we probably shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves, Motley passes the eye test in terms of being physically ready to contribute as a real NBA player. He’s 6’10 and weighs 230 pounds, but most impressively, he’s got a 7’4 wingspan. His physical measurements are nice, but what we’ve seen from him on the court so far has been even more encouraging. He’s not just an athletic big guy with long arms — he’s got some real skill that the Mavs hope will transition over to the big league.
Still, Motley may not get to play much. In fact, he may not get to play at all, at least not early on. But as we’ve already learned with Maxi Kleber this season, it doesn't matter where you start out in Rick Carlisle’s depth chart. If Motley can bring that competitive fire and effort as a Maverick, he’ll eventually be given an opportunity to crack the rotation. Regardless of how much playing time he gets in the early stages, I don’t think it’ll take Motley very long to become a fan favorite.