How is your bracket doing? Already torched, you say? Cool, me too.
The NCAA tournament is in full swing, and even if you’re not much of a college basketball fan, it could be a good chance to get a look at potential future-Dallas Maverick.
Entering Thursday night’s action, the Dallas Mavericks boasted the 10th worst record in the league, and were only a half game up on the ninth worst (and suddenly streaking) New Orleans Pelicans. Dallas has not selected in the top 10 since...oh, the 1998 Draft, huh. That one turned out pretty well, I think. Just take my word for it.
It’s unlikely that the Mavericks will get a top three or four pick, as it looked like they might the last time we checked in with the Mavs’ draft outlook. After starting the year 6-22, Rick Carlisle has proven himself too good to keep Dallas in the cellar all season. It hasn’t exactly been dominance since the New Year, but the patchwork lineup has done enough that the premium, blue chip prospects will most likely be off the board when the Mavs get on clock.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at my (and be advised: this is solely my opinion, and not an MMB writers’ consensus or anything) 2017 Mavericks Draft Big Board, sorted into tiers as well because I feel like it. To clarify, this is not a mock draft, or a prediction of which players are picked where. This is my ranking of the players based on how they’d fit on the Mavs.
1. Markelle Fultz
2. Lonzo Ball
This is the top tier. If Dallas sniffs this group, then something crazy happened. It’s just torturous to really even talk about it, because it’s so unlikely to happen, but I firmly believe this is where the franchise-changers dwell, and it really doesn’t matter who you go with first.
Fultz may not be quite the shotmaker Kyrie Irving or Damian Lillard are and have been pretty much immediately upon entering the NBA, but he’s close, and he’s a better athlete than D’Angelo Russell, the other big scoring point guard to be taken high in recent years. Ball, meanwhile, isn’t the kind of one-on-one scorer Fultz is, but he does so many things well, I just don’t see how he fails. His biggest weakness as a prospect is either his shooting mechanics or probably that his dad seems like kind of a headache to deal with.
3. Josh Jackson
4. Dennis Smith, Jr.
5. Jonathan Isaac
This is the second tier for me, in order. Right now Isaac is sitting farther down on a lot of mocks, but I wonder how with the size/athleticism/shooting potential trifecta going on here that he doesn’t get taken top five. You do cartwheels if any of these guys fall to Dallas.
Jackson and Smith are likely the two best athletes at the small forward and point guard positions, respectively, and while both will need to improve their shooting from outside, they would inject some serious talent into the Dallas core next to Nerlens Noel and Harrison Barnes.
6. Frank Ntilikina
7. Jayson Tatum
8. DeAaron Fox
9. Malik Monk
10. Lauri Markkanen
(11. Miles Bridges)
This is tier three, and I suspect this will be the pool Dallas picks from if they stay in the 8-10 range on draft night. Ntilikina gets a big push because I think he’s the best fit of the bunch (and by fit I mean more the organizational philosophy than the roster). In my view, Dallas needs a perimeter playmaker who can shoot and defend multiple positions. Ntilikina is far from a finished product, but that that’s his potential skill set to a tee, I think.
The rest all check off one or two of those boxes, but not all three, and there will definitely be one or more from this group that goes bust, because that’s just what happens. I go back and forth on the trio of Tatum, Fox and Monk. Monk was on fire earlier in the college season but has cooled off, and where he gets picked may depend largely on how he finishes out the tournament.
Tatum’s Duke Blue Devils are already out, but his trajectory has been almost the reverse of Monk. He missed the first part of the season and gradually earned more and more playing time, before coming on later, and especially in the conference tourney.
So there you have it. Some names to remember come June 22nd. As the playoffs begin to look further and further out of reach, you’ll probably get more draft talk, so start bracing yourself!