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The players Dallas is most likely to pick

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Who will Dallas select in the 2017 NBA Draft? We rank the prospects in order of likelihood.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Florida State vs Xavier Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The draft is here!

If you feel like it’s taken forever to get to draft day, you’re not alone. Adding to our collective anxiousness is the fact that it appears that GMs around the league have lost their minds, snapping under the intensity of “Warrior-induced futility syndrome” (or WIFS for short). The last 48 hours have brought a flurry of trades, trade rumors, and bizarre free agency buzz, sending virtually every front office into a frenzy right before the draft.

With that as the backdrop, it’s time to try and peek into the crystal ball and conjure a guess as to who exactly the Dallas Mavericks are going to draft. They currently own the ninth pick, but it’s been reported that the Mavs may be looking to move up (see our rumors post), making predictions even hazier. Still, there’s enough of a scent in the air to construct a basic cheat-sheet for those who haven’t had the time or interest to study up.

So here we go. These are the players I believe the Mavs might draft, from least to most likely:

10. Justin Jackson

Why Dallas will take him

These first few players are all trade-back options, should the Mavs continue their longstanding tradition of steadfastly refusing to pick a player at the spot they’re slotted. Jackson doesn’t wow the stathead crowd but he has the look of a classic Mav pick: he’s an older, more experienced prospect, who knows how to play and can shoot and pass. Plus, he’s a wing, and the wing depth on this roster is almost literally all undrafted players.

Why Dallas won’t take him

The collective groan if Dallas trades back once again might be deafening, and the Mavs were stung the last time they took an older player who saw sudden dramatic improvement in his last year in college. That isn’t to say I’d consider Jackson and Justin Anderson the same, but you do wonder if the Mavs aren’t looking for someone with a little more upside, for once.

9. Luke Kennard

Why Dallas will take him

If Dallas does trade back, a team like Portland, which has multiple picks starting at No. 15, makes a lot of sense, and that’s where Kennard will probably end up. Kennard checks several boxes for Dallas: he has good size for a two guard, he’s a great shooter, and he’s shown major improvement as a passer, making him a nice fit in the Dallas offense.

Why Dallas won’t take him

Defensive questions persist, especially if you’re looking at a Curry-Kennard pairing for the future. It might feel like a stereotype since he’s a white guy from Duke, but Kennard will need to answer questions about his athletic ability at the next level, where players will crowd him to take away the jumpshot. Kennard was able to use craft and guile to get room against ACC opponents, but the league is quicker and longer than ever.

8. Donovan Mitchell

Why Dallas will take him

Mitchell has been rising steadily up mock drafts since the combine, where he made scouts salivate with both his measurements (6’4, solidly built 215, and an outstanding 6’10 wingspan) and athletic testing numbers (among the top performers in vertical leap and speed drills). If the point guard Dallas wants isn’t there at No. 9, Mitchell could be a nice consolation prize in a move back a couple of spots. He’s reportedly looked really good shooting the ball in private workouts, and if you believe he has room to grow as a passer, he could be a great fit in Carlisle’s three-guard lineup.

Why Dallas won’t take him

His defensive potential aside, Mitchell looks like a tweener, and while I know we live in the positionless basketball age, I’m just not super confident about his offensive profile. Dallas has specialists; what they really need are good two-way players, and when you’re picking in the top 10, you’d certainly like to meet that criteria.

7. De’Aaron Fox

Why Dallas will take him

If Dallas decides to go the other way and trade up, they might as well see if they can go for it all. There’s been lots of chatter that the Mavs love Fox, and it’s not hard to see why. Fox is a big point guard with breathtaking athletic ability and, maybe best of all, he seems like a coach’s dream: teachable, confident, unselfish and driven. Dallas prides itself on a winning culture and Fox could join future politician Harrison Barnes in keeping that mentality intact even after Dirk leaves.

Why Dallas won’t take him

At this point, I’d be stunned if Fox got past the Kings at No. 5. So any scenario where Dallas ends up with De’Aaron probably has to involve a trade up, and it’s hard to imagine what kind of offer it would take to get the Mavs all the way to where they need go. I hate to be this guy, but those late-season wins against Milwaukee and Memphis hurt.

6. Zach Collins

Why Dallas will take him

The Mavs do have a long history of using a tag team at center. There was Raef LaFrentz and Shawn Bradley, then Erick Dampier and DeSagana Diop, and of course Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood. Collins and Noel would be a fearsome duo, but the elephant in the room here is that Noel is about to be a free agent and will probably get (restricted) max offers. Does Dallas want to commit so much to Noel given his injury history? Collins might offer a nice alternative, allowing the Mavs to shift their attention to someone like Otto Porter.

Why Dallas won’t take him

I’m intrigued by Collins, but it doesn’t seem like a particularly good use of assets, and it would certainly be a bummer to watch Noel go after getting a tease of his abilities. Plus, Collins is no sure thing. He was a bit player for a non-power conference team who was nowhere near the top-10 draft radar eight months ago. In any case, if Collins is the best player on the board, he might be an attractive trade piece to move back and collect more picks.

5. Lauri Markkanen

Why Dallas will take him

Yes, yes, I know, Dirk said he didn’t think Dallas would go in this direction. Ever heard of a smokescreen? Dallas needs shooting and if any team understands the benefit of a having a big who can space the floor, it’s the Mavs. Markkanen could take his game to the next level under Dirk’s tutelage, and with the versatile Nerlens Noel and Harrison Barnes flanking him, Lauri could be adequately protected on defense. Markkanen was one of the country’s most dominant half-court scorers, and that fits the slower paced Mavs style.

Why Dallas won’t take him

Dirk said he didn’t think Dallas would go in this direction, DUH! Seriously, though, while I don’t hate Lauri the way some seem to, there will probably be a better option available when the Mavs pick. Markkanen doesn’t need the pressure of following Dirk Nowitzki, anyway. Let him go to a team where he can forge his own legacy, whatever that might be. Wait, what’s that? Phil Jackson might trade Porzingis and take him? Oh ok, sorry Lauri...

4. Jonathan Isaac

Why Dallas will take him

I could be wrong, but I get the sense this is guy Dallas has fallen for. Despite the glaring hole at point guard, it would be really hard to pass up an opportunity to land a 6’11 kid with this kind of two-way potential. The dictum that you always take the big over the small is an old one, but it still applies, and much in the way Dirk Nowitzki pioneered the power forward revolution, Isaac could continue that as the next positionless star. Isaac and Noel would be a devastating frontline to build around.

Why Dallas won’t take him

Newsflash: other teams like long, athletic, elite defensive bigs with floor-spacing skills, too. Isaac is a dark horse pick to sneak into the top five (maybe even top three), and it’s really hard to imagine him lasting past Orlando and Minnesota at six and seven. If Dallas can’t find a way to trade up, it’s going to take something borderline miraculous for Isaac to get to them at nine. Pretty sure Mark Cuban already used up his one-time allowed miracle back in 2011.

3. Malik Monk

Why Dallas will take him

It’s impossible to say how other teams rank him, but he’s the ninth guy on my board, so...yeah. Monk is easily one of the best shooters in this draft and has highlight-reel athleticism, as well. Few college players were better when they got going, and most impressive is that Monk scored so well without having the ball in his hands a ton. With Seth Curry in the last year of his deal, Monk would be insurance against the former Duke guard leaving.

Why Dallas won’t take him

I know Monk has his fans among Mavdom, but I still consider the nightmare scenario for Dallas to be losing out on all the top point guards and Isaac, making Monk the last man standing. Monk is hardly a non-prospect, but watching him I honestly don’t see much more than a gunner sixth man-type. The Mavs have had a lot of success getting that kind of guy on a cheap free agent deal, the way they did Seth Curry, Vince Carter, Jerry Stackhouse (re-signed after being traded for), etc.

2. Dennis Smith, Jr.

Why Dallas will take him

Smith falling into the Mavs’ lap would at No. 9 would have been ridiculous to predict back in late January, but sometimes the stars just align. Smith fills the biggest area of need for Dallas and brings athleticism and some serious offensive firepower to a club slowly transitioning to life after Dirk. Smith-Barnes-Noel would be a pretty damn fine core to help make that transition as smooth as possible, and amazingly, none of those guys were on the team at this time last year.

Why Dallas won’t take him

Probably the biggest reason they won’t is because someone else will first. If De’Aaron Fox is gone by the time the Kings go on the clock, Smith may get serious consideration at five. The Magic could also tap him at six. Of course, the reasons Smith might fall past those teams are also reasons Dallas may want to look in a different direction themselves: is Smith a selfish player? Will he commit to playing defense more than he did at NC State? Rick Carlisle can be picky with his point guards, so if he doesn’t sign off, it could be trouble.

1. Frank Ntilikina

Why Dallas will take him

Last week I felt a lot more confident in this prediction than I do now, but for a variety of factors, Ntilikina still seems like the guy that makes the most sense. He fits the Mavs’ play style, and his youth and versatility would allow the team to also pursue a free agent PG like Jrue Holiday or George Hill. We know Donnie Nelson has seem him in person (with a large contingent of scouts by his side), and we have photographic evidence Cuban has met him, too. This felt like a match six months ago, and for good reason.

Why Dallas won’t take him

Ntilikina’s French team’s championship run has kept him from participating in the combine or working out for teams individually, and that may have deflated his draft stock somewhat. Notably, Draft Express currently has him falling to 15. That would surprise me, but if for some reason a player Dallas likes more is on the board, then it isn’t too difficult to imagine him slipping past the Kings (who may get their PG at No. 5), and the Hornets (who after trading for Dwight Howard may want a player more ready to contribute immediately).