When the Dallas Mavericks selected Ray Spalding with the No. 56 pick in the NBA Draft, many people thought of him as a prime candidate to land one of the teams’ two two-way contracts. However, Spalding really impressed the Mavs, players and coaches alike, with his energetic play in the Las Vegas Summer League, resulting in the Mavs signing him to a four-year deal (two years guaranteed) instead of a two-way deal. So, as of right now, it seems as if Spalding will be a part of the Mavs’ actual 15-man roster throughout this season.
Mavs’ rising star point guard Dennis Smith Jr. is already on the record as a big supporter of Spalding’s game. “(He’s) very dedicated and a hard worker,” Smith Jr. told DallasBasketball.com. “I’m definitely a Ray Spalding fan. ... His potential is limitless.” Smith Jr., like myself, is probably a lot higher on Spalding than most, but that potential he mentioned is something that has surrounded Spalding all throughout his college career at Louisville. Spalding would always show flashes, but for whatever reasons, he just couldn’t put it all together. After what he’s shown in summer league and limited preseason play, the Mavs are hoping to change that.
The biggest question for Spalding this season is whether or not he’ll get a legitimate chance to compete for minutes right away, or at any point in the season, really. That is no easy task, especially since the Mavs are seemingly jam-packed at the power forward and center positions. Players that Spalding will be competing against for minutes includes: DeAndre Jordan, Luke Doncic (if Rick Carlisle continues to start him at power forward), Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber and Salah Mejri. That’s a lot of competition for a rookie second round pick to navigate though.
Best Case Scenario
Though Spalding will have to fight and claw his way to get on the court, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Spalding has impressed the Mavs every step of the way so far, so if he continues to put in the work, one break here or there could push him over the top, whether the Mavs have injuries this season (knock on wood) or a trade happens, leaving Dallas with some backup center minutes to fill.
“Ray has definitely opened eyes,” Mike Shedd, Mavs player development coach, told DallasBasketball.com this summer. “He is very skilled for his size with ability to handle, pass, shoot from distance, and has great hands. ... We love his demeanor. (He) has a calmness about his game. Definitely intriguing as a development prospect. He has great upside, and with what he has shown so far, it provides an excitement (about) what could come down the road.”
How far is “down the road?” That part has yet to be determined.
Worst Case Scenario
The worst case scenario for Spalding would be if he’s not able to perform at a high enough level to stay on the Mavs’ 15-man roster. In my opinion, though, Spalding would basically have to fall off of a cliff (or endure some kind of significant injury — again, knock on wood), in terms of his development, in a short period of time for that to happen — and that doesn’t seem very likely. Being that the Mavs, as mentioned earlier, gave Spalding a four-year deal with the first two years guaranteed, I think it’s safe to say that he’s going to stick around for a while, barring the Mavs including him in a trade this season.
So, in that case, I’d say the second worst case scenario for Spalding would simply be if no opportunities open up for him to get some meaningful minutes. That obviously wouldn’t be the end of the world, being that it takes time for a lot of second rounders and undrafted players to work their way up in the pecking order, but I think that’s about as “bad” as it will get for Spalding this season.
For now, though, Spalding is just focused on working hard and enjoying the journey. As Spalding expressed in this one-on-one interview, “Everyone at this level, I feel, is a hard worker, and they wouldn’t be at this level if they weren’t. So my real challenge is to continue working and learn how I can be a better pro everyday from a great organization like the Dallas Mavericks.”