We’ve all probably heard the saying, “beggars can’t be choosers.”
When it comes to the Dallas Mavericks, the one thing I think we can all agree on is that the team needs to add as much young (Dennis Smith Jr. young, not Maxi Kleber young) talent as it possibly can. However, for the sake of debate, the staff discussed what position the Mavs would be better off picking when the draft comes around this offseason. Talent tops pretty much everything, but in some situations, a team may be forced to consider a prospect’s fit as well. We asked our staff:
Should the Mavs draft a big or a wing in the 2018 NBA Draft? State your case.
Kirk (@KirkSeriousFace): Draft philosopies are fun to discuss before the lottery because it helps everyone identify what is most important to a person as we consider team building. But it can be dangerous in practice, as it can result in tunnel vision. Right now, the Mavericks are slightly pigeon holed because any player they draft must be compatible with Rick Carlisle. As much as talent should trump everything else, we’ve seen far too many players fail compared to expectations because they do not fit Carlisle’s expectations.
This is a long way of me saying that the Mavericks should, if at all possible, draft a wing with their pick. The NBA is severely lacking in functional wings, which is why a guy like Kelly Oubre is coveted despite not being able to translate his talent into results. The upcoming free agent market, on the other hand, is packed with above average big men. So when we consider how long it takes bigs to develop in the current NBA, it just makes more sense to select a wing given the option. Modern bigs are too important to defensive game plans and have smaller margins for error. And we’ve seen what happens to error-prone players who play under Carlisle. A wing, it must be.
Dalton (@dalton_trigg): It really depends where the Mavs end up drafting. If it’s the No. 1 pick? That’s where this debate would really heat up, as the Mavs would be picking between DeAndre Ayton (a big) and Luka Doncic (a wing), two tremendously talented prospects that have clearly separated themselves from the rest of the pack so far. If it’s the No. 2 pick? Well that makes it really easy. You’d just take whichever player (still talking about just Ayton/Doncic) wasn’t selected first.
If the Mavs fall past those spots, that’s where they may start thinking about fit more than overall talent. If it’s a big they want, I think Jaren Jackson Jr. is the best fit for them. He is a naturally gifted defender that already does all the things Carlisle demands from his bigs.
If it’s a wing they want, and Doncic is gone, the best next prospect in many mock drafts is Mikal Bridges, but it would probably be a reach to take him with a top-five pick.
This brings me to Michael Porter Jr., who was recently cleared by his doctor to resume basketball activities after recovering from a back injury. Is he a big or is he a wing? I think he’s probably both, a hybrid so to speak, and a perfect fit for the Mavs, as well. His medicals will need to check out, but if the Mavs are on the clock when Ayton and Doncic are gone, I don’t see how the Mavs pass on Porter. I think of him as a Ben Simmons-type (at least physically) with a much better jumper. If healthy, his ceiling is sky high, and he will probably contribute sooner than anyone left on the board.
So should the Mavs go with a big or a wing? Get you a man that can do both.
Jordan (@Jbrodess): Dalton, I’m not sure I see much Simmons in Michael Porter Jr., simply because Simmons is a pass first point-forward. I don’t see MPJ being that kind of playmaker. And if healthy, I think I’d prefer a Porter over a Simmons paired with DSJ. But that’s a conversation for another week.
Look. The Mavericks need to address so many areas of this roster that it’s easy to say that they need to just draft for talent. And Kirk, I think you’re right that a fit with Carlisle is very important. But past that, I think this player’s fit with Dennis Smith Jr. is just as, if not more, important. And that’s one of the reasons I think the Mavs need to pick a big. With watching DSJ play off the ball recently, I’ve had some concerns about how he would mesh with Doncic. I think it would be less of a problem with the other wings in this class, but Doncic is the primary wing we’re all looking at. If the Mavs picked a post player, they’d have to worry less about DSJ’s development or how he’d blend with the next cornerstone of the future.
If we look at the top ten of this draft class, we can classify Doncic, Porter Jr., Mikal Bridges, Miles Bridges and Kevin Knox as wing or wing hybrids. For bigs we’re looking at some order of: DeAndre Ayton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marvin Bagley, Mo Bamba, and Wendell Carter. In my book, that’s two wings who could end up being superstar level players, and up to four bigs who could reach the same ceiling. The odds just lean toward grabbing a big.
Last summer when the Mavericks selected Dennis Smith Jr. they did so for a few reasons. Yes, they needed a point guard of the future, yes he fell in to their lap at ninth, but they also picked a point guard because that position was the marquee of the draft class. This time around it’s post players. They have a tougher task this time around because they’ll most likely be selecting at a point in the draft where there will be more options. But in my top five, there are more surefire bigs than wings that will fit in Dallas.
Ian (@SmitheeMMB): Obviously, who is on the board when Dallas picks will be the biggest factor in answering this question, but I think this draft could be a really interesting test-case for addressing the team’s overall philosophy toward roster construction. Since Tyson Chandler left in the summer of 2011, Rick Carlisle has typically opted to fill out the center minutes by committee, using several big men with different skillsets depending on matchups. That doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given how the league has become more about floor spacing and having as many versatile defenders who can switch as possible.
While it’s true that Dallas pursued (and came as close to signing without actually signing as one can) DeAndre Jordan, that looks more and more like an outlier in the team approach, driven perhaps by desperation to pair Dirk with any kind of All-Star willing to join the Mavs, as the team had been unsuccessful in its attempts to woo Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, and on and on. Mark Cuban’s bond with Chandler Parsons may have also played a role, since Parsons wanted DeAndre and facilitated that courtship.
By most accounts, this draft is stacked with NBA-caliber big men, and that depth may push a big who wouldn’t otherwise be there into their range, much in the way the point guard depth in last year’s draft dropped Dennis Smith, Jr. right into their lap. However, my feeling is that the Mavs will prioritize a wing first and foremost, especially one with playmaking chops. The perimeter duo of Matthews and Barnes has stifled Carlisle’s offense, as that’s arguably the worst ball-handling/passing wing combo in the league. My sense is that the team will want to fix that as soon as possible, and if doing so means continuing a platoon approach at center a while longer, they’ll live with that.
Sam (@SamGuertler): I agree with everything that’s been said thus far. It really depends on when the Mavs pick and who is on the board. But if I ignore the variables, and answer the question straightforward, the Mavs need a wing. For as much as the organization loves Harrison Barnes, and for how much he’s done for the city of Dallas since his arrival, he really isn’t a dynamic wing. He’s a reliable scorer and solid defender, but that’s about it.
The Mavericks are lacking a playmaking wing, and obviously, Luka Doncic would be the pipe dream. As for the glut of talented bigs available in this draft, while it would be nice to have one, I think the Mavs’ offense allows them to plug and play five men. As long as they can function in the pick and roll, they can be of use in Rick Carlisle’s scheme. So, if the opportunity presents itself, the Mavericks should spend a premium pick on a blue-chip wing and fill a gaping hole rather than spend it on a big.