The NBA Draft Lottery is right around the corner (May 15), and with every passing day, the anxiety around who the Dallas Mavericks will draft increases. This is especially true when it comes to the wide variety of bigs that will be available in this year’s class, including Mohamed Bamba, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marvin Bagley III. How would these players fit with the Mavs? Do previous free agency pursuits tell us what Dallas is looking for? Which prospect has the highest ceiling? The staff give their thoughts on that and more below!
Ian (@SmitheeMMB): In a way I’ve come around on Mo Bamba, even though my subjective guess is he’s the guy Donnie [Nelson] will like least.
Josh (@Boweman55): I bet the Mavs really like Bamba, because they’re probably the “model team” in terms of maximizing production with guys with Bamba’s skill set. I mean, even though Noel was a disaster, he was still pretty great whenever he actually did play, it was never about his talent or skills.
Ian: They’ve had success with those guys, but have shown zero interest in keeping any of them longterm.
Josh: I think that’s more of their lame offseason planning. They didn’t keep Tyson [Chandler] and [Brandan] Wright because they wanted to chase stars, not necessarily because they didn’t like those types of players. I mean, they wanted Dwight and [Deandre Jordan] who were basically Tyson 2.0 players at the time of the pursuit. Although Rick [Carlisle] has said some weird and dumb things about what he wants out of centers this past season, so I could be super wrong.
Ian: But that’s my point — they chase stars. I think they want a two-way guy or at the very least, a big who can space the floor. There’s different reasons why Wright or Tyson or Nerlens didn’t stay, but obviously they didn’t view any of those guys as star players.
Dalton (@dalton_trigg): I don’t think this is the same Mavs front office mindset from the past that we’re used to. The draft is the most important thing to them right now, in my opinion, and free agency plans won’t be determined until they make their pick in June. It’s a very fluid situation right now, and the Mavs have the most flexibility they’ve had in some time when it comes to roster building. That’s why I’m so hopeful that this summer could be a huge step in the right direction.
Josh: I think it’s tough to look at their dumb free agent pursuits and use that for what they want in the draft. Because Cuban and Donnie have way different ideas on this. I can see that being Cuban’s take, but it wouldn’t shock me if Donnie liked Bamba.
Ian: I didn’t mean Donnie wouldn’t like him, just that he’d like Bamba least of the players in that 3-5 range. I also have started to realize that Porter is probably too risky to take at No. 3. I like the idea of Porter, but I admit I was looking at it more from the perspective of Dallas getting value in the 6-8 range. I also think if he can’t play wing at all, then there’s a serious cap on how good he’ll be.
Jordan (@Jbrodess): Yeah, I don’t think I’m considering Porter until No. 6, honestly. It just comes down to more questions than answers with him right now. If it was a weaker draft, it would be worth the risk. There are just too many other players who may not have the superstar ceiling Porter could have, but aren’t as big a risk. Either way, the Mavs have to nail this pick. Next year’s draft won’t be as deep, and I have a feeling the front office will start getting impatient rebuilding next season.
Dalton: There was a time where I truly believed Porter had the highest ceiling of anyone in this draft. He looked like the second coming of Kevin Durant in high school. The back injury, combined with how Porter played in limited time when he came back from that injury, has really made me second guess what he’ll be from here on. He’s definitely going to be one of the biggest risk/reward guys this year, if not the biggest.
Josh: I think my big board after the top two is this: Jaren Jackson Jr., Mo Bamba, Marvin Bagley, Mikal Bridges, Wendell Carter, Michael Porter Jr.
Jordan: Mine is not much different. But I have bumped Bagley back up to No. 4 right now. Simply because I think the Mavs need a home run at that point, and even if he can’t play defense literally at all, his scoring would be major for the future.
Josh: I think I’ve come to peace with any of the Jackson, Bamba, Bagley trio. I’ll be ok with any of them. Anyone below that, I’ll be a little sad.
Ian: Bagley or Bamba is a tough one, but I definitely would prefer Jackson of the three, and will be sad if they take one of those two bigs over him.
Josh: Y’all watch way more than me — can Bamba and Jackson move their feet, or did they get a lot of blocks because of college rules/offense (i.e. standing in the paint and swatting whatever stumbled near them)?
Ian: Jackson did everything because he played at both the 4 and the 5. That’s really key to appreciating his defensive upside, because he is way better in space than I expected. Bamba’s a really high level athlete too, but he was more the traditional Patrick Ewing “stand by the rim and crush everything that comes your way” shot blocker. At least that’s what I saw. I think Bamba moves really well when he needs to.
Josh: That’s the only thing that would make me get queasy over Bamba, if he isn’t light on his feet. Because I feel like as long as you can guard the rim and hang on switches, you’ll be ok. That’s why I like Bamba over Bagley, because I just assume he won’t easily get played off the court in a playoff series.
Dalton: I think Bagley, when he gets comfortable with whatever team he goes to, will be able to adjust and be a decent defender in time. Jordan and I have discussed (and disagreed on) this topic about what position Bagley is. Because of his build, the way he’s able to bring the ball up the court at times and his ability to shoot threes, I just don’t view him as a center. He can play that position if needed, but I don’t think that’ll be where he ends up. Maybe I have a lot higher hopes for Bagley, but I see him as being a very versatile 4, possibly being able to play some time at the 3 too, eventually. I’m taking Bagley over Bamba and Jackson, if he’s available.
Jordan: Wow, Marvin Bagley at the 3 was a take I was not prepared to read today.
Ian: I’m ok with Dalton being bullish on Bagley at the 4, but playing the 3 will require one of the more unique NBA transformations ever seen. He’s quick and shows promise with the ball, for a big — and that is a major qualifier.
Jordan: He doesn’t have the lateral quickness to play on the perimeter permanently. He has good handles...for a center. And his three-point shot isn’t close to proven. He only attempted 58, and shot 62 percent from the free throw line, a concerning projection.
Dalton: Well, if the time comes when he can’t expand, y’all can submit me to @OldTakesExposed. But until then, I stand by what I see in him. I’m taking Bagley over Bamba and Jackson, if he’s available.
Ian: Bamba is probably not going to be too good next year — another reason I feel that the Mavs may prefer others. He’ll need time to learn not to foul and where to be on offense, because right now he’s fairly clueless. The foul trouble part will be the same for Jackson as well.
Jordan: Jackson is a much better all around defender, in my eyes, than Bamba. It’s not even close. That’s because Jackson is so versatile. And for me, JJJ’s ceiling as a two-way player is so much more appealing than the other two. But if you’re looking at Bamba and Bagley, and who would get played off the floor — Bamba may not get played off defensively, but Bagley wouldn’t offensively. So what would the Mavs value? It’s more likely that in that playoff scenario they bring someone in to guard the block and keep Bagley in. Bamba will be very lost on offense for a while. And if not lost, he probably won’t be doing much.