With so many options in this year’s draft (Dallas has three selections), there’s almost too much ground to cover. Pair this draft-night opportunity with Dallas’ need for talent throughout the roster, and the more draft-inclined members of the Mavs Moneyball staff have more to say than they have time to write. So, we’re going to start sharing on the site some of the more interesting debates our staff is having in email, Slack, and Twitter conversations.
Up first, a deep cut: Jordan Brodess and Ian Miller debate wings the Mavericks could potentially take in the second round.
Jordan Brodess (@JBrodess): The top of this draft class is full of big men, but this group as a whole is full of versatile wings. And Ian, while I know you’re not putting quite as much pressure on the Mavericks early second round pick (No. 33) as I am, we at least can agree that the Mavs have a great opportunity to get a useful piece there.
So first: name one or two wings that are currently projected to be drafted in the mid- to late-first round, that you hope could fall to Dallas in the second.
Ian Miller (@SmitheeMMB): Pick No. 33 is a terrific asset for the Dallas Mavericks, and while I don’t think it’s realistic to expect a surefire starter at that spot, getting a quality rotation piece/bench ace is certainly possible. And as you say, the middle-first to early-second round portion of this draft could be full of interesting wings. Without giving too much preamble here, I wouldn’t object to Dallas selecting a wing at 33 even if they end up with Luka Doncic or one of the Bridges with their first rounder. It can’t be overstated just how important versatile, switchable wings are, not just in Rick Carlisle’s system, but the league as a whole now. It seems all the good teams are running out small lineups of position-less five-out basketball these days. Despite all the talk from national media outlets about Dallas needing bigs, they aren’t really any better off at the wing right now.
Now, to the players. Projecting where guys will go outside the top 20 is really tough, and as we’ve intimated, the depth here is strong. But if I had to pick two players currently projected in the first that I would most want to fall to No. 33, I’ll go with Kevin Huerter of Maryland and Jacob Evans of Cincinnati.
Jordan: Evans is a guy I’ve long been interested in and mentioned a few times in Prospect Watch throughout the season (along with his teammate Gary Clark). But Huerter wasn’t a player I tracked a whole lot, and I didn’t hear much chatter about him until the Combine. What grabbed your attention?
Ian: Huerter is a tall off-guard who really helped himself at the combine. He measured at over 6’7 (the sub 6’8 wingspan isn’t ideal, but it’s hardly unplayable at his size) and tested surprisingly well in the athletic portion of the event, recording a 38-inch vertical and placing third in the shuttle run as well as in the top ten in the lane agility drill. That’s all gravy because Huerter’s specialty is shooting the ball. He made almost 42 percent of his threes as a sophomore and shot over 50 percent from the field overall. He also shows promise as a secondary ball handler, averaging 3.4 assists and reportedly looked really comfortable initiating plays during combine scrimmages. He’s young for a sophomore, as he won’t turn 20 until late August (three months younger than Mo Bamba).
Jordan: He’s intriguing for a number of reasons, his length and three-point shooting obviously standing out the most. Because of size and length concerns from Dennis Smith Jr., finding a shooting guard that can complement him with length and a solid outside shot is so important. Glancing at Huerter’s shot chart, he took the majority of his threes above the break and was a solid 40 percent from NBA three around the perimeter. I also notice he was very effective around the rim (73 percent), a plus.
Do we know what he would bring defensively?
Ian: Like a lot of people, I had assumed Huerter was going to go back to Maryland and try to boost his stock for the weaker 2019 class. He’s been an analytics darling for some time. I knew he could shoot and at his size, that intrigued me, but seeing how well he tested athletically and the positive reviews generated from his scrimmage play has really pushed him up for me. Perhaps I’m guilty of stereotyping, but I didn’t really consider him a good athlete prior to the combine. His steal rate was poor and that tends to indicate lack of athleticism (then again, so was Miles Bridges’).
Huerter doesn’t have the reputation for being a particularly great defender, and that might limit him to a bench role (although, the Sixers blitzed teams with JJ Redick and Marco Belinelli on the wings, so who knows?), but again, he’s a sneaky good athlete who moves his feet well, and his size will be an asset. Plus, high BBIQ guys help team defensive schemes even if they aren’t stellar defensive playmakers. I don’t think he’s necessarily a sieve at the next level.
Jordan: What about Jacob Evans draws your eye?
Ian: The junior do-it-all wing for Cincinnati doesn’t have the one standout skill that Huerter does, but his versatility gives him a really good chance at sticking in the league. He led the Bearcats in assists (they spread the ball around a lot, but Evans was a lot of times the de-facto lead play maker), but probably best projects as a corner 3-and-D specialist in the NBA. If you’ve watched any college basketball you know Cincinnati is one of the best defensive teams in the country and Evans is a big reason why. At a hair under 6’6, he averaged very close to a block a game all three years in college, and he’s an intelligent defender who is outstanding at rotating to shooters and containing dribble penetration.
Jordan: I’m a big fan of Evans, and if it were between these two I think I’d lean more toward him than Huerter—and that’s because of his defense. I love the idea of a guy like Evans alongside DSJ. You mention Evans as a potential corner three specialist but interestingly enough, he was also an above the break shooter. He only attempted 45 threes from the left and right wing (far better from the right), while attempting 115 around the top. So it’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to shooting from the corner the majority of the time.
Ian: In summation, both Evans and Huerter are wings with good size who know how to play and move the ball. That’s a key for me for any player we’re expecting to come in and earn minutes for Rick Carlisle.
Jordan: There are a few more wings I’d be interested in that will most likely be gone by the end of round one, but the guy I’ll throw in here is Khyri Thomas out of Creighton. He doesn’t have the height that Evans or Huerter have, but has a longer wingspan than both. Thomas measured just under 6’4 at the Combine, not great. But has an almost 7’ wingspan, measured at 6’10.5...that’s loooong. On top of that, he was consistently one of the best perimeter defenders all season. And has a surprisingly solid three ball, shooting 41 percent from NBA range and a scorching 77 percent around the rim. That’s a perfect complement to Dennis Smith Jr. in my book.