The 2018 NBA Draft is today and judging from everything we’ve heard it looks set up to be a wild ride, with little consensus after the top selection and many trades being discussed. It’s important to remember that months of speculation about where players are ranked and who is being mocked where, can be thrown out the window right away once the draft gets underway, because actual NBA teams don’t care about where sports analysts think these players should be taken.
With that in mind, let’s take a look(before it becomes irrelevant!) at the SB Nation Blogger Mock Results real fast. To recap:
Dallas drafted Wendell Carter, Jr. from Duke 5th overall
Dallas also drafted Miles Bridges from Michigan State 11th overall, after a trade involving Harrison Barnes and future picks
First of all, if you find yourself getting legitimately upset by a fake thing that won’t happen, keep in mind: this is a fake thing that won’t happen. So, try to have some fun with it, I guess.
I was very happy with the outcome here for Dallas, as I was able to add two young pieces to help a solidify the core for Dallas, both of whom have the potential to become quality starters. The Fake Mavs were very aggressive in trying to trade up, with Luka Doncic and Jaren Jackson Jr as the primary targets, but it became evident early that Dallas just didn’t’ have the assets to make a big splash move and not get killed in the process.
We discussed trades with each of the four teams ahead of Dallas in the draft, and at least five teams picking after them. You can dismiss this if you like, but I found it telling just how little interest there was for Harrison Barnes. For example, at one point, Orlando outbid us in proposed trade for a lottery draft pick by offering Evan Fournier. The deal we eventually got for Barnes was much more about Charlotte’s desire to shed Batum’s salary than Barnes, hence the inclusion of the extra picks.
Why so eager to trade Barnes? Well, again, this is a fake blogger mock, and getting a second draft pick so early to talk about was really too good an opportunity to pass up, from a writing perspective. That being said, I would be very happy if the real Mavs were able to get a second high selection for Harrison. The team has publicly stated they aren’t interested in giving him up, but why, exactly? Barnes is 26, and is being paid like an All-Star, but did little to move the needle on a 24-win team with a near-barren cupboard of young talent.
Simply put, this is a bad team, that really desperately needs an infusion of young talent, and getting three 20 and younger players to build around **slowly** seems to make a lot more sense than what appears to be the plan: keep Barnes, draft someone, and then make a big splash in free agency to try and make the playoffs next year.
The other difficult truth here is that there’s a decent argument to be made that Nicolas Batum fits Dallas’ system better than Barnes does. Batum had a down year and has a terrible contract, but he’s only 29 and if his three-point shooting bounces back, that combination of high passing acumen and floor-spacing gives Dallas exactly the dimension they need from the wing. Barnes inability to facilitate and create offense for others(or high-value looks for himself, for that matter) can be a real drag-factor for Rick Carlisle’s flow offense, especially because the other perimeter operators are a rookie point guard and the over-taxed Wes Matthews. Batum compliments that duo significantly better, as does Miles Bridges, whose ballhandling/passing skillset is ahead of where Harrison’s was at the same age.
We’ll get a much better idea of what the future holds for Dallas after tonight, but I would strongly urge the team not to try and take too many shortcuts back to contention here. Cuban coined the term “treadmill of mediocrity” and I fear we’re in danger of that becoming a kind of permanent irony, because few teams personify the “not good enough to make a playoff run and not bad enough to draft high” mentality more than Dallas. It would be a shame if just as we found ourselves on the precipice of a sea change the team reverted back to old bad habits.
***UPDATE: Based on the comments, I’ll try and tackle a pair of items that perhaps I didn’t clarify initially:
Firstly, the “future pick” to Charlotte is top 10 protected next year, and lottery protected the following year, at which point if not conveyed, it becomes a 2nd rounder. I made this trade implicitly with the idea that it would be a future second. I don’t think Dallas has any business trying to make the playoffs next year, so staying in the top 10 of the draft wouldn’t be much of an issue. They’ve been there the last two seasons, afterall.
Secondly, the question of why Carter, Jr. is a good one. If you’ve been following our draft coverage to any great degree, you might have noticed I’m not exactly the biggest Mo Bamba believer. He’s a fine prospect, and he could absolutely go in the top 5. My personal preference is to take players with high basketball IQ, high motor, and high skill level. WCJ checks all three boxes for me, and I’m not sure Bamba checks any, though he’s certainly an intelligent interview and I know those videos of him nailing threes in an empty gym with his new mechanics have been circulating. Carter is also a year younger than Bamba, not that you’d know from the way people gush over Bamba’s upside while simultaneously talking about “low-celing” Wendell.
It’s really just a personal preference, though. If you want to save this article to shame me when Bamba is making All-Star teams, go ahead!