The Dallas Mavericks rode in to town Thursday night on a mission. Though rumors and reports of substance had surfaced consistently over the last several days, it was natural to have doubt that General Manager Donnie Nelson and owner Mark Cuban could really pull the trigger.
They clearly had their sights set and the Mavs walked away with the gem of the draft, the Wonder Boy himself, Luka Dončić. Plus, they grabbed a few more possible pieces moving forward, in Jalen Brunson, Ray Spalding and Kostas Antetokounmpo.
Fit for the Future
Thanks to Nick Angstadt’s work on the Quote Board, hear it straight from the Wizard Rick Carlisle himself:
“Dončić has terrific size. Playmaking ability. He can score. He’s a joyful passer. He plays with a pass first view of the game. Guys like that are a blast to play with.”
There was plenty of praise to go around from the sometimes tough to impress head coach, gushing at Dončić’s versatility at such a young age; already projecting him as a probable starter (no brainer). It’s hard now to slot the 6’8 wing in to a specific position because he can do so much, but it does provide the Mavericks new flexibility.
As of today, the Mavericks could look to trot out a starting unit of Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Luka Dončić, Harrison Barnes, and Dirk Nowitzki. The four returning starters didn’t have great advanced numbers together, but with the addition of a pass-happy playmaking wing in Dončić, new life will be afforded. And with flexibility from Matthews and Barnes, there will be positionless freedom from the wing. Ultimately, Carlisle and his crew can focus on exploiting matchups.
Carlisle’s offense works best when two ball handling playmakers are on the floor (one reason the bench unit was so solid last season), and Dončić will work wonders for teammates. Having already had experience playing next to elite, veteran point guards, Dončić possesses great feel for playing on and off the ball with a fellow playmaker.
Imagine an action that starts with Dirk setting a high screen for Dončić, popping to the three to draw the defenders, while Matthews cuts to the weak side perimeter and DSJ is rim running. Dončić has the vision that few 19 year olds possess, and the ability to find all those cutters in traffic. He can also provide more outside shooting, as Dennis breaks down the defense off the dribble. The possibilities might be endless.
Yes, Dončić will have to take time to adjust to the pace and athleticism of the NBA. And that will especially be the case for him defensively. But similar to his ability to play 1-4 on offense, he projects to guard 2-4 on the other end. Expect him to mostly guard forwards. He has the height and frame to guard either spot.
What this means in free agency
The Mavericks have said multiple times the last month or so that the draft would dictate their free agency in July. It’s long been rumored that the Mavs have money spending intentions, trying to take advantage of cap space few teams have.
Those rumors were backed up Thursday when the Mavericks traded up to get Dončić, while also giving up a future first rounder (only top five protected). It’s not just getting their guy, but giving up what could be a future lottery pick that tells you aiming for big things this summer.
The Mavericks still have a gaping hole at center long term. Yes, Dirk will be around (forever and ever). And many thought they’d opt for a center in the draft. Carlisle’s response? “July 1st is right around the corner, bro”.
So there you have it.
Expect plenty of DeMarcus Cousins, Clint Capela, Julius Randle, DeAndre Jordan, etc. talks over the next several weeks.
Second round pieces
The Mavs had more opportunity at high level wing prospects in the second round, than Mavs Moneyball would have ever expected.
But ultimately, the Mavs opted for two-time champion, Player of the Year, floor general Jalen Brunson with the 33rd pick. Brunson averaged 19 points and 4.6 assists while shooting 40 percent from three this season at Villanova. It’s initially a bit of a head scratcher, but there’s no doubt Brunson is a Carlisle guy, and fans will love him. When asked about his assessment of the undersized point guard, Carlisle pointed to always needing more playmakers, Brunson’s ability to coach on the floor, and his resourcefulness as a player.
More than anything, this looks to signal a possible end of Yogi Ferrell’s time in Dallas. Ferrell, another undersized guard who came to Dallas on a 10-day contract and exploded in 2017, will be an unrestricted free agent in July. And with resident Carlisle security blanket, JJ Barea, still on the books, there’s only so many backup minutes when DSJ and Dončić lead the way.
In addition, the Mavericks traded the rights to the 54th pick (Shake Milton), to the Philadelphia 76ers for the 56th and 60th picks (Ray Spalding and Kostas Antetokounmpo). Spalding, a 21 year old, 6’10 power forward from Louisville, averaged 12 points and nearly nine rebounds and two blocks in his final season in Louisville. He’s a defensive minded big man they may get a shot at the end of the roster. And yes, Kostas is one of Giannis Antetokounmpo’s brothers. A 6’9 small forward with a long wingspan, Kostas played sparingly in his one season at Dayton. Donnie Nelson referenced him as a young player with potential that will spend time in the G-League.
As always, the Mavericks will be on the lookout for undrafted players looking for a shot. And it’s entirely conceivable that any one of Spalding, Antetokounmpo, or an undrafted player pushes for a spot at the end of the roster in the fall.
All in all, a wildly successful evening for the Mavericks, putting assets on the line to get their man. The future just got a little bit brighter.