While trading for Luka Doncic during the NBA Draft was the highlight of the evening, the Dallas Mavericks still had work to do. Unlike last summer, Dallas held a couple of picks in the second round. For a rebuilding team looking to get younger, the second round is a prime opportunity to find overlooked players of value. If you believe the Mavs leadership, that’s exactly what they did.
They selected Jalen Brunson from Villanova with the 33rd overall pick. The starting point guard for the Wildcats during his three-year stint in college, Brunson averaged 14.4 points on 51 percent shooting, 3.1 rebounds, and 4.6 steals. In his final season, he was named the Big East Player of the Year and the winner of the Wooden Award, given to the most outstanding player in college basketball. Even more impressive is the fact that he led the Nova to two NCAA National Championships in three years, something that was not lost on the Mavericks.
“The guy is a proven winner,” Mavericks assistant vice president Michael Finley said. “He’s won on every level, high school to college. That winning trait that he has, that type of attitude is what made us more attracted to him to come to this franchise and be a part of our winning tradition—to start back our winning tradition. I think he has the traits to be a part of that.”
It’s not just being a key member of a couple of championship teams that attracted Dallas to Brunson, though. They also spoke highly of his character on draft night and of his desire to come in and compete right away.
“One thing that impressed me when we interviewed him in Chicago was that we asked him if he was drafted on our team when we have a guy like Dennis Smith, how would he go about getting minutes.” Head coach Rick Carlisle recalled. “He said, ‘Look, I would push Dennis hard every day. I would also want an opportunity to play with him. I know that I can play off the ball as well.’ This guy, for us, has a real good handle on the total game. A very resourceful view of the game. And I think an underrated ability level and a great deal of toughness. The character is obviously there with what they’ve been able to do over the last three years.”
For the Mavericks, drafting Brunson at 33 was a “blessing” as Finley put it. They had him on their big board going in the first round. As for his role with the team, that is yet to be determined. Carlisle speculated that he could see some time in the G League but feels that he’s a player that can fit any system.
Dallas also held the 54th pick in the draft but they traded it to the Philadelphia 76ers. In return, the Mavs received the 56th and 60th picks. They drafted Louisville center Ray Spalding at 56. Spalding, who stands at 6-foot-10 and sports a 7-foot-4 wingspan, played three seasons at Louisville. IN his final season, he averaged 12.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.7 blocks in 27.7 minutes per game.
With the final pick in the draft, Dallas took Kostas Antetokounmpo, whose brother, Giannis Antetokounmpo AKA “The Greek Freak,” plays for the Milwaukee Bucks.
“That’s “Greek Freak” the sequel, right?” Mavs GM Donnie Nelson joked. “We actually had an opportunity when his brother came out, I think, two years ago to pick him in the second round. He’s a player that’s long, athletic, has upside. And so those guys are obviously genetically—there’s some sharing with his brother. He’s taller. Maybe not quite as athletic but at the power forward position, here’s a guy who can block shots, run, and rebound. So, he’ll be a nice development player for us probably in the G-League.
Spalding is similar. Long, athletic bigs that have hands, can run. Down in those areas, those are good opportunities to take those types of prospects.”
As Nelson notes, both Spalding and Antetokounmpo are projects. They’ll likely be in Las Vegas for Summer League and come fall will play in the G-League for the Legends. Brunson, however, could see time with the Mavs beyond October judging by how Carlisle and Finley gushed about him.
Even with their first homerun, landing Doncic, the Mavericks were able to make some potentially savvy moves in the second. For now, it looks like the rebuild is well on its way and might even be ahead of schedule.