The NCAA Tournament, the gauntlet that it is, ripped away a number of prospects that have headlined this spring’s NBA Draft conversation. Callously halting our RJ Barrett vs Jarrett Culver debates, crushing our dreams of a Brandon Clarke vs Zion Williamson battle, even nixing any opportunity at a Coby White and Cameron Johnson vs Tyler Herro and PJ Washington conversation before we even made it through the weekend. Such is the beauty and pain of the Madness in March.
Different than the rest of this series, we’re now going to focus in on a few NBA prospects left in the tournament, and look specifically about their fit in Dallas.
But first, a note:
I’m confused by those who suggest the Mavericks would have no options if they jump up to spots two through four in this summer’s draft. I understand evaluators who preach a Zion or bust mentality. But if Dallas somehow had the good fortune to move up, they’ll have an opportunity to pick up a solid player. And I’ll emphasize: a solid, young, affordable-controllable asset that could grow alongside Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis for years to come.
I know typically the front office projects impatience with young players who can’t carry themselves as vets on and off the floor day one, and that the moves they’ve made over the last several months shows they won’t have time to develop a young starter level player. It’s enticing to look at the possibilities of what trading this pick could provide. But that’s temporary fantasy. The smart, long-term play for the Mavs is selecting a player.
Texas Tech vs Michigan State
Why the Mavericks should draft Jarrett Culver:
For those who have followed this series the last couple weeks, Culver has gotten a lot of shine, and that’s for a variety of reasons. Primarily, Culver provides the most versatile two-way ability at the top of this draft along the wing.
It would be easy to see Culver pair alongside Doncic in the backcourt. His skillset compliments Doncic, where he’d be the hard-nosed defender picking up the opponent’s best guard. He’s long, strong and crashes the boards better than most college guards. The size the Mavericks could have around the perimeter would be a refreshing change in Dallas.
And offensively, Culver slips into a secondary playmaker role, cutting and penetrating through traffic. He does a good job of reading the defense, exposing the weak point, and either leveraging that to get to the basket or drawing defenders and passing to the weak-side shooter. Doncic and Porzingis should be drawing plenty of defenders to their two-man game. Now picture Culver getting the kickout from Doncic off the weaskside to go strong to the basket.
Why the Mavericks shouldn’t draft Jarrett Culver:
Questions about Culver’s outside shot are valid, though he has shown flashes of a three point shot. But ideally, the Mavericks are finding an entire roster full of proven shooters. That’s obviously easier said than done, but if we’ve learned anything since trades sent four starters away from Dallas, it’s that the Mavs are hurting for legitimate shooters. Doncic can’t be used to his full potential until they make that happen.
Auburn vs Virginia
Why the Mavericks should draft De’Andre Hunter:
Similar to the versatility of Culver, the same can be said of Hunter who has shown an ability to fill the stat sheet in a variety of ways. The sophomore forward would be a unique utility man in Dallas, where the Mavericks could go big and put him at small forward, or play him next to Kristaps Porzingis in the post. There, he’d still be able to stretch the floor, but has the strength the Mavericks will want to alleviate some of the physical toll on KP.
Hunter should be the kind of player you slot in and won’t have to worry about him. He’s going to play winning basketball on both ends, and should do enough of the little things to make life easier on the playmakers.
Why the Mavericks shouldn’t draft De’Andre Hunter:
While the Mavs have two cornerstones where there should be less pressure to swing for the fences, the Dallas front office will likely want to find a lottery player that has a higher ceiling than Hunter provides. The Virginia forward looks to have a high floor in the league, and should be a reliable player early.
Still, this tournament has shown some of Hunter’s weaknesses, where he seems to be invisible for long stretches of these games. If his three point shot isn’t falling, his offensive game has more gaps than you’d like from your lottery pick. And his athleticism may be tested at the next level, both defensively and on the boards. If he can’t adjust, some of his valuable versatility may be less apparent.
Why the Mavericks should draft Ty Jerome:
There have been moments in the Cavaliers’ overly dramatic postseason that it’s looked like junior guard Ty Jerome has had to do everything offensively — especially before Kyle Guy started connecting. As is the reputation from Virginia’s efficient style of play, if shots aren’t falling things can stall out. But Jerome has remained poised, hitting shots, creating for others, and putting pressure on opposing defenses.
He has deceptively smooth handles, and solid vision. And his outside shot is the same. In Dallas, he’d compliment Doncic on the perimeter. Having another passer and ball handler is something Rick Carlisle always values. And different than Culver, Jerome could play off the ball solely as an outside shooter and be effective.
Why the Mavericks shouldn’t draft Ty Jerome:
The Mavericks don’t need more point guards. It might be that simple. Though Jerome’s shooting should be enticing when the Mavericks select early in the second round. But it also has to do with the recent growth of rookie guard Jalen Brunson, who has really stepped up since the Dennis Smith Jr. trade.
Even though it’s a tough task, the Mavericks should be trying to find another Brunson. And that is, a rookie who can be a contributor off the bench. While Jerome has decent size, the Mavericks should really be looking for a second rounder that can play the two and three, or a big.