The 2019 NBA Draft is just days away, and the Dallas Mavericks will choose the 37th pick in the second round, having traded their first round selection to the Atlanta Hawks in last year’s ballsy gambit to steal away Luka Doncic.
Despite all the attention Luka (deservedly) has received, some are quick point out that the Mavericks may have struck gold again in last year’s second round, when they landed Naismith Award Winner and two-time college champion Jalen Brunson with the 33rd pick. After the team’s roster was thinned out by the Kristaps Porzingis trade, Brunson took a larger role in the rotation and ran with it, performing quite well down the stretch.
Those expecting Dallas to luck into a similar situation this year, however, should probably pump the brakes.
Even putting aside the vast difference in perceived quality between the 2018 and 2019 drafts, the fact is getting a rotation player right away in the early second round is simply not something that happens every year. Going further, given the roster situation Dallas has, there might not be a role there for a rookie next season, anyway. Assuming Dwight Powell opts in, and the team retains Porzingis, the rehabbing J.J. Barea (who claims that he’ll be able to play by training camp and is apparently very much in the Mavs’ plans), and one or both of restricted free agents Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith, that will bring Dallas’ number of contracted players to 9 or 10, and that’s before taking into consideration the sizable chunk of cap space they’ll have to pursue at least one if not two starters.
Predicting what any team will do with their second round pick is near-impossible, and the Mavericks are certainly no exception. They may try to go the route of finding another Brunson-esque guy who can provide depth in year one. They may trade the pick, either for a veteran, or cap space, or future assets. We really won’t know until it happens.
I submit to you that perhaps the best course of action would be to try behind door number three: the “wait-and-see” approach, which offers a couple of very intriguing possibilities, even in a down draft.
OPTION ONE: THE INTERNATIONAL PLAYER
Obviously, the Mavericks are one of the teams most comfortable scouting and developing international players, and there are a couple of worthwhile gambles currently projected in the late-first to mid-second round.
One such player who has seen his draft stock skyrocket in the last few weeks is Luka Samanic, a 6’11 Croatian-born big man who most recently played in Slovenia. Making the surprising decision to participate in the draft combine in Chicago, Samanic impressed with his size, skill, and improved physicality, though that last point will likely still be an area he’ll need to work on as he makes the transition to the NBA. Samanic is athletic enough to offer some positionally versatility, but probably projects best as a stretch big who can shoot and attack closeouts by beating slower fours off the dribble. His combine performance may have pushed him out of the Mavs’ range and into the late first, but if he does fall this is a name the Mavs are surely familiar with.
Another international option, and one I happen to like a little more than Samanic, is Deividas Sirvydis, a 6’8 Lithuanian wing who turned 19 just last week. The lefty has good positional size, and offers an intriguing offensive package built around something Dallas will desperately need to add: shooting. As one of the youngest players in the draft, the Mavs could afford to let Sirvydis develop for a year or two overseas, allowing him to get stronger and develop his dribble-pass game a little.
OPTION TWO: THE INJURED PLAYER
A draft-and-stash approach is certainly one way the Mavericks could go, but perhaps the more tantalizing option is to select one of a couple of players who will likely miss all of next season rehabbing injuries, rewarding that patience with added value down the line.
Chuma Okeke is a 6’8 combo forward from Auburn, who suffered an ACL tear in the Sweet Sixteen, cutting short what could have been a title-run for Chuma and the Tigers. Exactly when Okeke will be able to play again isn’t clear, but what is clear is that Okeke profiles as the ideal modern NBA forward: a long, switchable defender with a solid mix of offensive skill. Okeke could be a playoff caliber role player in the right system, and assuming there’s nothing in his medical report to suggest chronic issues, he could be a steal for someone. Okeke curiously withdrew from the combine, which could suggest he’s already received a promise from someone, but as of now he’s still being mocked very much in Dallas’ range.
Jontay Porter is a name many college fans are very familiar with, as the brother of last year’s lottery pick Michael Porter Jr. Jontay was close to staying in last year’s draft, but elected to return to Missouri in the hopes of vaulting into mid first round, but those hopes were quickly dashed as Porter tore both his ACL and MCL before his Sophomore campaign could even get underway. Porter then suffered a setback in his rehab, re-tearing the ACL in March. Any team that drafts him will need to do its due diligence medically, but if Jontay can ever return to the court he could carve out a long career as a stretch big with an elite feel for the game. Porter has legitimate guard skills in a 6’11 body, and is a quality rim protector and defender despite being a fairly pedestrian athlete. If Dallas clears him, he provides outstanding value in the second round.