While the Dallas Mavericks don’t have a pick in the 2023 NBA draft, the process of scouting the back-half of the draft to prioritize undrafted free agents, as well as buying or trading back into the draft for undervalued prospects, remains extremely important. The Mavericks went and got Jaden Hardy last year, and have developed a number of undrafted players over the years such as Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith. While these moves were shrewd, the Mavericks generally don’t prioritize the draft, and in the process miss out on the kind of young, athletic talent pipeline some of their rivals have.
With March Madness in full swing, I’m taking a look at players mocked toward the back of the draft or likely to go undrafted that the Mavericks could be interested in. Think of this as a guide for the casual tournament-watcher with the Mavericks in mind. Though there is plenty of time left for prospects to rise and fall, I’ll look squarely at players below the consensus top-40 or so according to The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie’s Big Board and the Rookie Scale Consensus First Round pool.
The Texas schools
Mike Miles Jr.: TCU is a fun team to watch, a physical squad that leads college basketball in fast break points by creating defensive havoc. I think they are a genuine sleeper for the Final Four, and they are led by Miles. He’s a prototypical dominant college scoring guard without an NBA-friendly skillset — not an elite runner of offense, not big enough to be a two-guard. Nevertheless, he is a great finisher with real burst and NBA physicality on both sides of the ball. His long range percentages may be a bit marred by the difficulty of his self-created shots, but he must be a better shooter to stick. He will be at Summer League for someone, maybe even as a late second rounder.
Emmanuel Miller: Another TCU guy I like as second rounder, though he rarely shows up in mock drafts. I believe strongly that if a player has an NBA-ready frame as a wing, he deserves a chance to develop his shot, and Miller is a long, sturdy 6-7 and 220 pounds, with some fluidity to his athleticism as well. He didn’t become a shooter until this year, as a 22-year old, and remains low volume, a concerning combination. Still, there’s a chance he’s a late bloomer as a shooter and if so, he fits the mold of under-drafted defensive wings who find a place in the NBA due to their positional value. He’s a potential undrafted guy I’d like the Mavs to prioritize.
Tyrese Hunter: Texas point guard Tyrese Hunter likely returns to the Longhorns, in my opinion, as he will take the reins of the team’s offense if he does. I list him because most draft writers do, as well as because of his status as a Longhorn. His shot is too iffy for a small point guard, but he’s a hell of a defender, can get where he wants with the ball, and plays for the team I’d assume the highest number of Mavericks’ fans have a rooting interest in. Freshman forward Dillon Mitchell also might declare, and is a truly elite run-and-jump athlete with no offensive skill which should leave him available late in the draft.
Adam Flagler: The Baylor Bears have become combo guard U, it seems, and freshman Keyonte George will likely be a top 10 pick. But the best collegiate player on the team is Adam Flagler, an absolute flame thrower from distance and a smart offensive player who will offer nothing on the defensive end and very little in terms of rim pressure. Still, shooting is shooting; if Flager works out, underdrafted players like Seth Curry and Patty Mills would be the prototypes.
The No. 1 seeds
Noah Clowney: Clowney has some big believers, including myself, though the Alabama freshman is also low on many boards and thought to be more of a 2024 prospect. To me, he’s a “pre-draft” candidate, a guy you take to get ahead of the curve. He’s exactly what the Mavericks should be looking for — rangy, mobile bigs who can play in a playoff series and help protect the rim from the weak side. His shot is inconsistent and he badly needs to add strength; in truth, he’s a tweener and not a real five, but his skillset is a necessity for playoff defense and his shot has a chance to make him a true stretch big. To me, it’s not just his potential, but the archetype of that potential. Of course, the Tide also have the consensus best prospect in the tournament in Brandon Miller, an elite shooting wing in the Paul George mold.
Kevin McCullar: I cheated a bit here, as McCullar is listed at No. 33 by Sam Vecenie and is in that range elsewhere, but some mocks have him towards the very back of the draft. He’s a total bulldog of a two/three wing, one of the best defensive players in the country who’s also a smart passer and open court player. I find it odd he’s so elevated over a player like Miller, having always hovered around 30% as a three-point shooter, but intelligent offensive connectivity combined with defense is a hot commodity right now. The Jayhawks also feature wing Jalen Wilson, one of the five or so best players in college basketball and likely to go in a similar range as Mccullar, and lotto-level prospect Grady Dick, one of the best freshman shooters in recent memory and a Kevin Huerter clone.
Jarace Walker: The Houston Cougars best player, Marcus Sasser, will likely go somewhere around the turn, and they don’t have a later candidate than that, so I simply want to bring attention to my favorite (not the best, but most fun) prospect in this year’s draft. Imagine Julius Randle’s body with Draymond Green’s soul inside it and you’re getting there. A defensive behemoth with passing chops, a developing handle and shooting potential, Walker already has the frame of an NBA forward and was born to be put in short roll and dribble handoff situations. Be prepared to envy the team that has him for a long time.
Zach Edey: The best player in college basketball by a good margin, Edey is a player out-of-fashion in today’s NBA, but it’s not inconceivable that he could be a Boban-like specialist used to junk up the game as a mismatch. The 7-4 Purdue Boilermaker is also a late bloomer, having gone from the 440th ranked high schooler to national player of the year, and he grows as a defender and passer by the month. He might be a more viable prospect than other collegiate superstar bigs who don’t translate, like Gonzaga’s Drew Timme, just because of his specialized role.
Defensive help and potential role players
Oso Ighodaro and Olivier “Omax” Maxence-Prosper: Marquette is a very fun team to watch who operate on modern principles; their shot chart is nothing but layups and threes. Their two bigs are, in turn, small-ball forwards who are hardly bigs at all. Ighadoro is a Draymond-lite short roll surveyor, and the man they call OMP is a rangy power-wing who has spent recent conference tournament games defending guards. Oso can’t shoot, and OMP’s entire offense is a work-in-progress, but both are sophomores for a team who’s rotation is made up entirely of second-year guys ( you might see these guys in a few more tournaments).
Adem Bona: Bona is another who might return to school, especially as a shoulder injury has compromised his first tournament, but the center for the very good UCLA Bruins is the type of big the Mavs could take a shot at–a fleet-footed athlete with the mobility of a wing who could protect the rim in the pace-and-space playoffs of modern basketball. He fouls too much, makes countless mistakes and misread offenses all year, but he was highly recruited for a reason–there’s just a lot of defensive potential here. The Bruins have a few other second-round talents who’s game translates to the NBA awkwardly; Jamie Jaquez, their All-American, plays like an undersized power forward and lacks athleticism but is tough as nails and one of the most intelligent players in the country.
Andre Jackson Jr.: The Uconn Huskies are a whirling dervish of a team who either overwhelm you with athleticism or stall out completely, and could win the title or get beat in the first round. Jackson is their spiritual leader, a bouncy ballhawking wing who can’t shoot, but can be the most impactful player on the court. Think Gary Payton II with a few inches on him, or Marquise Thybulle with shorter arms but more forceful athleticism. Speaking of Thybulle, while I understand a non-shooting wing can only go so high these days, Thybulle was a first round pick, and Jackon’s passing and first step might make him a more tenable offensive role player.
Trayce Jackson-Davis: I’m cheating again slightly on this Indiana Hoosier, as TJD is ranked 38th on Vecenie’s board, but he’s arguably the second best player in college basketball and the kind of versatile bench big the Mavs have seemed dedicated to for a decade. He’s quick, he’s a great passer, and is strong for his size, but he is resolutely not a true center, and his defensive impact will come from smarts and swiftness, not outlier length or strength. Sounds sort of Mavs-y to me. The Hoosiers also have a lotto-level talent in guard Jalen Hood-Schifino.
Trey Alexander: Creighton has four guys projected as second rounders, and therefore might be the best team to consider with this exercise. Alexander is not their chief creator nor most effective collegiate defender (that would be Ryan Kalkbrenner, a center projected in the second round whom I find too slow for NBA rim protection ). He is instead their most NBA-applicable player — a true two guard with 3-and-D capability in the Aaron Affalo or Gary Harris mold.
Tyrese Proctor: I wanted to get the Duke Blue Devils in here because they are a team on fire with tons of young talent that is just now coming together. Star Kyle Filipowski (think Kelly Olynk), Dariq Whitehead and Derrick Lively Jr. will all likely be first round picks, but Proctor has only just now came into his own and may return to Duke to lead the team and raise his stock. If not, he’s a 6’5 guard capable of playing on or off ball while giving other team’s point guards major trouble with his length. He’s very poised, and while he doesn’t have the upside to go all that high (iffy shot, lack of burst and wiggle) he has a maturity beyond his 18 years.