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Welcome to 2023 Draft Season, Dallas Mavericks fans

Here’s what you need to know

2022 NBA Draft Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

As the 2023 NBA Draft fast approaches, with just over two weeks left in the regular season, a new team has entered draft discussions: the Dallas Mavericks.

For most of the season, the Mavs have been seen as middle-of-the-pack playoff contenders, coming off their first playoff series win in 11 years. Now, the Mavs face an uphill battle just to avoid the play-in game with only six games remaining. While there could be hope, given that the Mavs are just two wins behind the six-seed Minnesota Timberwolves, the Mavs face a somewhat difficult schedule to close the year after losing back-to-back games against the Charlotte Hornets. Because of this uphill battle, the question about what the best outcome for this team is has become more relevant, and one outcome is trying to keep the top ten protected pick to New York as the last leg of the Kristaps Porzingis trade.

This conversation has now led to fans researching the draft, so let’s talk about this draft at both a general and specific level.:

Generally speaking, the 2023 NBA Draft is seen as pretty strong given the top talent of Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, Brandon Miller, and the Thompson twins. Beyond that strong top talent, some of the top ten recruits did not live up to the star expectations placed on them, with some facing injuries, and others outright underperforming. Conversely, because there are several recruits after the top 15 that exceeded expectations at such a high level, the middle class of the draft is likely going to be stronger than most years. Lastly, like every year for the last five or so years and every year going forward because of the state of the game, the depth in the second round also appears to be strong at the moment. Look for this draft to be filled with hidden gems because of the strong tiers all the way through the Draft.

More specifically, the Mavs landing at ten could be an ideal place to land a key asset or player as part of the future next to Luka Doncic. If the Mavs were to keep the pick and not trade back or out, a few names are appealing to what the Mavs are looking to fill next to Luka Doncic & Kyrie Irving, if he re-signs this summer:

Taylor Hendricks, 6’9 Forward, UCF

Hendricks is an ideal 3&D forward, already being polished in this role as a freshman with a great frame. While Hendricks is easily seen as a high-floor player, his ceiling could also be decently high, potentially ascending toward the top tier of role players one day. As the blocks-per-game leader in the American Athletic Conference (AAC), his versatility is clearly on display on the defensive end, likely to be able to guard almost anyone at any spot. Offensively, while indeed a great shooter (39.4% 3P%, 78% FT%), he can shoot both at a standstill & on the move around screens. He also sees the floor well and generally doesn’t make head-scratching mistakes. Being a high-level defender and shooter while also defending multiple positions and being mistake-free, Hendricks could be a great fit in Dallas as a replacement for Dorian Finney-Smith.

Cason Wallace, 6’4 Guard, Kentucky

The younger brother of LA Clippers two-way wing Keaton Wallace and a Richardson, Texas native, Cason Wallace would add more guard depth and an easy replacement for Frank Ntilikina. While the Mavs have good guards already, before the Kyrie Irving trade the guard play just wasn’t deep enough consistently, so adding Wallace will shore that up while also adding a great defensive guard. With defense being so pressing for Dallas, the Mavs should consider Wallace, because of his pesky defense and a growing offense that Kentucky is notorious for hiding, as a target if they keep the pick.

Cam Whitmore, 6’7 Wing, Villanova

One of the higher upside wings in the Draft, Cam Whitmore is an athletic wing with great shooting touch. He needs to improve defensive consistency, but his shooting threat alone is a day-one trait. He is likely to develop as a slasher, and with NBA coaching his defense should improve as well. Whitmore missed time with injury to start the year, but with a fully healthy NBA offseason, Whitmore should be able to contribute right away to a winning team.

Dariq Whitehead, 6’6 SG, Duke

One of the best shooters in the draft and a former top-five recruit, Dariq Whitehead battled through a couple of nagging foot injuries with Duke. He still managed to shoot 43% from three and 79% from the free throw line, indicating a high shooting upside. He has shown flashes of defense, but again with health, it is hard to truly diagnose where his defense will be as a rookie. Ideally, he can guard ball handlers of any size as he gets stronger, but that is likely more of a long-term outlook than an immediate solution. As Whitehead develops professionally, he should be able to get more fluid as a ball-handler, which would unlock his high school scouting report ceiling: a three-level scorer with plus athleticism. Whitehead would be a big upside play with an immediate off-ball presence.

Then, the option of not keeping the pick at all comes into play. The Mavs are short on picks, only being able to trade one pick at the moment with this pick not conveying in this scenario. They could move back toward the end of the first round to find a faller while gaining future first-round picks, which could help with trade ammo. They could also get even richer by trading out of the draft entirely, gaining picks for 2024 and beyond. That route is risky, given that the only way to better the team this year in this route is by going all-in and trading those newly acquired picks as part of a big off-season trade package.

All of this said the most likely scenario is still that the pick conveys to New York, meaning the Mavs are not in the 2023 NBA Draft, barring a trade into the draft. While this is still less than ideal, especially if the Mavs miss the playoffs, this route still opens up trade options. In the 2025 Draft, both first and second-round picks, become available for trade, and with this, they would also be able to use 2027 in the same trade as part of a big trade. Ideally, the Mavs can use those two outright draft picks plus the right to swap in even years, making five first-round picks available in a trade if they were to seek out a second (or third if Kyrie Irving stays) star.

Regardless of how the season ends, the Mavs will be gaining future assets to surround Luka Doncic better this offseason.