We are a week away from finding out where the Dallas Mavericks land in the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery. It is very cut and dry: the Mavericks can either jump up to spots 1-4 or they stay at 10. If they get bumped back the pick goes to the New York Knicks, a catastrophic turn of events.
It’s been a few seasons since these sort of stakes for the Mavericks, so with that burst of anxious energy we wanted to revitalize MMB’s Draft Chats with Jordan and Ian. While we can still dream let’s dig into the top of the class, and who the Mavericks should consider if they’re lucky enough to jump up.
JORDAN: So Ian, we are inching toward learning whether the Mavericks keep their pick or not. But before we get there, set the Mavs aside for a moment — who fills out your top five draft prospects in this class not named Victor Wembanyama?
IAN: I think there’s a really strong top 8 or 9(that is not necessarily great news if you are a team picking at, say, #10, but that’s for another day), and obviously Wembanyama is in a tier all his own. After him, I would probably say the next four are — in some order — the following:
- Scoot Henderson
- Amen Thompson
- Ausar Thompson
- Brandon Miller
Miller was one of the most productive freshmen in the country on a top-ranked team at Alabama. Henderson and the Thompson twins were also the featured players for their G League and OTE teams, respectively. I think you can project all 4 as potential stars/#1 options. The order might be slightly different if you’re talking about hypothetical fits in Dallas, but imagining a team starting with essentially nothing, that’s about how I’d rank them. Do you see it differently, or are you mostly the same?
JORDAN: There does seem to be at least some consensus in those four in a tier behind Wembanyama. Which in some ways is interesting given that the depth of the lottery class hasn’t caused some variety at two through five.
I will say that in my general searches of mock drafts across the internet, all varying degrees of credibility, that Ausar Thompson is being selected often between six and nine. That speaks to some of the depth, and also perhaps fit, with the teams projected to select in that range. We should talk about Victor and the fantasy of him playing with Luka Doncic. But if the Mavericks were to jump up to picks two through four, who of that list above are you hoping lands in Dallas? And would there be any other names not mentioned there that you’d be considering instead? Because I think I have at least one or two.
IAN: The Thompson twins are such an unusual prospect situation, for multiple reasons. The general consensus seems to be that Amen is the better athlete, while Ausar is the better shooter, but is it reductive to say they’re basically the same, simply because they’re twins? Probably, but I group them closely together, because the physical profile is similar (obviously), and game tape/available statistical data paints them that way, as well.
In terms of who I’d want Dallas to pick should they move up to pick 2, 3 or 4, I think there’s two ways of looking at it: either a) you see Luka and Kyrie on the roster and say “surround them with players who best compliment their skills”, or b) you see Luka and Kyrie on the roster and say “Kyrie is a FA, and Luka may ask out at any point, so just get the best talent.” If your perspective most closely resembles the former, Brandon Miller makes the most sense right now of the 4 names I mentioned above. He’s the only plus shooter (over 38% on 3’s and just under 86% from the line) of that group, and at close to 6’9 he has the ideal frame and athletic traits for a swing man, with no obvious holes in his game. Of course, with Miller, there are things to consider off the court, as he was questioned (though not charged) about his indirect involvement in a fatal shooting earlier this year.
Now, if Dallas was starting over, would I take Miller over anyone not named Wembanyama? There I’m less certain. It would be really hard to pass up on the elite(“generational” has become the most overused buzzword in sports) playmaking ability of both Scoot or Amen. I think there’s even an argument to make that you take one of those guys anyway, simply because positional logjams have a way of working themselves out when you’re talking about premiere talent. Neither Henderson nor the Thompsons are high-level shooters at the moment, but this pick isn’t just about next season, or the season after(regardless of what media narratives might have you think), and even if Kyrie Irving stays in Dallas long term, he’ll be 32 next March. As you alluded to, there are also other guys not yet mentioned who I absolutely think should/would be in consideration for Dallas in the top 4, which speaks again to the quality at the top of this class.
The names I would add to the mix are Jarace Walker, Cam Whitmore, and Taylor Hendricks. Walker is the Swiss army knife forward for the Houston Cougars and a terror on the defensive end, while Whitmore is the ultra-athletic scoring wing from Villanova. Both have a strong, physical playstyle and build, sorely needed on a Dallas team that was too often pushed around and bullied inside. I’ll let you set up Hendricks, who I think is a player we’ll be talking a lot (A LOT a lot) about over the next few weeks, should Dallas not lose their pick.
JORDAN: Yeah, I think it’s fair to say that both of us (and many others) see Hendricks as the exact kind of player the Mavericks need. So much so that I’d entertain them selecting him even if they had, say, fourth pick. They need talent everywhere so if they have a chance at that first group of players we mentioned they should probably focus there. Obviously whether or not Kyrie Irving stays in Dallas would influence some of that, though by the draft the Mavericks will likely not have that answer. But Hendricks, a 6’9 long and athletic forward that possesses two-way ability and elite defensive timing and instincts, would be hard to pass up. Much more to unpack with Hendricks and a few others in the top ten of the class.