Tonight, the long wait will finally be over. The months of speculation, intrigue, and scuttlebutt will all come to a head when the Dallas Mavericks make a choice about what to do during the 2023 NBA Draft. As you may have heard, Dallas holds the 10th overall pick. Against all odds, the Mavericks finally have a coveted asset that they can use to improve their team around Luka Doncic. Although their pick isn’t quite a premium one, it still holds a lot of value around the league. This is Dallas’s best chance to add blue-chip talent in a long time.
Should they stand pat and make the pick? Trade back to acquire another asset? Trade out of the draft all together for proven veterans? Most media expect one of the latter two things to happen. Whatever choice Dallas makes, it’s nice to have options. It’s hard to lock into one plan or school of thought when we really don’t know how much value pick 10 will have until tonight. If Dallas is smart, they’ll have a good idea of the guys they like and who might be available where. If one of their top-tier guys is on the board, they’ll make the pick. If they have to settle for a second-tier guy, they’ll have a loose framework of a trade that they can pounce on. Here’s a wish list of things I’d like to see happen.
Keep the pick and draft one of the top 9
Most experts and analysts agree that this draft has a consensus top-nine prospects. Those players are: Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, Brandon Miller, Amen Thompson, Jarace Walker, Ausar Thompson, Cameron Whitmore, Anthony Black, and Taylor Hendricks. After this group, there is a perceived tier drop. So, of course, there’s a good chance none of these guys are available by the time the Mavericks make their selection. But Dallas cannot count on that being the case. In pretty much every draft, there is a wild card choice in the top 10. Kobe Bufkin and Bilal Coulibaly are examples of players who have risen a ton in the pre-draft process, and teams selecting in the top nine may reach for one of them. If that happens, Dallas needs to be ready to snatch up whoever falls.
I think the group of players who could be there at 10 include Ausar Thompson, Black, Whitmore, and Hendricks. Thompson is a huge longshot but he’s the kind of talent you can’t pass on. Black is my dream target for the Mavericks, but I think he’s also very unlikely to be there. Hendricks would be a perfect fit alongside Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, and there’s a real chance he could make it to 10. Whitmore has reportedly been falling in mocks due to poor workouts; if by any miracle he’s on the board, Dallas has to draft him. Whitmore is an athletic freak with great size who would thrive in a tertiary role on offense and should be a capable wing defender. He throws down dunks with reckless abandon and plays with a tremendous amount of dawg in him. Even if he falls to nine, I would urge the Mavericks to find a way to move up a spot to grab him. He’s that good.
The downside to standing pat at 10 is that you don’t gain any additional assets to improve the roster. And Dallas needs a ton of help, more than one rookie can provide. But that would be close minded thinking, in my opinion. The players listed above would all represent an injection of talent that would be much more of a difference maker than some veteran role player and a mid-lottery or late first round kind of pick. Bet on the blue-chip talent and figure out the rest of the roster later.
Trade back to the late lottery/teens, acquire a frontcourt player, and draft Cason Wallace
If all of the top-nine players are off the board, Dallas almost has to trade down. I know there has been a ton of reported interest in guys like Dereck Lively II or Bilal Coulibaly, but I really don’t see a world where Dallas takes a raw, project guy like that at 10. So, trading back and acquiring a veteran frontcourt player in the process makes a ton of sense. For the last week, Dallas has been linked to the Atlanta Hawks with trade discussions involving the swap of picks 10 and 15 and one of either John Collins or Clint Capela being dealt to Dallas.
If a deal like that comes to fruition, there aren’t a ton of prospects that I love for Dallas in that late lottery/late teens range. Most of the players mocked in those spots are offensive minded guards, something that Dallas really has no use for. But even though guard isn’t a position of need for the Mavericks, I still think Cason Wallace could actually be a fit.
I’ve seen Wallace mocked everywhere from eight to 17, so there’s a chance he could be available if Dallas does, say, the Hawks deal. Even though Wallace is a guard, he’s probably the best perimeter defender in this class. He would help the Mavericks poverty defense so much. Offensively, he’s more of a connective piece than lead guard; he takes good shots, hits catch-and-shoot threes at a respectable clip, and makes good, solid reads with the ball. The only concern would be finding consistent minutes in Dallas’s heavy guard rotation. I would probably advocate for making a trade with someone in the Green/Hardy/Hardaway family for additional frontcourt help if this is the route Dallas goes. But if they don’t pick Wallace in this range, I think that they need to think about trading back a bit further.
Trade back to the late first round for even more assets
If the Hawks deal doesn’t pan out, this is the more likely route I see Dallas taking. The 20-30 range is filled with guys who make a lot more sense for Dallas. The Brooklyn Nets have reportedly been shopping picks 21 and 22 and acquiring one or both of those picks and/or one of their many veteran wings could be a good move. There are a ton of intriguing prospects who will be available here. I’m a huge fan of Leonard Miller, and even though he’s a bit raw, I think he would be a flyer worth taking. I also like Oliver-Maxence Prosper, Kris Murray, Maxwell Lewis, and Noah Clowney. There are a ton of options in this range.
Ultimately, the Mavericks have three great paths toward meaningfully improving the team this evening. The only thing I would really hate is if they traded out of the draft altogether. This is a great class, and it’s so fun as a fan to project young players and root for homegrown talent. It would be shortsighted to opt out this year.