The Dallas Mavericks were one of the busiest teams in last week’s NBA Draft. It was long predicted that the team was interested in trading back from their spot at 10, and were also looking to shed a contract or two. If the draft was a checklist they ticked all the boxes.
It is quite the turnaround in momentum after the failure of last season, where the Mavericks tripped their way into a lottery pick amid the distaste of NBA Twitter’s competitive integrity committee. But in the middle of the excited commotion of the Mavericks now having two young defensive talents in Dereck Lively and Olivier-Maxence Prosper added into the fold, it’s worth reminding ourselves that rookie development often takes time (seasons) and is packed full of growing pains. The Mavericks desperately need depth and contributors up and down the roster next season. Before we get to free agency in the coming week and better understanding how they fit in, let’s take a look at what they can provide next season, and then further in their development. First we covered Lively, and now we Prosper!
The Mavericks finished last season without a quality on-ball perimeter defender. Reggie Bullock still looked gassed from the previous year’s playoff run, and it’s possible given his age that this is his new normal. Josh Green, for all his effort, is undersized to be a true wing and hasn’t grown into the lockdown asset the team needs. In the absence of Dorian Finney-Smith, who did the lord’s work in the journey to the Western Conference Finals, was tailing off some before the trade. The team needs that piece badly.
Prosper, who turns 21 on July 3, isn’t a finished product by any stretch. But his raw technique, effort and tenacity will be vital for the Mavericks. His combine performance has garnered him plenty of attention, and rightly so. To compare it to those previously mentioned, he mirrors the physical frame of Finney-Smith (similar height and weight with extra wingspan) and pairs it with some of the impressive feats of athleticism of Josh Green (similar sprints and verticals).
Where Prosper impresses the most, and arguably is ahead of both Finney-Smith and Green when they entered the league, is his navigation of perimeter actions and his ability to utilize both his length and agility equally.
OMax tracking the perimeter
Thanks to clips from Box and One with Coach Spins, I highlight this section because of the versatility of style Prosper puts on display against some talented NBA prospects. Similar to Lively, there will be a learning curve here. The Mavericks will not be able to throw Prosper to the wolves night one and expect this level of impact. But the tools are there for Prosper to be the most versatile defender the team has from the jump.
It is evident that the front office is interested in getting more athletic. How that meshes with Luka Doncic’s controlled style of play with the Mavericks remains to be seen. But if they are looking for more avenues to weaponize athletes then Prosper fits that perfectly on the offensive end. His role for the foreseeable future will be that of a spacer and slasher. His three-point percentage improved year of year in college, though the volume was low (34-percent last season on just 115 attempts). But he profiles as the sort of player that will excel at corner threes and attacking closeouts for impressive straight line drives. His 65-percent at the rim last season is strong, and should be his focal point next year benefitting from Doncic’s spacing and vision to dump off to well-timed cuts.
OMax to the rim
Prosper’s place in the rotation next season depends on what else happens this summer, but he should see minutes at both the three and four off the bench. If the Mavericks had better depth he’s the ideal second wing off the bench to bring energy and defensive disruption.
The biggest area of growth for Prosper will come on the offensive end. In watching tape you can see the mechanics moving for him with the ball in his hands. It’s why he is best suited to the role mentioned above. Prosper may never become a tertiary ballhandler for the Mavericks, and that’s okay. He isn’t a playmaker for others (averaged just .7 assists per game last season). If he’s filling in a role similar to Finney-Smith that will never be necessary. But it would be nice to see more fluidity when he’s tasked with attacking a closeout.
There will inevitably be some learning curve on his three-point shot as well. Getting comfortable with the timing and athleticism of NBA defenders, and learning to adjust his release or how he attacks will take time. As mentioned above, his shooting numbers were fair but the volume was low. However his shot looks sturdy enough to believe natural growth will take place here.
The key foundation is already there on the defensive end for him to be successful early on. The next step is growing his ability as a help-side shot blocker. It has been reported consistently but Prosper’s shot blocking in college was exceptionally low for someone of his skillset. Not all elite defenders are shot blockers, but given his length and athleticism it would be nice to see this become a focus of his trajectory.
It is quite easy to see Prosper growing into a key defensive minded starter in a playoff rotation in the next several years. The sort of shut down defender that opens and closes games to disrupt the other team’s superstar. The Mavericks are trying to overhaul their defense on the fly and Prosper, along with Lively, will be tasked with cleaning up messes rookies shouldn’t have to deal with. But the good news for both is they should never be asked to do more than their roles coming in, which should allow for them to thrive.