The Dallas Mavericks drafted athletic forward Olivier-Maxence Prosper in the 2023 NBA Draft, capping off a busy night for the organization. Prosper was the team’s second pick, trading back to take center Dereck Lively earlier in the first round. But the move to take the 6’8 defensive weapon was the surprise of the evening — the Mavericks almost never trade back into the first round.
Having played three years in college, one season at Clemson and two at Marquette, Prosper enters his rookie season with experience under his belt. It took time for his skillset to fully form in school, and was previously a fringe first, likely second round candidate prior to his showing at the NBA Draft Combine in early summer. But what is undeniable is the tools he has and how they fit in Dallas.
Prosper is an athlete. He’s quick, long, and possesses the kind of muscular frame you’d like for your team’s best defender. His skillset as a perimeter disruptor on the defensive end is not something the Mavericks had previously, and surely was the reason they jumped back into the first round. We wrote over the summer about how Prosper differs from everyone else on the roster, and how fun it was to see him in action in summer league.
The biggest question for Prosper in his rookie season is can he be a consistent part of the rotation. But that is vague and big picture, and more useful to focus on how he gets there. So the question now is two-fold: how long will it take for Prosper to adjust to NBA play on the defensive end to be a true weapon, and can he make an impact offensively to stay on the floor?
In many ways players like Prosper, if put in the right situation, grow and succeed at a quicker rate than those with perhaps a higher ceiling simply because Prosper will never be asked to do more than his role. He is there to fight through screens, close off driving lanes, and get under the skin of an opponent’s scoring threat. Even as straight forward as that is, that is a tall task — especially given how bad the Mavericks were defensively last season. It could take time for Prosper to adjust to the space, pace, and restraints that the NBA game puts on defenders.
Prosper has a solid three-point shot, and odds are he will be tasked with spacing to the corner and waiting for a kick-out. He has shown decent ability to attack closeouts in straight line drive situations, using his length and athleticism to get to the rim. That tool could be key to being on the floor this season. As Dorian Finney-Smith can attest from early in his career, and even Josh Green up until last season: for as disruptive as you can be on the defensive end, players often can’t stay on the floor until they can be a threat somewhere offensively. For Prosper to be a rotation in his rookie season, this is what will make the difference.
Best Case Scenario
In his rookie year, “O-Max” proves the first round grade, and subsequent trade, was worth it. After trading Dorian Finney-Smith last season the Mavericks were missing any anchor to their defense, especially along the perimeter, and they’ve quickly found him. Prosper is defending and switching between guarding two’s, three’s, and four’s, taking on playmakers at all positions.
Coach Jason Kidd trusts Prosper and weaponizes him off the bench nightly, and has even used him to spot start at the three or four on off nights. Though it took some time to adjust to foul calls in the league, Prosper is showing all the tools he flashed at Marquette and summer league as a true switchable defender.
Offensively his corner three is reliable. He still has to work on making quicker decisions on his closeouts and not getting caught when the straight line counter attack is closed off. But his shot is enough of a threat to keep him on the floor in the second half of close games. It is easy to see him being part of a closing lineup in the near future. Prosper finishes the season appearing in 65 games, averaging six points, three rebounds, and one steal per game while shooting 35-percent from three in 20 to 25 minutes per game. Well on his way to being a key piece for the Mavericks long term.
Worst Case Scenario
Prosper is taking longer to adjust to the spacing on the perimeter while guarding smaller players, and the physicality when tasked with shutting down four’s. His length is still a weapon, but his timing still needs work in recovering on shot attempts. It has led to foul trouble and less opportunity on the floor.
Kidd does well in trusting and developing young players, so he is still giving Prosper playing time in the first half of games, but because his three-point shot has gone missing he’s seeing less run in the rotation in the second half. The tools are there for Prosper to succeed, but it is imperative to refine his offensive weapons if he wants to be more than a ninth man on a roster, trotted out for defensive duty in spot moments. For whatever reason it didn’t connect midseason and he’ll have plenty to address next summer. Prosper played in just 45 games, never doing much to make a dent in the box score in 10 minutes per game.
I’d like to see Prosper aim to average one steal per game. On paper that doesn’t seem like much. And as great as it would be to see him immediately shoot well, he was brought in for his defense and it would be nice to see those signs early and often. There will be an adjustment period no doubt. But his tools defensively are exciting.
Here is where I admit I’m very excited for Olivier-Maxence Prosper. It is always best to keep expectations low when it comes to rookies, no matter where they are selected in the draft or what their ceiling might be. But Prosper is the kind of player I’ve wanted the Mavericks to invest in young for quite some time. For all the faults of Kidd, he does a good job developing young projects, so I’m intrigued by what he can do for Prosper.