Thursday night’s NBA draft officially kicked off the always exciting NBA offseason with a bang. While no superstars or household names changed places, certain teams wheeling and dealing completely changed the outlook of their franchises (wink wink).
Leading up to draft night, there was lots of chatter about one of either Atlanta or Memphis moving back a few spots to gain some extra assets. That team, as we now know, would be the Atlanta Hawks. and their trade partner? Our Dallas Mavericks.
Atlanta would send the no. 3 overall pick to Dallas, in exchange for the no. 5 overall pick and next years 1st, with 1-5 protection for up to five seasons if not conveyed. The Mavericks would use that no. 3 pick to select the kid who was their guy from the start…
Round 1, pick 3: Luka Doncic, A+
I am still not quite sure how Donnie Nelson and Cuban pulled this one off. They managed to get the player they claim to have no. 1 on their board, for a simple pick swap, an additional protected first, AND they still didn’t have to take back any additional salary? That’s a huge victory. Considering that this team looks to be substantially better next season and next years class is much weaker, it makes that 2019 first easier to part with.
And I haven’t even mentioned the player.
Luka Doncic is the single most accomplished, polished, scouted, and hyped international prospect of all time. And for good reason.
He’s a 6’8 point guard/forward who can legitimately play four positions. With unique size and creative ball handling skills, Doncic is a fearless shot taker and maker in the most critical situations. He’s even got a viscous, Harden-esque step back that has left even the best defenders stuck in mud.
The shot making is great, but Luka’s real draw is his ability to pass the ball. Put on the tape even for a few minutes, and his unparalleled basketball IQ and vision are impossible to miss. In transition, out of pick and rolls, out of the post, whichever way you want it, he’s going to find open teammates and do so with style.
Some executives have even referred to him as a “6’8” Steve Nash.”
You should be. But let’s not get too carried away comparing a 19-year old kid to a Hall of Famer. He’s still an average athlete by NBA standards, and his body could use a lot of work. There are questions about his ability to handle more athletic players both offensively and defensively, but most of all he’s still just a kid trying to survive the toughest league in the world.
Which is why there isn’t a better place for him to learn the NBA than right here in Dallas. He will play for a franchise who prioritizes their players above all else, one of the very best coaches in the league, he will share the floor with another young, exciting running mate in Dennis Smith Jr., and he will have the greatest international player of all time mentoring him in Dirk Nowitzki.
This is a home run for the Mavs.
Round 2, pick 33: Jalen Brunson, B
I initially wasn’t too thrilled with this pick. But it has absolutely nothing to do with the player.
Jalen Brunson is a flat out winner. He won two national championships at Villanova in just three years under coach Jay Wright. He is noticeably mature on the court, and off of it as well. So much so, that the Mavs interview with him at the combine was what convinced them to pull the trigger when he fell to them at 33.
Jalen Brunson is a safe bet to have a long, prosperous career as a reserve or in a pinch starter in the league. Steady in every area, Brunson can run your team, play off the ball, and be an extension of the coach on the floor. He seems built to be an ideal back up point guard, especially for Rick Carlisle.
The only reason this grade was docked some points for me, is because of some of the names left on the board. While the Mavs likely felt that they drafted the best player remaining, which is a sound strategy at this point in he draft, there were other great options who also filled more pressing needs. Such as Khyri Thomas, Melvin Frazier, and De’Antbony Melton. All of those guys are defensive aces to play in between Dennis and Luka, something I think would be a great fit, but it’s hard to be mad with a guy like Jalen Brunson.
This could also wind up being a pretty savvy move for the Mavs, considering Yogi Ferrell’s impending free agency. Not that we are trying to push Yogi out the door, but as the 76ers proved Thursday night, this is a business. Every cap dollar counts, and if the Mavs can draft his successor who comes cheaper, it just makes sense.
Round 2, pick 56: Ray Spalding, A-
Louisville big man Ray Spalding likely projects as a bouncy, rim running 5 man in today’s NBA. “Vertical spacing” is such a critical component to have in today’s pick and roll centric league, and Spalding gives you that at the very least. You can really maximize both Dennis and Luka with a big man like this, But this pick really gets a good grade because of some of the other things he’s shown he can do.
Switchability on defense is such a big deal in today’s league, and given his rangy, athletic frame Spalding has shown flashes of being really solid in this area. That, plus the fact that he has shown some face-up skills and nice passing chops, albeit inconsistently, creates some intriguing upside. Especially this late in the draft.
Round 2, pick 60: Kostas Antetokounmpo, C+
I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this pick. Giannis’ little brother, much like he was, is very raw and unpolished in a long, lanky frame. He only played 15 minutes per game on a bad Dayton squad against A-10 competition and didn’t dominate it like you would hope one of your draft picks would.
He’s more of an interior guy than his two older brothers as well. However, like his big brother, Kostas has a propensity to make jaw dropping highlights with his athleticism and energy. Crazy blocks, lob dunks, and rim runs are all on the menu with this guy. Other than that though? He and his big brother really don’t bare much resemblance, so don’t get your hopes up.
It’s incredibly hard to find a productive player at this point anyway, so everyone’s just taking a stab in the dark. But who knows, maybe you luck into something here and he can grow into a good player like his older brother did.
And hey, Giannis is a free agent in a few years, right? Maybe we could…
I’ll see myself out.
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