It’s a little bit early to be talking about the NBA Draft, but given that the Mavericks appear to be in the early phases of a rebuilding period, Dallas fans may want to spend more time watching college basketball. If the season ended today, the Mavericks would have the best shot at the sixth overall pick in the draft – and given their incentive to “tank,” they may yet secure even better lottery odds. But which prospects should Dallas actually be targeting?
For purposes of this discussion, we’ll consider two prospects to be out of reach. Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton and Duke’s Marvin Bagley III seem to be two very likely top-three picks. Ayton is currently going first at NBADraft.net, and Bagley has a shot at some national player of the year awards. If Dallas lands a top-two pick (which is a long shot), it should take one of these two dominant, extraordinary big men. However, the following are some of the prospects who are more likely to be available to the Mavericks, and who look like good fits.
Michael Porter Jr.
Michael Porter Jr. is turning into the forgotten prospect as a result of his decision to sit out his lone college season nursing a somewhat mysterious injury. Once upon a time, however, he was the top prospect in the class, and a likely top overall pick. It’ll be understandable if he drops off a little bit at this point, and while he now feels somewhat risky he’d be a nice pickup for the Mavericks. He’s a long scoring forward who could ultimately do more than most young players to fill the eventual Dirk Nowitzki void.
Luka Doncic has come out of nowhere (to most American fans) to become a potential top-three pick. Even heading into the 2017 EuroBasket Championship, he and his team, Slovenia, got very little publicity. Spain and Serbia were the bookmakers’ picks for glory, meaning it was a surprise when Doncic and Slovenia made a run all the way to the title. NBA veteran Goran Dragic won the tournament MVP, but Doncic made the all-tournament team, raising his profile in the process. He’s a do-it-all 6’7’’ star who can play either as a big point guard or off the ball, and he’d be an excellent creator alongside the score-first Dennis Smith Jr. Doncic might be a long shot for the Mavericks, but we’ll see where they pick.
Jaren Jackson Jr.
While ranked as one of the better players in his class, Jaren Jackson Jr. wasn’t quite at the level of, say, Porter Jr. or Bagley or Ayton when it comes to hype. He’s also playing at Michigan State, where Tom Izzo is known for producing NBA talent, but not necessarily for hosting one-and-done players. Jackson looks the part of a lanky, shot-blocking big man, but so far in college he’s actually flashed a solid shooting ability as well, which makes him an excellent player for the modern game. He looks frankly like the prospect some hoped Florida State project Jonathan Isaac might become, and would be another excellent eventual replacement for Nowtizki.
It almost feels unusual these days for an upperclassman to work his way into top-10 consideration when he wasn’t necessarily there to begin with. That’s the story with two-way star Mikal Bridges at Villanova, however. The 6’6’’ junior has helped propel Villanova to the number one ranking in the country (as of this writing) and scouts are saying he wouldn’t gain much by returning for a senior season. As a veteran, Bridges could be an appealing pick for Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle, who have always seemed to be against drafting or playing particularly young players. And with his defensive talents he could be an excellent long-term backcourt partner for Smith.
Kevin Knox hasn’t been quite the star some hoped to see at Kentucky, though it’s important to remember modern standards for freshman at major programs are a little bit ridiculous. Knox is still a promising athlete with a versatile scoring arsenal, and he could blossom into an exceptional player. His three-point shooting has left something to be desired but if he does blossom into the younger and less sensational version of Kevin Durant he can look like at his absolute best, he’ll have been a good pick in 2018.
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