Dallas officially entered rebuild mode going into last season. The Mavericks struck gold by drafting Dennis Smith Jr. with the 9th pick last summer and look to make another splash in the draft with the 5th pick this month. However, the draft is not the only place the Mavs are looking to make some noise. Dallas is one of only four teams this summer with upwards of $50 million in maximum cap space. So with the 5th pick and money to blow, the Mavs can find themselves in a really good spot by the end of next season… or… they may find that they gambled the summer away.
Michael Porter Jr. and DeMarcus Cousins are two players that enter this summer with a world of mystery. They also seem to be tied to Dallas in multiple different reports. Both have proven, in different levels of play of course, that they can dominate their areas of expertise. However, both also suffered major injuries last season. So what does the risk-reward look like with these two?
Michael Porter Jr.: The Risk
Michael Porter Jr. entered his first collegiate season as the second overall recruit, according to ESPN. The hype was real and had every reason to be, but Porter’s promising freshman year was brought to a halt just two minutes in. After being taken back to the locker room and running multiple tests on the 6’10 freshman, it was determined that he must undergo back surgery. Porter was experiencing major pain due to herniated discs and would be out for all but just the last two games of Missouri’s season.
Porter’s return came in the final regular season game against the Georgia Bulldogs. He played 23 minutes and put up a less-than-impressive stat line. MPJ scored 12 points on five of 17 shooting; but he did manage to pull down eight rebounds. The second full game he played was against Florida State in Mizzou’s first (and last) game of the NCAA tournament. Porter scored 16 points on four of 12 shooting; he also shot nine free throws and knocked down seven of those. He added another impressive rebounding game by crashing the board 10 times. While his final game had a decent looking stat line, he was playing lethargic and clearly hindered by injury. His explosiveness that he showed all throughout high school was not there, and the game did not come naturally.
The star freshman would not have been allowed to play if his back was not 100 percent, but his conditioning and explosiveness were far from that in the final two games. That is the risk any team, especially the Mavs, are going to be taking if they select him. What if he never gets back to 100 percent? What if his game continues to be forced? What if the back requires more surgeries down the road, not allowing him to play a full 82 games? All are possible scenarios. All are huge risks for a top-five pick in a star-studded NBA draft.
Michael Porter Jr.: The Reward
This kid was the real deal his senior year in high school. In 26 games, here is what MPJ averaged: 37 points per game, 14.3 rebounds per game and 2.6 assists per game. He shot 53% from the field and 69% from behind the arc; he also shot 94% from the free-throw line. Stats like that are not put up by just really good high school players; they are put up by stars in the making.
Porter Jr. measured in at 6’11 at the combine with a 7’ wingspan. His measurements and his style of play are both comparable to Kevin Durant. He has been compared to the Golden State star since his high school days and could very well play a similar style in the NBA, should he stay healthy. MPJ’s size and length would also allow him to play the four in today’s game. This allows Dallas to slide him into the starting five and allow Dirk Nowitzki to come off the bench next season.
Dallas recently worked out the incoming rookie; and accoriding to Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com, he was “extremely impressive.” Porter’s floor in this league may very well be comparable to Trevor Ariza: a really good three-and-D role player. And his ceiling? Well it is almost too high to tell right now.
DeMarcus Cousins: The Risk
The Mavericks have been tied to DeMarcus Cousins for quite some time now. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor reported that the team will be eyeing the big man this summer; but we should not expect Dallas to pursue him with a max contract. Whatever Dallas’ interest level is in Cousins, there is definitely some.
Cousins’ risk is two-sided. First, the four-time all-star is coming off of a season in which he ruptured his left Achilles tendon late in January. The injury required season-ending surgery and is one that has plagued NBA players far too often. Players like Kobe Bryant and Dallas’ own Wesley Matthews suffered Achilles injuries and never returned to their old selves. Dominique Wilkins, however, made the best recovery of any player with this sort of injury: he went on to average 28 points and almost seven boards per game over two seasons after suffering this injury. Cousins does not rely on explosiveness all that much, but will he be able to make a full recovery, or will he begin to decline immediately?
The second risk that comes with Cousins is his attitude. Many different incidents have occurred over Cousins’ seven-year career. He is known for arguing with referees and picking up multiple technical fouls over the course of one season. Players with attitudes have not panned out well in Rick Carlisle’s locker room. Between Rajon Rondo and Nerlens Noel, Carlisle has ensured that there is no room for big egos on his bench. Would Cousins run into similar problems as the former Kentucky Wildcats did with Dallas?
DeMarcus Cousins: The Reward
At just 27-years old, “Boogie” Cousins is in the prime of his career, regardless of injury issues. If he makes a full recovery, he has many good years ahead of him in this league. The rewards that would come with Cousins speak for themselves. If healthy, Cousins could easily get back to his averages of 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. The big man would bring a back to the basket game that Dallas has almost never had. With Cousins’ injury, it is hard to tell whether or not he will be receiving maximum-contract offers, but if he signs for less than that, stays healthy and stays out of controversy, it would be a steal.
There is a chance that both Michael Porter Jr. and DeMarcus Cousins end up on Dallas’ roster by the end of the summer. While one would come via the fifth overall pick and the other would come via the craziness that is NBA free agency, both are risks that may just be worth the reward. A lineup featuring Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Michael Porter Jr. and DeMarcus Cousins would be one filled with both questions and promise.
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